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Cabernet Sauvignon: The Self-Declared King of American Wines

en October 28, 2023

So, you've heard it all before: Cabernet Sauvignon, the undisputed ruler of American vineyards and the wine world. The most planted grape in America for now as pinot noir production is expected to snatch that title away.  The best selling varietal in any wine shop--even shops that belabor to broaden the American palate with alternatives like garnacha and tampranillo.  But is Cabernet Sauvignon really worthy of its self-declared royal title, or is it just another grape with an oversized ego? Well, let's take a snarky dive into why Cabernet Sauvignon thinks it's the king of the American wine scene.

1. Global Popularity? Oh, Please!

Cabernet Sauvignon might be popular worldwide, but so is the burger, and no one's calling it a king. Except Burger King of course.  This grape variety is known globally, sure, but there's more to wine than just being recognizable.

2. Versatility?  

Sure, Cabernet Sauvignon can grow in different climates and regions, but so can a weed. It doesn't mean it's the best thing in the garden. It might adapt, but that doesn't automatically make it the king.  

3. Consistency or Just Boring?

Consistency is great, but let's be honest, Cabernet Sauvignon is like the guy who's been telling the same joke for years. It's reliable, but does it bring anything new to the table?   Actually, yes, it does if we are talking about Schrader Cellars' Diamond Double Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon.

4. Consumer Preference – Taste the Tannins!

Ah, the taste of tannins! Cabernet Sauvignon lovers adore that mouth-puckering sensation. But some might call it an acquired taste, and not everyone wants to feel like they've been sucking on a teabag.  There is also something compensatory about the tannins too. To be more specific, tannins help offset the flavor deficit in many of our contemporary foods. You wouldn't find yourself dipping a slice of tomato into a pool of ranch dressing if tomato vines weren't bred for high yield.

5. Wine Culture and International Recognition

American wine culture has evolved, but sometimes it feels like Cabernet Sauvignon was the popular kid who made everyone else follow suit. Is it true love or just social pressure?  According to Decanter, the Judgement of Paris was "a victory that put California on the winemaking map, and established Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars as a global superstar."  But which wine did they win with?  Take a guess.  It was not a merlot.  


6. Marketing and Branding – All About Image

Cabernet Sauvignon has the branding game down pat. It's like the Mr. Beast of the wine world. But can marketing and a pretty label make up for anything?  I am reminded by a quote that I stumbled upon years ago, "people drink labels, not wine."

7. Wine Tourism 

Wine tourism has exploded in the U.S., and Cabernet Sauvignon regions have cashed in big time.  The average daily rate (ADR in hotel industry parlance) for a hotel room in the month of May in Napa County is over $400.  The rate solidifies the the experiential imperative of a trip to Napa where Cabernet Sauvignon reigns supreme.  Inevitably, as Napa has become ubiquitous on bucket lists, it faces tourist trap claims.  Cities, towns and counties all welcome tourism but keep the tourist at arms length 

Final Note

So, there you have it, the so-called 'king' of American wines. The supremacy of Cabernet Sauvignon may be self-declared on some levels, but you cannot deny the versatility, tannins, culture, and tourism closely associated with this grape. Long live the king. Or, to paraphrase Omar Little, the infamous Robin Hood-like character from HBO's 'The Wire,' 'If you're going to come at the king, you best not miss.' Good luck, Pinot Noir, because you're going to need it.

<Many Men by Fifty Cent fades in>



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