What is Cab?

The idea of great Cabernet Sauvignon started in Bordeaux’s Left Bank (see the ‘Pomerol’ below). It migrated to California in the 1960s where it replicated and went viral. When I started drinking wine, my favorite Cabernet from Bordeaux was $50 – now it’s $800. My favorite “Napa Cab” was $20 – now it’s $100. The value of a $100 wine derives entirely from the example of the $800 wine. And to focus on these items is to grossly miss the point. If we can separate Cabernet Sauvignon from the gravels of Bordeaux, then we can separate the idea of its pleasure-giving properties from the Cabernet Sauvignon variety itself. Let our “Cabernet Sauvignon” be lush and velvety, with provocative dimensions of flavor. Let it be made from any indigenous old vines, stingy with thick-skinned dark grapes. Let these be the $800 wines of the future. (See below for more)

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Short Name: Tilenus
Full Name: 2010 Bierzo, Tilenus
Producer: Bodegas Estefania
Geography: Spain, northwestern Spain, Atlantic influenced
$10 glass, $35 bottle
Varieties: Mencia 100%
Description: Fullest bodied, least earthy red on this list. “New World” style. Red berries, velvety tannins, vanilla, cocoa.
Comparables: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Rioja.
Pairings: Red meat.
Interesting Technical Facts: 40-60 year-old vines, aged 10 months in French and American oak.

At one point the wine trade was touting the Mencia grape variety – which comprises this wine – as an ancient clone of Cabernet Franc, which itself is a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. If DNA analysis now contradicts this, the impressionistic point of the argument still remains. There are flavor and body characteristics that this wine does indeed share with good examples of ‘the Cabernets.’ Namely, red currants, cassis, cocoa and spice.


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