Ready and heady

When you think of the finest red wines in the world, you are often thinking of wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon.

wine 88 (photo credit: )
wine 88
(photo credit: )
Widely planted throughout the world, the Cabernet Sauvignon is perhaps the most reputed grape for the production of red wines. Not only does it bud late, lessening the danger of damage from spring frosts, but the grape-bunches are loosely formed and the grapes are thick-skinned and resistant to rot and insects. These growth characteristics, along with its flavor appeal, have made Cabernet Sauvignon one of the most popular red wine varieties worldwide. Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with other varieties to soften it. Adding Merlot or Cabernet Franc fills in the middle palate and gives a soft, fruit finish. Adding Shiraz gives a wonderful, full-bodied wine with lots of fruit berry flavors and spicy pepper at the back of the palate. Sangiovese is often added in Tuscany to produce a unique blend, and some Malbec and Petite Verdot seem to regularly crop up as blends. The trend is turning back toward more straight Cabernet Sauvignons. The blends are easier to drink and quicker to mature than straight Cabernet Sauvignon, but they lack the complexity that a good Cabernet Sauvignon has on its own. And Cabernet Sauvignon loves oak. Lots of tannins and often high alcohol contents react well to slow wood maturation. Cabernet Sauvignon can be aged in new oak for up to a year to produce spectacular results. Try this with a Chardonnay and you'll end up with lots of oak and very little grape flavor. Most wine-growing regions in Israel are moderately warm, dry and provide a long growing season on well-drained soils. The resulting Cabernet Sauvignons of many local producers stand up to the qualities of the international market. Here are some of the recent releases of Cabernet Sauvignon, crafted at big and small Israeli wineries. Dalton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Meron Vineyard, 2004: Since the establishment of the Dalton winery 10 years ago, the grapes harvested in Meron vineyard proved to be of a very high quality. This year, for the first time at the winery, they have decided to produce a Single Vineyard wine from Meron. This intense wine is deep red in color with aromas of black fruits. In the mouth it's full-force Cabernet with pure and satisfying flavors of blackberry and black cherry, while the finish offers smoke and hints of eucalyptus. The wine features ripeness and an overall quality not often achieved by others in the price range. NIS 125 Dalton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2003: If your mantra is "bigger is better," then this is it. The grapes for this appealing wine were harvested during the fall months of 2003 at the winery's Ben Zimra and Ramat Dalton vineyards. The wine was aged for 18 months in French oak casks which contributed to its intense flavors. Black cherry and wild berry aromas preceded a finish dense with bitter notes, smoke and vanilla. NIS 99 Carmel, Kerem, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kayoumi, 2003: This full-bodied elegant wine is of Carmel's Single Vineyard 'Kerem' series. It's rich and complex, featuring aromas of black cherry and plum. The well-integrated oak provides background notes of coffee and vanilla, while ripe tannins give the wine a soft entry and good weight on the palate. The wine is excellent on release and will continue to gain complexity for at least five years. NIS 105 Carmel, Kerem, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zarit, 2002: Another excellent wine crafted by Lior Lexer for Carmel's top series. The grapes are from Zarit vineyard in the upper Galilee, where winter is very cold and the soil has optimal irrigation conditions. The wine is soft but firmly structured and well oaked; the complex flavors range from berries and ripe plums to vanilla and chocolate. NIS 95 Golan Heights, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002: Graceful and impressive, it's ripe and thick in black currant, cassis and chocolate, and beautifully structured, with fine, crisp acids and dusty tannins. As good as it is now, it should hold and improve for several years. NIS 105 Golan Heights, Gamla, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003: Drinkable now despite lush, firm tannins, this wine lets its fruit star. The ripe berries, green grass and vanilla spice flavors are delicious and compelling, and the finish is dry and elegant. NIS 75 Golan Heights, Golan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004: An interesting, enjoyable wine. Displays a nice balance of ripe berries and earthy green, dry, with a tasteful edge of oak, but probably not an ager. This is a wine to drink now. NIS 44 Galil Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004: Really a lovely Cabernet, this gentle wine captivates for its soft, lush mouthfeel and sheer complexity. It's rich in blackberries and cherry fruit, and generously oaked. Spicy tannins give the wine good structure and a medium-long finish. The wine is approachable on release and will continue to drink well for at least five years. NIS 41 ChillaG, Cabernet Sauvignon, Primo, 2003: This wine is marked by intensely ripe cherry, cassis and oak flavors and fabulous balance. Superbly rich and massive with rich, smooth tannins, this lovely Cabernet maintains elegance and structural integrity through the long, polished finish. NIS 136 (not kosher) Saslove, Aviv, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004: This is a firm, well-sculpted wine, but it needs time. It's a big, tannic, closed wine, dry and astringent. But there's a gigantic heart of blackberry fruit, and I would be surprised if this wine doesn't turn into a real beauty by 2010. NIS 56 (not kosher)