Wine Varieties

Cabernet Merlot Wine Blends

Cabernet Merlot wine, or to give it its full name Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, is a classic blend of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varietals. It is …

Cabernet Merlot wine, or to give it its full name Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, is a classic blend of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varietals. It is famed for being the combination of varietals used in wines from Bordeaux in France. Australia produces some excellent Bordeaux-style Cabernet Merlot wines. However, the primary focus in Australia is on Shiraz-led blends.

Cabernet Shiraz, at its peak, is Australian wine at its best and may be described the Australian wine style. The Australian star varietals of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon combine to express the best of both wines in concert. This combination is off limits in France as strict wine making regulations prevent winemakers from combining Shiraz from the Rhône Valley with Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux.

Cabernet Shiraz or Shiraz Cabernet

The labelling convention (also Australian law) for listing varietals in wine is based on quantity: the greater the quantity used the higher in the order the grape. A red blend with a greater quantity of Cabernet Sauvignon than Shiraz will be labelled Cabernet Shiraz.

In many cases, when a winemaker uses a very small amount of a particular grape varietal, it may not be listed on the label at all. Many Australian Shiraz blends have been using small quantities of Viognier but as the varietal has grown in popularity, to satisfy the market, some winemakers have been labelling their wines wine as Shiraz Viognier.

Cabernet Shiraz

Cabernet blend characteristics

A Cabernet Shiraz blend is a big red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is very present up front and in the finish but is known to lack a little on the mid-palate. Shiraz comes into its own on the mid-palate. The combination presents the wine lover with a journey through cassis and blackberry in the Cabernet to smoke and pepper in the Shiraz.

Cabernet Merlot blends are produced across Australia at a variety of price points. Western Australia has great ability to make excellent blends of the grapes. Margaret River, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and the Big Rivers Zone all produce varying examples to suit different budgets. These Cabernet blends show hallmark cassis, mocha and sweet spice aromatics and a palate with a supple texture, blueberry fruit and a long finish with dark chocolate tannins. Cabernet Merlot wines of pedigree tend to age very well due to their excellent structures.

Pairing food with a Cabernet blend

To focus on the two big Cabernet blend combinations, Merlot and Shiraz, lamb is a perfect fit. For a roast shoulder lamb choose the Cabernet Merlot blend. For chargrilled or barbecue skewered lamb shish or cutlets open a bottle of Cabernet Shiraz to take advantage of blackened bits of meat. For something a good deal easier, a simple beef burger sizzling off the grill is the perfect foil to these big, bold Cabernet blends.

Cabernet blend winemakers of note

In some circles the 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A, a Cabernet Shiraz blend, is considered the greatest wine Australia has yet produced. So great in fact that the second vintage, and the latest, was in 2004. Penfolds contribution to high-end Australian wine can’t really be understated.

Some of the other big hitters in Australian wine are also producing great Cabernet blends including Yalumba, Peter Lehmann, Lindemans as well as Wolf Blass and Stonyfell.

More on Cabernet blends

Cabernet Sauvignon can be blend with several other varietals. In Australia, the most well known of these combinations are with Merlot or Shiraz. However, Cabernet Franc (notably in Bordeaux), Malbec, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot and Carménère are also used.

The power of Cabernet allows winemakers to retain the familiarity of flavours in their wine while expressing their own winemaking ability by combining these other varietals prior to fermentation. Winemakers can also ferment the varietals individually and combine them later to achieve their own signature Cabernet blends.