Who Knows the World’s Most Planted Wine Grape?
Hey wine trivia buffs, guess what’s the world’s most planted wine grape? If you answered Cabernet Sauvignon, you’re wine geek material! It is grown in almost every major wine-producing country, including France, Italy, United States, Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, and even here in Canada. Why so many plantings? Well, the current consumer wine trend favours full bodied, dark fruited, complex red wines. Cab is a textbook example of that trend that shows enticing black currant (if it’s richer fruit, the French word, cassis, is often used), black cherry, blackberry, mint or eucalyptus with warm vanilla, spice notes (from the oak barrel), as well as very high tannins and acidity. The formula is simple. Consumer popularity = an abundance of Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards.
Now that we know that Cab wins the wine popularity contest, practically, what do we really need to know to find the very best version of this red? Here’s the significant piece of information: look deeper than buying just by country alone. Regional influences are critical to producing the best grapes that in turn make superior wine. Warm microclimates, often with maritime influences, with relatively infertile soils guarantee its full potential of ripeness and fruit flavours. Some of the areas you should look for when you read a Cab label include Bordeaux (usually blended with Merlot and/or Cabernet Franc), Tuscany (think Super Tuscan wines), Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Coonawarra, Margaret River, Maipo Valley, Colchagua Valley, Mendoza, and Stellenbosch. For a Canadian Cabernet, your best bet is the Southern Okanagan. It is sparingly planted in Niagara and in warm years produces great wines, but those years only occur about 3-4 times a decade.
Now that you know the World’s Most Planted Wine Grape, go out and buy a bottle, or two or three. You’ll need them to get ready for the BBQ season, which, we hope, is just around the corner!
My ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.
Felino Chardonnay 2021 ★★★½+ $19.95 (Vintages)
You may not look for your next bottle Chardonnay to be from Mendoza, Argentina, but this deserves your attention. It combines tropical fruit with the brightness of lemon, pear, and Granny Smith apple amid mellow cream and spice. Full bodied, quite rich, and stony, it will nicely complement creamy pasta or rich shrimp dishes with a spritz of lemon.
Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay 2021 ★★★★ $17.95 (Vintages)
This South African Chardonnay is every bit as full bodied as the previous Argentine one, but much different in character. Imbued with extremely intense flavours of lemon pulp, meringue, yellow apple, stone fruit, pastry, and well integrated vanilla spice. The flavours hang on for ages. It would be excellent with oven roasted salmon with Dijon mustard and garlic or traditional Italian Pasta al Limone.
Andrea Biasiotto Brut Millesimato Prosecco NV ★★★★ $15.75 (Vintages)
The LCBO website labels this as Extra Dry, but the bottle label says Brut. We agree with the label since this definitely falls in the dry category for Sparkling. The persistent fresh fruit flavours of apple, lemon, and pear proliferate on your palate with a long, lingering finish. Nice fine bubbles for a Prosecco as well. A wine that’s pleasant as an aperitif, with seafood, or rich appetizer courses.
Trius Distinction Gamay Noir 2020 ★★★½ $19.95 (The Wine Shop)
Even though it’s far from its homeland in Southern Burgundy’s Beaujolais region, Gamay shines in Niagara. You’ll find lots of red cherry, strawberry jam, and spicy, earthy notes in this light, quaffable red. Chill this food friendly red lightly then serve it with veggie pizza, roast chicken, or pasta with tomato sauce.
Niro di Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018 ★★★½ $17.95 (Vintages)
This rustic deeply tinted Italian red serves up deep dark fruits with spice, tobacco, leather, coffee, and chocolate among whiffs of leather and smoke. Its dry and big bodied character calls out for sausage ragu or your meatiest pizza.
Hollick Tannery Block Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2019 ★★★★ $19.95 (Vintages)
As mentioned in the article above, Coonawarra is one of the best places on earth for Cabernet and this blend with Merlot will validate that statement. The Merlot softens the Cab tannins to make it more approachable, but it’s still packed with powerful ripe black currant, black cherry, blackberry, plum, rosemary, vanilla, and baking spices. If you like a smooth (and full bodied) operator, this is the wine to match up with your grilled steak with chimichurri sauce.
Cavino Nemea Agiorgitiko 2020 ★★★★ $14.95 (Vintages)
Now here is an awesome value from the Nemea region in southern Greece made with the most widely planted red wine grape in the country, Agiorgitiko. It has a baked fruit character with plum and blackberry in the forefront and support from spicy new oak vanilla in the background. Full bodied and not overly tannic, it would go well with lentil and bean stew, gyros, or grilled meats of all kinds.
Erath Pinot Noir 2021 ★★★★ $26.95 (Vintages)
Erath was founded over 40 years ago in the New Dundee Hills in Oregon and helped pave the way for Pinot Noir in the state. They were one of the first wineries to import clones from Burgundy instead of relying on California clones and the results speak for themselves. Oregon Pinots always seem to exemplify the berry fruit flavours along with cherry, plum, earth, and dried orange peel. The wine is dry, softly tannic, medium bodied, and relatively acidic making it a wonderful pairing for a wide variety of food. This red can “break the rules” to complement salmon, chicken with mushrooms, and turkey. It would be equally at home with beef or pork dishes.