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13 Things You Didn’t Know About Cabernet Sauvignon

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<a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Malcolm Carlaw/Flickr</a>

Because not all wines are created equal, and because being knowledgeable about just "wine" isn't going to cut these days, this is the nitty-gritty on one of the boldest varieties of vino out there -- Cabernet Sauvignon. To arm you for dinnertime conversations from now and until eternity, this list has oodles of info about this specifically robust red. Drink it (responsibly) in.

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1. People had some crazy theories about where it came from

As no one was sure of its origins, there were all sorts of wild theories. One popular speculation was that Cab grapes were actually a kind of Biturica grape, an ancient variety popular in 1st century Rome (and not a form of nerd crypto currency).


2. Then, in 1996, they found out its TRUE origin 

That year, Dr. Carole Meredith at UC Davis used the grape’s genetic material to determine that Cabernet Sauvignon grape is actually a mix of Cabernet Franc, which has a light, peppery flavor with some fruity notes, and Sauvignon Blanc, which ranges in flavor from sweet and tangy to very grassy. Cabernet Sauvignon, their lovechild, was first noted in the 17th century in the Bordeaux region of France, and probably came about by accident. 

<a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">SeattliteFromNY/Flickr</a>

3. You can grow the grapes in the desert

In the eastern part of Washington State, there are regions that only get 6 inches of rain a year but still yield high scores from wine connoisseurs. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are even grown in the Gobi.


4. The most expensive wine ever sold (at auction) was a Cabernet Sauvignon

One six liter bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon sold for half a million bucks in 2000. Do some simple math and that's about "holy-crap-way-too-much-money" per liter. 

Kazakov Maksim/Shutterstock

5. Mutant zebrafish have cabernet blood

OK, so zebrafish are a tropical minnow, common in home aquariums. Because marine biologists are so darn hilarious, common blood mutations in this particular breed are all named after wines: merlot, frascati, retsina, riesling, grenache, thunderbird (awesome), and, yep, cabernet. We'll spare you the science, but all of them have to do with a decrease in blood cells and not an increase in charmingness at dinner parties.


6. Cabernet Sauvignons from the Napa Valley beat top Bordeaux Chateaus in 1976

That year, Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant, organized a blind taste test pitting French Bordeaux wines against Cabernet Sauvignons from California. Called the Judgment of Paris, a reference to Greek myths about the Trojan War, the Cabs rated best in every category, and did it again in follow-up competitions in 1986 and 2006. Spurrier himself only sold French wine and believed his narrow choices as a salesman would be vindicated; they were not. 

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7. Cabernet Sauvignons go great with red meat because science

There’s a reason your Cab compliments your steak/burger. Tannins, which also give wine its color, are astringent, giving wine its bite and making your mouth pucker. Red meats are full of fats and proteins, which bind with tannins and neutralize that effect, thereby making the wine even more palatable and enjoyable. Thanks, wine.

<a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Samantha Gale/Flickr</a>

8. There are 650,000 acres worldwide dedicated to grape growing for Cabernet Sauvignon

For some perspective, Rhode Island is 775,680 acres and definitely is not mostly wine grapes.

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9. Cabernet Sauvignon has several sneaky aliases

Sauvignon Rouge, which sounds like a burlesque dancer from Montmartre, while others include Petit-Cabernet, Petit-Vidure, Bouchet, and Petit-Bouchet. Actually all of those could be burlesque dancers from Montmartre. 


10. It's on the (slightly) boozier end of the scale

While the typical ABV for wine is 12.5%—14.5%, Cabernet Sauvignon hovers between 13.5% and 15.5% ABV.

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11. Your Cabernet has something in common with traditional Chinese medicine

Wine enthusiasts have long classified Cabernet as a “vegetal” wine, as its often said to taste and smell like a green bell pepper and not because it resembles a Dragon Ball Z character. Pyrazines are aromatic organic compounds and were recently credited with the herbaceous taste in wines. These compounds have a substantial presence in Cabs, and are also often present in the herbs used in ancient Chinese medicines. 


12. Drinking Cabernet Sauvignon can fight Alzheimer’s

Cab's and other reds have a compound called resveratrol, which a study at Mount Sinai demonstrated was useful in preventing the process of mental degeneration in Alzheimer’s. So much better than an apple a day.

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13. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of three “noble” grapes

Sort of like the noble gases, except they don’t have a column on the periodic table. And they're not gases. So really nothing like them at all (sorry, simile police). The other two are Pinot Noir and Merlot. The so-called noble grapes are supposedly the three winemaking grapes of the highest caliber.