Cabernet Sauvignon N

@ Gilles Cattiau / INRA

Cabernet Sauvignon, native to Bordeaux, is without a doubt the most famous grape variety of the Carmenets family. According to analysis using molecular biology techniques, it’s a crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

But how can it be explained that it reached all the way to Marcillac (Aveyron)? By land, not directly from Bordeaux and perhaps via Madiran, it has been found further east. Ampelographer Girou de Buzareingues had already designated it as Menut, the main grape variety of this area in 1833, while noting that Cabernet Sauvignon was giving way to the Mansois (Fer Sevadou) at beginning of the 19th century, determined to be more reliable although inferior in quality.

Around 1970, Guy Lavignac determined that Menut was indeed Cabernet Sauvignon, although less evolved than the one found today in Médoc. The low production of this grape variety due to a method of short pruning (gobelet) led to it’s decline. And it’s noteworthy that Doctor Guyot invented long wood pruning known as “simple Guyot” or “double” to address the issue, which is still practiced in Aveyron with the Fer Servadou variety on a stakes without wire.

Cabernet Sauvignon distinguishes itself by the small size of its grapes, its high seed/pulp ratio and the thickness of its skin colored a distinctive blue. Its high seed content provides a wine with structure, while its thick skin gives it the dense color that has become the hallmark of great Cabernets.

Its vines produce cottony buds with a very carmine edging and mature leaves sharply cut with seven or nine lobes. Petiolar sinus of these leaves have recurving edges, as for the lateral sinuses, the interstices are reminiscent of the marks left by the old subway ticket punching machines. It has small, winged bunches with round grapes.

Very sensitive to powdery mildew, this variety had disappeared from many vineyards: Médoc, Marcillac (Aveyron), Lavilledieu (Tarn-et-Garonne). Thanks to new treatments, it has now widely retaken its place in the Southwest (except in Cahors) as elsewhere in France; it’s also very widespread in Languedoc and all the wine producing countries around the world.

In tasting, it can be recognized by its marked blackcurrant flavors, but winemakers in the Southwest also speak of a “wild taste” (leathery tones), making it possible to obtain very tannic wines that require aging. Additional aromas associated with Cabernet Sauvignon wines are dark chocolate, sweet spices, fern, smoke, morello cherry, blackberry, green bell pepper, plum, licorice, underbrush, tobacco, truffles, vanilla, violet…

Production area: 3,459 ha (8,547 acres)

@ Gilles Cattiau / INRA