Claret & Cabs; The Story of Cabernet Sauvignon by Benjamin Lewin M.W.

A large tome thudded through my letterbox the other day, a new book on Cabernet Sauvignon.  My fellow MW Benjamin Lewin had picked my brains about Cabernet Sauvignon in the Languedoc, so I immediately skipped the chapters on Bordeaux and the Napa Valley and turned to Mediterranean Blends.  My initial reaction was that this is a great read. It is well researched; Benjamin has an academic background but he also makes his information immediately accessible.   You quickly learn that Cabernet Sauvignon is a latecomer to the Mediterranean and that today it has once again become an important grape in the Languedoc, growing a third of France’s Cabernet Sauvignon.  He is amusing about the bordelais reaction to Cabernet in the Languedoc.  Ranging from ‘It’s big mistake’ to ‘there isn’t any.’  He observes that the rise of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Languedoc is a relatively recent development.  Mas de Daumas Gassac inevitably features for is pioneering work, but he has also visited some less well known exponents of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Verena Wyss is given a sympathetic and perceptive appreciation, and Marc Benin at Domaine de Ravanès pleads the cause for Petit Verdot, while Domaine de Perdiguier illustrates the virtues of a blend.   And of course it was Eloi Durrbach who pioneered the modern blending of Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah at Domaine de Trévallon in the Alpilles of Provence.   And then Benjamin asks the question: where is all the Cabernet Sauvignon going, while observing that the Languedoc has the potential to produce almost as much Cabernet Sauvignon as Bordeaux.  The answer is: into the big brands of Vin de Pays d’Oc that are sold at prices roughly comparable to basic Bordeaux Rouge.

And the second half of the chapter on the Mediterranean focuses on the Tuscany and the wines of Bolgheri.  I have also dipped into Southern Challenge, Chile and Argentina, and promising myself a leisurely read of the rest.  There is also a serious wodge of tasting notes, but Benjamin states clearly that the notes are intended to illustrate the themes of text, and that ‘they are representative rather than encyclopaedic’   In short Claret and Cabs is a very fine addition to any library of wine books. 


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