Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are classic components of Bordeaux wines, a style of wine that the French have been refining for 500 years. These two principle varieties have been transplanted all around the world.
Cabernet Sauvignon is often regarded as the King of grape varieties, which would make Merlot definitely the Queen. Produced as single varietal wines or blends of these two varieties, they are often blended with the varieties Cabernet Franc, Petite Vedot and Malbec.
Cabernet Sauvignon with its blackcurrant and dark blackberry flavours is mouth-filling and has a good tannic structure. It is often blended with Merlot which adds plum, dark berries, mixed spice flavours and in older wines a leathery character, as well as supple smoothness to the wine.
These wines have almost always been aged in oak and have the flavours that oak aging imparts. French oak barrels tend to provide flavours of cedar and pencil shavings as well as a toasty and sometimes smoky character, where American oak imparts an attractive coconut character.
The better wines come from the warmer areas of New Zealand such as Hawke's Bay and Waiheke Island. There are, particularly with Merlot dominant wines, good wines being produced further south. These are grapes that require a warm climate to produce the riper flavours required in these wines.
Australia, where the warmer climate is able to fully ripen these grapes, produces some spectacular examples of what these wines are capable of particularly from the regions of Coonawarra (SA), Margaret River (WA), Barossa Valley (SA), Clare Valley (SA) and the Yarra Valley (Vic).
Red blend food matches
These are wines that are full bodied and complement beef, lamb, casseroles and wild game dishes.