Ingredient of the Week: Cabernet Sauvignon

What is it?

Cabernet Sauvignon is a dry red wine discovered during the 17th century by crossing the Cabernet Franc and the Sauvignon Blanc grape varieties. Its origins are in the Bordeaux region of France, but it has since spread all over the world. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes favor warmer climates and have an ideal maturation of five to ten years. Due to this longer aging process, they blend well with other grape varieties while retaining a unique flavor profile.

Cabernets are usually medium- to full-bodied and high in tannins. The aromas and flavors can include plum, cherry, blackberry, blueberry, cedar, vanilla, tobacco, and leather. Currently the most popular red wine, it replaced Burgundy in the 1980s as the generic term for red wine.

How do I use it?

Aside from serving as an accompaniment to food (think red meats, heartier pastas with red sauce, lamb, strong cheeses, and dark chocolate), Cabernet Sauvignon is also good to cook with. The alcohol in wine helps break down fats and release flavors in the food.

When adding wine to a sauce, make sure to cook the alcohol off so that your end result doesn't taste like the bottom of a liquor barrel. Usually the sauce will need to cook uncovered until it is reduced by about half, which then concentrates the sauce and enhances its flavors. The higher tannin concentration in Cabernet Sauvignon is attracted to the protein in meats when cooked and thus the wine tastes less astringent.

A general rule for selection is, don't cook with a wine you wouldn't dare drink, i.e., don't buy that cooking wine stuff in the vinegar aisle. Instead, opt for a cheaper bottled red wine. Because wine's acidity can discolor cookware, use non-reactive pots and pans such as those made of stainless steel or enameled cast iron.

Where can I find it?

In the wine section of a grocery store or Spec's. Store opened wine corked in your refrigerator. Opened wine eventually turns into vinegar and can be used when recipes call for red wine vinegar. But be sure not to mix the two: using red wine vinegar when a recipe really calls for red wine may result in a sour dish.

Recipe: Spanish Braised Oxtail This recipe utilizes the slow cooker. Who doesn't love throwing everything into a pot, leaving it for hours, and returning home to a wonderful-smelling meal ready to eat? Serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes with crusty bread.

What do you do with your Cabernet?

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