Vine varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Cabernet Sauvignon looked likely to challenge the supremacy of Shiraz as its production soared from 24,900 tonnes in 1989 to 317,472 tonnes in 2004, but then it dropped back to 249,689 tonnes by 2013. It barely existed in 1966 (100 ha/250 acres, 621 tonnes officially recorded). Its quality epicentre until the end of the 20th century was coonawarra, whence a disproportionate number of Australia’s best Cabernet Sauvignons came initially, but margaret river is now winning the race, eclipsing Coonawarra with its sheer number of outstanding wines. There is no question that the variety performs best in moderately cool regions with a climate similar to that of Bordeaux. Its thick skins and relatively loosely formed bunches provide a natural defence against downy mildew and botrytis, which threaten so many regions during the growing season. Thus margaret river, great southern, wrattonbully, clare valley, and parts of central and southern victoria produced most of the best Cabernets outside Coonawarra. That said, it is widely and successfully planted throughout Australia, except for the Riverland. While occasionally outstanding vintages such as 2002 manage to stand conventional wisdom on its head, the outlook is for the removal (or grafting) of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Riverina and Riverland regions.