If you like wine, it’s hard not to know Cabernet Sauvignon. Although it’s not the most widely sold red wine (that would be merlot), it’s widely grown and recognizable by almost everyone who drinks red wine.
What is Cabernet Sauvignon?
Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc way back when, which produced a thick-skinned, durable, and delicious grape that went on to become one of the stars of the Bordeaux region in France and, later, in almost every grape-growing country in both Old and New world wine regions.
Where is it grown?
Lots of places. France (particularly in the Bordeaux region), Italy, Spain, Chile, Australia, California, Washington, you name it. Almost every country that grows grapes has cab, and they all turn out differently. Regions with cooler weather will produce cabs with more vegetal flavors to them, and hot weather regions will make cabs with lots of ripe fruit and berry.
Residual sugar is one of those terms that is really very simple, once it’s explained to you. If you drink rieslings, this is the best phrase you can know for determining whether or not you’ll like a riesling, because residual sugar describes how sweet a wine is.
So what is it? Residual sugar is the sugar left in the wine after fermentation. During the fermentation process, the yeast converts all the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol; if fermentation is stopped (whether naturally or by the winemaker) before all the sugar has been converted, you are left with a lower-alcohol, higher-sugar wine. This is why sweeter wines tend to be lower in alcohol.
How is it measured? It’s measured in grams per liter, often expressed in a percentage. A wine that has 1 gram of sugar per 1 liter of wine will have a residual sugar of .1%.
Wines are categorized as dry, off-dry, or sweet. Dry wines will have a very, very small amount of sugar (think .01-.03% residual sugar) or none at all (in which case they are often called “bone dry”). Off-dry wines are 1%-5%ish residual sugar (you will learn quickly that the wine industry is rarely precise about terms like this). Off-dry rieslings are incredibly popular these days, and incredible tasty. Dessert wines will be anything more than 5%, although they can get very high.
So, if you are shopping for rieslings and you want to know how sweet it will be, take a look at the back label for one of these categories, or pop online to see what the technical notes from the winery’s website say about the residual sugar!
Photo by David Wilbanks via fotopedia.
Varietal Spotlight: Riesling
How do I love Riesling? Let me count the ways! It can be a very elegant and refreshing wine, even though it’s sometimes considered a beginner wine because it’s often sweeter than other whites. It’s a classic starter wine for new drinkers because you can find very sweet Rieslings and work your way towards the dry Rieslings. Not all Rieslings are sweet; it really all depends on what style of Riesling the winemaker is trying to make. Rieslings in the European style (as in, barely sweet or not sweet at all) are all the rage in Washington right now.
I was pouring at an event put on by a local organization, largely very pleasant people who were mostly non-wine drinkers. One of the less pleasant people came up to the bar, inspected the wine we were pouring, and pompously asked, “Is that a white Chardonnay?”
I really hate to judge people who don’t know about wine, because I get it. Not everyone knows about wine. But I do, in my heart of hearts, judge people who pretend that they know a lot about wine and act pompous about it.
A Lesson to Take Away: Chardonnay is always white and please be polite to your servers.
I’m drinking Kerloo Cellars 2009 Temperanillo! This is a bottle my boyfriend got for free (people love giving him free wine; I still haven’t learned his secret…maybe a code word I need to know?) Kerloo’s 2009 Temperanillo is sold out now, but they have a 2010 Temperanillo for sale, which I haven’t yet tried. Their Temperanillo isn’t crazy unreasonable in price, but maybe a little more than new drinkers are willing to spend. It will run you $34, which I think is a good value for this wine.
Well balanced earth and fruit, bright flavors, and not too spicy for a Temperanillo; this is a wine that goes well with food. It tasted even better the second day it was open! The grapes come from Wahluke Slope and Walla Walla.
Pair it with: Butternut Squash Risotto
Check them out online for information about the winery or to order wine!