“Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile.”


I thought it was about time we took a look at a grape that can go toe to toe with the richest dishes and one that sometimes needs a bit of taming, so guess what folks? That’s right, it’s Cabernet week.

For many years, most people's experience of Cabernet would be a thin expensive Bordeaux or something from the south of France with a nose like the morning after a heavy session in a pub.

That was of course unless you could afford to drink from the higher echelons of Bordeaux’s classed growth vineyards or you were lucky enough to visit the Napa Valley; but then, along came the 80s and our upside down cousins started to export their delights in ever increasing volume to the UK and voila; a wine revolution began.

I became interested in wine shortly after leaving the Navy in the late 80s but by the time I became professionally involved in the mid 90s, the UK had transformed itself into a truly international market place for wine.

Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot were the stars of the revolution, but it was the former variety that would become the leader of the pack.

Cabernet shone as a single varietal in the new world with its fruit no longer at the whim of our unreliable European weather.

It also found itself being paired with Merlot in a new world version of the classic claret, and, heaven forbid, with Shiraz in a move that probably had the Bordeaux and Rhone winemakers spinning in their vats.

Nowadays, Cabernet Shiraz blends are a mainstay of every wine shelf with the peppery, punchy fruit of the Shiraz desperately trying to launch itself from the rich firm embrace of the Cabernet like a puppy pulling at its lead.

Personally though, I adore Cabernet on its own and preferably with a bit of oak ageing to add some vanilla softness to the finish and there are some fabulous wines to choose from all over the world now.

Australia makes some cracking versions in the mid-range price bracket but they do have a tendency to over-oak their show wines to the point where several of them have what I would describe as oak burn and a guaranteed headache in each glass.

Italy and Spain have learned a bit more restraint and produce cleaner, fresher styles that are great with barbecued food, whereas if you prefer your wines to be as smooth as a politician standing for re-election but with a lot more delivery, then you’ve got to throw financial caution to the wind and head for the Napa section of the shelves.

Right now though, it’s South Africa that’s caught my eye as they seem to have mastered the art of the top Bordeaux winemakers in perfectly marrying cassis fruits with rich tannins to give a warm, velvety mouthfeel.

Anyway, it's time for me to pop the cork and delve into blackcurrants and alcohol so pip pip until next week.

Rolf Binder Cabernet, Australia

Blackcurrant, dark chocolate and plums combine to fill your palate. There's a ripe, spicy finish with this one and it’s perfect with a big juicy steak.

Waitrose £13.99

Watford Observer:

Rustenberg, John X Merriman, SA

A real wine lover's wine with its classic cedar box aroma in the glass and soft plummy fruits on the palate. Well done Rustenberg!

Ten Acre Wines £14.50