A grape varietal which certainly requires no introduction, Cabernet Sauvignon is not only the principal component of the great Bordeaux wines, but also reigns as the grape varietal most widely known for putting the U.S. on the wine making map. It is grown prolifically throughout America, perhaps at its best in Napa, Sonoma and Washington. Even though in this country we see many 100% varietally based wines, Cabernet Sauvignon is usually blended to add complexity and to round out the often tough-to-handle tannins which are characteristic of this wine. It should be full-bodied, rich, firmly structures and powerful. It is reserved in the bouquet, yet the tell-tale black currant, dark berry, cedar and vanilla (from oak barrels) often show themselves. When grown in a cool climate, it can smell of green pepper or olives, but beware of unripe fruit that can be weedy or even vegetal. Some of its popular grape blending companions include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
Ever since the Phoenicians and Romans brought their knowledge of vine cultivation to Spanish soils, the country's culture has grown alongside wine production, with wine being a vital part of Spanish identity and Spanish traditions. Each region of Spain has a wine quite distinct from the others, and it is produced by smallholders and families as much as it is by large companies and established wineries. From the relatively mild and lush regions of La Rioja to the arid plateaus that surround Madrid, grapes are grown in abundance for the now booming Spanish wine industry, and new laws and regulations have recently been put in place to keep the country's standards high. By combining traditional practices with modern technology, Spanish wineries are continuing to produce distinctive wines of great character, flavor and aroma, with the focus shifting in recent decades to quality over quantity.