Parentage of a Noble Variety

Many tales, myths and stories surround the origins one many of the World’s most recognised wine grape varieties. Born in the minds of romantics, these tales often discuss the journey from the variety’s “far away origins” to its final home where it grew up to prominence.

The classic example of these myths is the one surrounding Syrah (we know as Shiraz) being brought to the Rhone Valley in southern France from Shiraz in Persia by the 13th century Crusader Knight, Gaspard de Sterimberg.

The noble Cabernet Sauvignon’s story is a little less romantic, but names the Balkan Peninsula as the variety’s birthplace. But this was to be shattered in April 1997 when University of California, Davis researchers, Carole Meredith and John Bowers released their findings into their DNA research of 51 of the major wine grape varieties.

Their naming of Cabernet France and Sauvignon Blanc as the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon was a major surprise to the industry.

“Although the similarity in names might suggest that Cabernet Sauvignon is connected to these other two varieties, the relationship came as quite a surprise,” Meredith was quoted by the UC Davis News Service. “A close link between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc has been suspected, but no one had any idea that Sauvignon Blanc was related.”

The cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, itself thought to be a white mutation of Cabernet Franc, is believed to have occurred spontaneously in the vineyards of Bordeaux sometime during 17th century.

Today is easy to see the influence each parent has on its progeny.

Cabernet Sauvignon draws on the rich berry and currant fruit flavours of Cabernet Franc and merges them with Sauvignon Blancs trademark length and tightness and hints of herbaceous characters.

Cabernet Sauvignon has long surpassed it parents in both in plantings and prestige, now the 2nd most planted variety in the World and responsible for some of the World’s most famous and sort after red wines like the First Growths of Bordeaux.

To learn more about this topic, check out the UC Davis website or visit the very useful Grape Variety Reference Library.