This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to make a purchase, we will receive a small financial compensation from any purchases made through the links provided. Your support is appreciated and helps us keep coming up with the content you are here to read and enjoy!
As we're nearing the end of 2015, most of us have one last major hurdle to overcome: Hanukkah or Christmas dinner to host, plan and produce. This year, we want to make one element easier on you: choosing the right bottle of wine to go along side your dinner. Whether you're serving brisket, crown roast or herb encrusted tenderloin, a full-bodied red is the perfect accompaniment your meal.
Picture this: you’re standing in the Cabernet Sauvignon section at BevMo or another specialty store, scratching your head not knowing which wine to purchase to go alongside that $200 prime rib you just ordered from your local butcher. There’s bottles from all over the world—France, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Northern California, Central California, Argentina and other places you didn’t even know grew wine. Surely, they all must taste the same if they’re the same varietal, right?
Climate plays such a huge role in how the wine is going to finish. Being the most-planted grape in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon is a natural cross between Cabernet Franc (red) and Sauvignon Blanc (white) and is a full-bodied red that can be enjoyed right away or cellared for many, many years.
Cool Climate Cabernet Sauvignon
You’re holding this bottle in your hand, the label caught your eye. There’s a duck on it, and you love ducks. You notice it’s $100 and put it back. You walk away, but only get a few feet away before you turn back to pick it up again. It’s from Napa, surely, it’s good. Isn’t everything from Napa good?
While “good” is subjective to the person drinking it, what we can tell you is that Napa is considered a cool climate and based on that we’ll know that it’s going to be full of red fruits (cherries, plums, currant) and a subtle peppercorn flavor, such as green peppercorn. It’s still a full-bodied wine, but it’s going to be lighter on your palate than a bottle grown in a warmer climate.
In this particular case, that bottle you picked up is an absolute winner. It’s been our experience that Cabernet Sauvignon with a 2010 vintage are not only excellent now, but they’re going to continue to develop for the next several years. You put it back in your basket and you move on down the aisle knowing one bottle isn't enough wine for your family.
Warm Climate Cabernet Sauvignon
This next bottle catches your eye, it's $20 and the label is simple. You're not sure about this one because at $20, how good can it really be? Good enough that we ran out of this boy at our wedding. Twice.
It happens to be from the Central Coast of California, a warm climate for grapes. Cabs from warmer climates are typically fruit forward (black fruits, like blackberries), fuller-bodied than it's cooler climate friends with darker spices, such as black pepper and cocoa.
Compared to the Duckhorn, it's going to be a heavier wine just based on appellation. It can still be cellared, or opened as soon as you get home from the store.
Serving Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of those wines that needs to be decanted prior to serving. Decanting young wines and full-bodied wines really helps them develop—for the better. In full-bodied wines, decanting will mellow the tannins. Have you ever had a sip of wine and it tasted like you had (what you could imagine what would taste like) a chewed up cigarette in your mouth? Cabernet Sauvignon is a tannin-heavy wine, and the longer it sits, the more they develop. Decanting will tone down the overwhelming tannins and help bring some of the other aromas forward.
Part of the enjoyment of full-bodied red wines is getting to swirl it into your glass and be mesmerized by the color. Cab is one of those wines that truly benefits from being consumed from a glass with a large bowl (large surface) with a tapered rim as it redirects the flavors after each sip. Investing in a set of glasses specifically for full-bodied wines will pay off, especially if you are drawn toward full-bodied wines such as Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Super Tuscans.
More importantly, serving temperature is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your wine live up as close to its potential as possible. Is there anything worse than sniffing a red wine and having it burn your nasal passage? If it's room temperature, it's too warm. If you don't have a wine cellar, be sure to keep your wine stored in a cool, dry place either on it's side or upside-down. Prior to drinking, stick the bottles you plan to use into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to cool it down. If you're decanting your wine (and you know you should), simply decant your wine and place it into the refrigerator.
Wines To Purchase
Geerling & Wade is a decent wine and quite affordable (under $30); Cakebread is a special occasion wine that can either be enjoyed now or cellared properly for the next five to seven years to bring to it’s full potential; and the half case of Napa Cab’s (regularly $730, currently on sale for $500) is ideal for holiday entertaining even the wine collectors in your family. You might be looking at those last two prices and saying “no way am I spending that much on wine.” However, if you’re serving an expensive cut of meat, serving a cheap wine is not sensible in that you’re not allowing that cut of meat to live up to it’s full potential.
Are you planning to purchase and serve Cabernet Sauvignon this year at any of your holiday meals? Have you considered serving Cabernet Sauvignon with your proud roast before or do you tend to serve whatever is open and available? What are you looking forward to most this holiday season, if not the wine?