Best Cabernet Sauvignon

By Dirk Smits

Top Cabernet Sauvignon Wines

Although it originated in France, Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most planted red wine grape varietals. It is cultivated in nearly every major wine producing country. The top performing countries for Cabernet Sauvignon include France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and the USA. For most of the 20th century, it was the planet’s most widely planted red wine grape until it was overtaken by Merlot in the 1990s. However, by the early 21st century, Cabernet Sauvignon had once again taken first place, with a total of 820,000 acres under vine worldwide.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a relatively new varietal born from the crossing between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc during the 1600s in Southwestern France. It was the first classic varietal whose parentage was determined by means of DNA analysis, which had just become popular at the time. This happened more or less by chance when the DNA profiles of the most important varietals cultivated in California were determined and compared while creating a genetic database. This was done in 1997 by Dr. Carole Meredith and John Bowers at the University of California, Davis and revealed a parentage Cabernet Franc X Sauvignon Blanc. This is also the reason why it was often confused with Cabernet Franc, especially in the 19th century, but also with the varietal Carmenère (direct descendant of Cabernet Franc). The worldwide surprise was so great because until then it had been doubted that white varietals could be involved in the creation of red ones.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a stellar grape that often stands alone, but it also works very well in blends with other red varietals. The expression and style of Cabernet Sauvignon will be different depending on the geographic origin of the grapes, how they are cultivated, and the choices and skills of the winemaker, including the date of harvest. In Europe, most winemakers blend varietals together to harmonize flavors, acidity and tannins, creating balanced and complex wines. Cabernet Sauvignon is often a favorite, as it is a powerful presence in blends. Most famously, Cabernet Sauvignon is an important component of many wines from Bordeaux. There, it is often accompanied with the other main red Bordeaux varietals: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Despite the natural full-bodied flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux wines can be beautifully complex and subtle, and will age for decades. In cooler climates such as Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon will display aromas and flavors of black currant, accompanied by green bell pepper notes, mint and cedar. In milder climates, the black currant flavors are often accompanied by black cherry, blackberries and black olive notes while in warmer climates they can lean towards the over-ripe and jammy side.

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1. 2018 1881 Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

1881 Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2018

Origin: Napa Valley, California, USA
Varietal: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $35.99
ABV: 14.5%

At the junction of Oakville Cross Road and Highway 29 in Napa Valley stands a landmark historical Victorian home and the iconic Oakville Grocery, founded in 1881, the oldest continuously operating grocery store in California. The general store served the visionary pioneers who first planted grapes in the valley and remains today a celebrated gathering place for the Napa Valley crowd. Known as 1881 Napa, the adjacent founder’s home today honors the rich legacy, history, and heritage of this world-famous wine region. 1881 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is derived from prestigious vineyards throughout Napa Valley, creating a wine that celebrates the region’s diversity and complexity.

The wine shows a deep ruby color with a touch of purple on the rim. It opens up with a bouquet of ripe black fruit with mocha and toasted oak aromas. The mouth is well balanced with ripe fruit and licorice flavors all wrapped in medium tannins adding to the supple finish. It is aged in American oak.

> For more information, visit the 1881 Napa official website.

2. 2015 Château Mouton Rothschild

2015 Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Origin: Pauillac, France
Varietal: 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot
Price: $650
ABV: 14%

2015 was a great year for many, although not all, Bordeaux vintners. The year blessed Mouton Rothschild with one of its finest vintages of all time. If you are a collector, this is one to snap up quick, if you can. A deeply colored wine, it offers exuberant black fruit flavors balanced with sexy spices. It is a wine you could drink now, if you really can’t wait, but it will continue to evolve and potentially improve for a decade or more.

> For more information, visit the Château Mouton Rothschild official website.

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3. 2018 Château Haut-Guillebot, Bordeaux Supérieur

Château Haut-Guillebot, Bordeaux Supérieur 2018

Origin: Bordeaux, France
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Price: $15.99
ABV: 12.5%

Château Haut-Guillebot is a family estate that has been passed down for seven generations since 1790. Only women have been in charge of the estate, each one improving the quality of the wines and expanding the estate to the 140 acres of vines it has today. Marie-Christine Renier-Labouille, current owner, succeeded her mother, Eveline, in 2006.

The wine shows a great crimson color. A wonderful bouquet of red and black fruit unfolds in the nose. The mouth feel is very elegant with rich, ripe red fruit, a smidgen of ripe tannins and a touch of oak, all well-proportioned.

> For more information, visit the Château Haut-Guillebot official website.

4. Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe 2018

Origin: Bordeaux, France
Varietals: 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc
Price: $250.00
ABV: 14.5%

Saint-Estèphe is one of the famous six communes within the Haut-Médoc region which have their own appellation (Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe, Moulis and Listrac). It is the most northerly appellation and comprises 3,300 acres of vines just 35 miles north of the city of Bordeaux. The loamy subsoil on top of a layer of iron-rich stone is made up of clay, stones and lime. The soil is more fertile than in the southern appellations. Besides the dominant varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, there is a relatively high percentage of Merlot. The tannin-rich, deep-colored and well-structured wines are long lasting and should be cellared for many years before they can be fully enjoyed.

Cos d’Estournel (cos is French for pebbly hill – d’Estournel was one of the owners) is one of the top ranked wineries from Bordeaux producing racy, powerful, pure and complex Saint-Estèphe wines.

The 2018 shows a dense dark purple color. The nose is tightly wound but eventually opens up to reveal lush, ripe dark fruit with notes of incense, lead pencil and moist earth. The palate is dense with very well-integrated, ripe tannins and exhibits ripe plums, blueberries, cedar wood, violets and licorice. This wine delivers perfect balance and immense purity.

> For more information, visit the Cos d’Estournel official website.

5. Mount Veeder, Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Mount Veeder, Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Origin: Napa Valley, California, U.S.A.
Varietal: 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, 3% Malbec
Price: $41
ABV: 14.5%

Michael and Arlene Bernstein were the first to plant grapevines on Mount Veeder in 1970. When their Cabernet cuttings took root and flourished, they knew they were on to something. Encouraged by their friend and Napa legend Robert Mondavi, the Bernsteins established the first winery on Mount Veeder. Today, the winery has three vineyard ranches nestled high in the Mayacamas Mountains, producing powerfully flavorful, concentrated wines that express their unique mountain terroir.

This blend has a deep garnet color, a rich nose with ripe black currants, plum, black cherries with hints of chocolate and spices. The palate is loaded with ripe black fruits, fine tannins and good mountain acidity making for a well-balanced, complete and complex wine.

> For more information, visit the Mount Veeder official website.

6. Ram’s Gate, Cellar Note, Cabernet Sauvignon, Moon Mountain 2018

Ram’s Gate, Cellar Note, Cabernet Sauvignon, Moon Mountain 2018

Origin: Sonoma, California, USA
Varietals: 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Malbec
Price: $68.00
ABV: 14.8%

Hailing from the Mayacamas Mountain range in Sonoma Valley, this Cabernet Sauvignon charts the beginning of a journey to uncover unique terroir that highlights the classic side of the varietal. The 2018 growing season was marked by steady weather and a cooler August. This gave way to a full canopy which provided balanced flavors and higher natural acidity.

This Cabernet Sauvignon has a deep maroon color. The nose reveals violets, spices and red fruit with a touch of oak. Flavors of red berries and cigar box framed in by silky tannins lead to a long, elegant finish.

> For more information, visit the Ram’s Gate official website

7. 2016 Penley Estate Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon

2016 Penley Estate Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon

Origin: Coonawarra, Australia
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $17
ABV: 14%

When it comes to Cabernet, Coonawarra is Australia’s answer to the Napa Valley. This region is known for producing outstanding Cabernet and Penley Estate’s Phoenix sets the bar high for great wines in an affordable price range. A dark and richly concentrated wine, it offers tongue-coating tannins, intense blackberry and cassis flavors and a persistent curry spice. Although it’s under $20, Phoenix drinks like a much higher priced wine.

> For more information, visit the Penley Estate official website.

8. 2018 Chateau Buena Vista, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Chateau Buena Vista, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2018

Origin: Napa Valley, California, USA
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc
Price: $40
ABV: 15%

In the 1860s Buena Vista covered more than 6,000 acres that ran up into the foothills and into Napa County. In 1861, their founder, Count Haraszthy, journeyed to Europe to procure the finest grapevines. While in Bordeaux, he declared, “Cabernet Sauvignon is its unsurpassed grape; the wine made of it possesses splendid color and an exquisite bouquet.” Taking choice cuttings back to California, he propagated them at Buena Vista and brought Cabernet Sauvignon to the Napa Valley. The Chateau Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon celebrates and honors Buena Vista’s indelible presence and significant contributions to the California wine world. Sourced from vineyards from Yountville to St. Helena, the wine was aged for 28 months before being racked and aged an additional four months in French oak barrels, 40% new. It was then bottled unfiltered.

The wine’s color is a rich crimson red. It opens with aromas of black cherry, blueberry, cardamom and cedar. On the palate, flavors of ripe dark fruit, spices and toasted oak unfold, all framed in by elegant tannins and good acidity leading to a long finish.

> For more information, visit the Buena Vista official website.

9. Priest Ranch, 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Origin: Napa Valley, California, USA
Varietal: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $44.00
ABV: 14.9%

The historic Priest Ranch is now part of the Somerston Estate, a significant property with 244 acres of hillside vineyards. The wines of Priest Ranch are sourced from multiple blocks, showcasing the diversity and complexity of the combined property. Their 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon came from 24 unique vineyard blocks, planted at elevations from 850 to 1,650 feet. The wine was aged 20 months in 40% new French oak and 60% once-used French oak barrels. The lees were stirred for the first year followed by three rackings in the second year of aging. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The wine has a deep crimson red color. The nose shows aromas of ripe berries, black currant, dark chocolate, mocha and a touch of oak. Layers of ripe fruit, spices, vanilla and chocolate reveal themselves on the palate. The wine has a good tannic structure with well-balanced acidity and a lengthy, refined finish.

> For more information, visit the Priest Ranch Wines official website.

10. 2018 Double Diamond by Schrader Cellars, Oakville, Napa Valley

Double Diamond by Schrader Cellars, Oakville, Napa Valley 2018

Origin: Oakville, Napa Valley, California, USA
Varietal: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $76
ABV: 14.5%

Sourced from the same famed vineyards as its beloved inspiration Schrader Cellars, Double Diamond is sourced exclusively from a complement of prime vineyard estates in Napa Valley’s world-renowned Oakville AVA, including their To Kalon Vineyard. The 2018 Double Diamond is a new label, made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in 50% new French oak for 16 months. Around 80% of the grapes were sourced from the To Kalon Vineyard.

The wine is deep garnet in color. The nose shows a bowl of ripe red fruit sprinkled with some mint, licorice and spices. The palate is well-balanced, showing ripe but present tannins, luscious red fruit and a lingering, complex finish.

> For more information, visit the Double Diamond official website.

11. 2018 Domaine Bousquet, Gran Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle de Uco

Domaine Bousquet, Gran Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle de Uco 2018

Origin: Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina
Varietal: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $20
ABV: 15%

The Bousquet family hails from the city of Carcassonne in the South of France and has four generations of history in the winemaking tradition. A 1990 vacation in Argentina was all it took for winemaker Jean Bousquet to fall in love with the Gualtallary Valley, a scenic, remote, arid terrain high in the Tupungato district of the Uco Valley in Argentina’s Mendoza region, close to the border with Chile. There, where the condors fly and without a vine in sight, Jean discovered his dream terroir, an ideal location to nurture organically grown grapes in sandy soil – a rarity. Sandy soil makes for elegant wines, its low fertility gives desirable vine stress; it is permeable for good drainage and has no salinity issues, often a problem in arid areas. Grapes in this terroir are the last to be harvested, the extra hang time ensures heightened richness and body.

The wine shows a deep violet color. The bouquet reveals ripe red and black fruit, candied fruit, pepper and mineral notes. The palate offers more ripe dark fruit, a touch of oak, present but ripe tannins and a long, complex finish.

> For more information, visit the Domaine Bousquet official website.

12. 2016 Penfolds Bin 407

2016 Penfolds Bin 407

Origin: South Australia
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $60
ABV: 14.5%

This is an interesting and complex Cabernet, blended with grapes from all of South Australia’s best Cab-growing regions. It’s a well-structured wine made in a style that really accentuates spice. It offers hints of tobacco and bramble on the nose with an interesting interplay of black currant and olive on the palate. This wine’s tannins are firm. You could open it now but might want to wait a year or two to enjoy this one.

> For more information, visit the Penfolds official website.

13. Sullivan Rutherford Estate, Coeur de Vigne, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017

Origin: Napa Valley, California, USA
Varietals: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 3% Malbec
Price: $90.00
ABV: 14.8%

The heritage of Sullivan Rutherford Estate dates back two centuries to 1821 when ownership of the Napa Valley transitioned from Spain to Mexico. Twenty years later, the Napa Valley was divided into two parcels through a land grant given by Governor Juan Alvarado — Rancho Caymus to the south, and Rancho Carne Humana to the north. Sullivan’s property lies on this historic division. The first pioneers in Napa Valley winemaking, namely Captain Niebaum and Georges de Latour, landed in Rutherford in the late 1800s and produced the most noteworthy New World wines of that time. In 1918, Virgile Galleron acquired 402 acres in Rutherford with the purpose of farming the land. Nearly 60 years later, James O’Neil Sullivan purchased 26 acres in Rutherford from the Galleron family and planted Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon under the guidance of his good friend and legendary winemaker, André Tchelistcheff.

The wine has a deep garnet color. The aromas express the characteristics that make Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon so iconic: ripe dark berry fruit, spices, chocolate and a touch of earthiness finished with a hint of vanilla. The palate shows the same bold ripe fruit and spices, chiseled tannins and fine acidity, all culminating in a long, invigorating finish.

> For more information, visit the Sullivan Rutherford Estate official website.

14. 2019 Raymond, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve Selection, Napa Valley

Raymond, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve Selection, Napa Valley 2019

Origin: Napa Valley, California, USA
Varietal: 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot
Price: $45
ABV: 14.5%

The Raymond family arrived in Napa Valley in 1933 and became connected to the Beringer family via marriage in 1936. Roy worked as winemaker for Beringer from 1933-1970, when in 1970, he and his two sons set out on their own with the 90-acre estate property in Rutherford where the winery is located. They released their first commercial wine under the Raymond Vineyards label in 1974 and never looked back. Like all great American family stories, the Raymonds put hard work and a pioneering spirit into their winery. Their dedication has helped make Raymond Vineyards a classic Napa Valley icon.

The wine shows a deep ruby red color. The nose reveals ripe red berries, plum and a hint of licorice. The full-bodied palate delivers lots of red fruit, a hint of oak-originating sweetness and fine tannins, all wrapped up in a lingering finish.

> For more information, visit the Raymond Vineyards official website.

15. 2016 Ancient Peaks Cabernet

2016 Ancient Peaks Cabernet

Origin: Paso Robles, California, USA
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $22
ABV: 14.1%

This might be the most fun wine on our Best Cabernets list. It offers Bordeaux-like notes of leather, tobacco and wild game yet it’s still a distinctly Paso wine. Its fruit flavors are blackberry and black currant with a hint of soy sauce. On the finish, there’s a lovely note of dark chocolate. It’s a wine with compellingly chalky tannins and a nice finish. This is one to enjoy now, not to lay down for later.

> For more information, visit the Ancient Peaks official website.