The Dirt on (and Under) Cabernet Sauvignon

The who, what, why, where, when and how of this mighty black grape


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Vineyard Upkeep

In the vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon is incredibly polite. It grows easily and plays well with many different climates (hence its ubiquity in the world’s vineyards). Though not as prolific as Merlot, it’s not stingy with its output. Its vigor means it needs leaf canopy management, but its thick skins and loose bunches help to avoid disease. It buds late and avoids hassling the farmer with worries of spring frost damage. However, it does prefer heat, becoming cranky (and eschewing full ripeness) in cooler climates, even when at home in Bordeaux. It also doesn’t like “wet feet,” preferring well-drained soils like the gravels of Left Bank Bordeaux to the clay soils of the Right Bank. As a late-ripener, it’s the life of the party, lingering on the vine and causing stress in areas where weather at harvest is unpredictable. But, it’s hard wood makes it possible to machine harvest (though top wines are generally hand-harvested). That hard wood also helps it resist winter freeze in harsh climates.

Vineyard image via Shutterstock

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  • Snooth User: gustavoa
    130884 1

    I can see this to have some true, I am a Cabernet lover and on the white wines side I had always prefer Sauvignon Blanc.

    Dec 04, 2012 at 1:35 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 8,356

    Very interesting article. Thank you.

    Dec 04, 2012 at 6:20 PM

  • What an enjoyable,concise and well written article. Thanks.

    Dec 04, 2012 at 6:49 PM

  • Wow! Sauvignon Blanc. I would never have guessed.

    Dec 04, 2012 at 11:13 PM

  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,085

    Love the article.
    My question is: What did cabernet franc lack as far as not being able to be competitive with cabernet sauvignon?

    Dec 12, 2012 at 8:55 PM

  • Snooth User: Christy Canterbury MW
    Hand of Snooth
    1060100 93,448

    Zinfandel1, To be PC, it's not that CF "lacks" something but rather that it's just different. In fact, in the vineyard, CF offers some important pluses over CS. CF ripens more easily & is more resistant to inclement weather at harvest. However, CF has less color and less structure (despite its bright acidity) than CS. Also, CS produces more flavor power than CF in milder climates like Bordeaux. So, essentially, CS is better equipped for longer aging.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 8:42 AM

  • Snooth User: Christy Canterbury MW
    Hand of Snooth
    1060100 93,448

    Thanks to everyone for the kind comments! Glad you enjoyed this piece.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 8:43 AM

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    2200059 22

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