The red grape variety comes from France. There are about 60 synonyms; some alphabetically grouped by country are Kaberne Sovinjon, Kaberne Sovinyon, Lafit, Lafite(Bulgaria, Moldavia, Russia) Bidure, Bouchet, Bouchet Sauvignon, Breton, Cabernet Petit, Carbonet, Carbouet, Carmenet, Epicier Noir, Marchoupet, Navarre, Petit Bouchet, Petit Bouschet, Petit Cabernet, Petit Cavernet Sauvignon, Petite Vidure, Sauvignon, Sauvignonne, Vidure, Vidure Sauvignonne(France); Bordo(Romania); Bordeaux(Switzerland); Burdeos Tinto(Peru, Spain); Cab(USA).
Cabernet Sauvignon was, by the way, the first classic variety whose descent or parentage was determined by means of DNA analysis, which had just become popular at the time. This happened more or less by chance when a genetic database was created to determine and compare the DNA profiles of the most important varieties grown in California. This was done in 1997 by Dr. Carole Meredith and John Bowers at the University of California and resulted in a parentage of 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 Carmenère variety (direct descendant of Cabernet Franc). The worldwide surprise was so great because until then it was doubted that white varieties could be involved in the creation of red ones.
A colour mutation discovered in Australia is the white-berry shalistin, an open-flowered seedling Cygne Blanc. Due to its excellent characteristics, Cabernet Sauvignon is a popular crossbreeding partner worldwide and, with around 80 new varieties, is the second most popular cultivar after Riesling. Direct descendants are Arcas, Arinarnoa, Baron, Biser, Cabaret Noir, Cabernet Blanc, Cabernet Carbon, Cabernet Carol, Cabernet Colonjes, Cabernet Cortis, Cabernet Cubin, Cabernet Diane, Cabernet Doré, Cabernet Dorio, Cabernet Dorsa, Cabernet Eidos, Cabernet Jura, Cabernet Lion, Cabernet Malbec, Cabernet Mitos, Cabernet Pepper, Cabernet Suntory, Cabernet Volos, Cabertin, Caperan, Carmine, Carminoir, Carnelian, Centurion, Cienna, Codrinski, Echmiadzini, Ekigaïna, Eraskh, Granatovy, Kaberam, Luminitsa, Marselan, Mourvèdre Hichle, Odessky Cherny, Pinotin, Prince Noir, Probus, Riesel, Roobernet, Rubienne, Rubinovy Magaracha, Ruby Cabernet, Ruen, Satin Noir, Shiroka Melnishka, Tisserand, Tyrian, VB 32-7, Vympel and Yama Sauvignon.
The name Bidure suggested that Cabernet Sauvignon might derive from the ancient variety Biturica mentioned by the two Roman authors Columella (1st century BC) and Pliny the Elder (23-79). Another hypothesis is that the ancient Spanish variety Cocolubis is the ancestor of Biturica and later Cabernet Sauvignon. And Greek ampelographers assumed that the native Volitsa Mavri was a descendant of Balisca (Biturica) and ancestor of Cabernet Sauvignon. But all these hypotheses were disproved by the now clarified ancestry. It is a much younger variety, which probably originated in the Gironde (Bordeaux) area at least before the 18th century.
In 1635, Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) sent several thousand vines to Abbé Breton. Therefore, it is assumed that it could have been Cabernet Sauvignon because of the synonym Breton. A first secured mention was made in the mid-1770s by the mayor of Libourne (Gironde) under the name Petit Cabernet. It was not until the end of the 18th century that the variety began to make its appearance in Bordeaux. Special merits are attributed to Armand d'Armailhacq and Baron Hector de Brane, who were the owners of today's two vineyards, Château Brane-Cantenac and Château d'Armailhac. The current name Cabernet Sauvignon only appeared around 1840.
The medium-late maturing vine is very susceptible to fungal diseases, especially eutypiosis, esca and powdery mildew. It has hard-shelled, small berries with a particularly large number of seeds and is therefore rich in phenols. The variety produces dark-coloured red wines, rich in tannins and acids, with pronounced aromas of blackcurrants and green peppers, which have an excellent ageing potential. Cabernet Sauvignon belongs to the closest circle of the Cépages nobles. It is often called the noblest and potentially best variety of all. As the main component in Bordeaux blends, it gives body and structure to the great Bordeaux reds and numerous other wines in many other countries of the world. But it is also used to make many single-variety red wines.
The extraordinary ability of this grape variety is that even under the most diverse climatic and soil conditions, the smell and taste of the wine remains unmistakable. It is no coincidence that at the legendary wine tasting in 1976, known as the Paris Wine Tasting, the ten red wines from 1st to 10th place were all, without exception, dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon!
In France, the variety occupies a total of 54,434 hectares. The largest areas are in the Bordeaux region with ~27,000 hectares, where it is permitted in countless appellations. It is followed by Languedoc-Roussillon (mainly Languedoc) with ~19,000 hectares and Provence with ~3,500 hectares. In Italy, the variety became popular from the 1960s onwards, but for the time being was not permitted in many DOC areas. The so-called Super Tuscans such as Sassicaia and Tignanello then triggered a real boom and Cabernet Sauvignon is now a component in numerous DOC/DOCG red wines. A total of 13,724 hectares were counted here.
The quantities in other European countries or in North Africa are Algeria (1,510 ha), Bulgaria (8,436 ha), Germany (295 ha), England (1 ha), Georgia (286 ha), Greece (1,550 ha), Kazakhstan (20 ha), Croatia (646 ha), Moldavia (7.590 ha), Austria (594 ha), Portugal (1,671 ha), Romania (3,718 ha), Russia (3,593 ha), Switzerland (63 ha), Slovakia (570 ha), Slovenia (453 ha), Spain (23,237 ha), Czech Republic (230 ha), Tunisia (337 ha), Turkey (391 ha), Ukraine (4,869 ha), Hungary (2,863 ha) and Cyprus (369 ha).
Overseas, these are Argentina (16,372 ha), Australia (25,967 ha), Brazil (914 ha), Chile (40,728 ha), China (22,612 ha), Japan (469 ha), Canada (542 ha), Mexico (756 ha), Myanmar (1 ha), New Zealand (517 ha), Peru (48 ha), South Africa (12.325 ha) and Thailand (7 ha), and in the USA (34,788 ha) in the states of California (~29,000 ha), New York (138 ha), Oregon (523 ha), Virginia (105 ha) and Washington (4,167 ha). Cabernet Sauvignon has conquered the whole world in 20 years, the stock has more than doubled from 127,878 hectares in 1990 to 288,174 hectares in 2010. This makes it the undisputed number 1 in the worldwide grape variety ranking.
Source: Wine Grapes / J. Robinson, J. Harding, J. Vouillamoz / Penguin Books Ltd. 2012
Pictures: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)