Celebrate International Cabernet Day this September 2nd by getting to know more about one of the world’s most popular wines.

Even those unfamiliar with wine will recognize the name Cabernet, after all, it’s one of the most popular red grape varietals worldwide. There are two styles of Cabernet–Cabernet Franc, a heritage grape from Bordeaux that’s grown throughout the world, and Cabernet Sauvignon, a hybrid of Cabernet Franc and white Sauvignon Blanc grapes. To help you get to know these two wines a little better, we’ve put together a quick guide to all things Cabernet.

Cabernet Franc

The first thing to know about Cabernet Franc is that it’s the parent of Carménére, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. As a historic wine grape, its grown worldwide and used both alone and in a range of blended wines, making it easy to suggest to guests as it is widely recognizable. Depending on where it’s grown the flavors can change; in cooler climates the grape presents with tart notes of raspberry and strawberry with hints of herbacousness and green pepper. When grown in warm climates, the fruit is riper with hints of dark berries, plums, and a hint of green pepper. Overall, you can expect a complex wine with a spicy aroma and a mid-range tannin and acidity level.

You can find Cabernet Franc grown around the world including New York, Washington state, and California in the US. The grapes also have a home in the Colchagua Valley in Chile, France’s Loire Valley, Chinon, and Bourgueil, and Tuscany, Italy. Most Loire valley wines are aged for five-to-seven years, but some expressions can be aged for up to 15. When suggesting a Cabernet Franc, note that it pairs well with a range of food but is particularly suited to gamey meats like rabbit, duck, lamb, and venison. Dishes with fresh herbs are always an excellent choice, as they work well with the spicy aromas of the wine.

Cabernet by Lefteris Kallergis


Photo by Lefteris Kallergis

Cabernet Sauvignon

With its dark color, high alcohol level, and full body, Cabernet Sauvignon is grown all around the world and is used alone and in blends. The grape itself has gained popularity for its flavor, but also because of its durability and easy to grow nature. The vine is resistant to the elements and grows well in a diverse range of places. The resulting wine varies with terroir, but like its parent grape, often has notes of green pepper. Cabernet Sauvignon frequently has notes of dark black cherry, currants, and jammy black fruits. When aged in oak you can also note flavors of tobacco, cassis, and a hint of vanilla.

When suggesting a Cabernet Sauvingon there are a few things to consider. While it is incredibly popular, most will recommend to only serve the wine with food. Because of its high levels of alcohol, acidity, and tannins the wine can be overpowering if drunk alone. Cabernet Sauvignon is best paired with fatty meats, portabella mushrooms topped with a fatty addition, and hard cheeses. The same qualities that make it hard to drink on its own make the wine an ideal pairing to heavy dishes with a high fat content as it helps clear the tongue and works as a palate clenser.