Do You Chill Cabernet Sauvignon? Temperature Tips & Advice

by JJ Buckley Fine Wines

Red wine being poured into a glassIn the broad popular category of red wines, there are many distinct and outstanding varieties. This article will focus on one particular variety: Cabernet Sauvignon. There is a lot of conversation surrounding this wine, especially when discussing the best storage and serving practices. We’ll explore all the basics of Cabernet Sauvignon, including how to best to serve Cabernet Sauvignon and how to chill it to the proper temperature.

The Basics: What is Cabernet Sauvignon?

Cabernet Sauvignon is highly regarded by both Old World and New World growers worldwide. It is a bold and full-bodied wine with a long history, dating back to the early 17th century in Europe. Just like its close cousin, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the varietal grape called Cabernet Franc and originates in the Bordeaux region of France. Bordeaux wines may be Cabernet Sauvignon; however, not all Cabernets are Bordeaux, as the term “Bordeaux” refers to the region where the wine was grown and made, while the term Cabernet Sauvignon refers to the grape.

Cabernet Sauvignon Characteristics

Cabernet Sauvignon can be described using six characteristics: body, alcohol content, tannins, terroir, sweetness, and acidity. These characteristics are used throughout the wine community to describe, classify, and compare wine flavor profiles.

Here are the typical characteristics of a Cabernet Sauvignon:

  • Body: Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied wine with a heavy mouthfeel.
  • Alcohol Content: The average Cabernet has an alcohol content range of 13% to 14%.
  • Tannins: Cabernet has medium-to-high tannins that mellow over time.
  • Terroir: Cabernet originated in France, but the grape is now grown all over the world. The specific terroir of the wine you choose will depend on the vineyard where the grapes were grown.  
  • Sweetness: Cabernet Sauvignon is dry; it is not a sweet wine. 
  • Acidity: Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold wine with medium to high acidity. 

What Foods Pair Well With Cabernet Sauvignon?

 If you want to pair Cabernet with a meal or food item, you’ll want to consider the age of your wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that improves with age. If you serve a filling and hearty meal, choose a younger Cabernet. Older Cabernets will pair better with smaller dishes with softer textures due to the wine’s bold and often overpowering flavor profile. 

Here are some of the more popular food pairings for this wine:

  • Cheese, such as cheddar or brie
  • Red meat, such as steak or burgers
  • Pasta with a cream sauce like potato gnocchi
  • Dark chocolate

Cabernet Sauvignon is also a good choice as a cooking wine for hearty dishes like braises or intense sauces. 

How to Serve Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s a common misconception that red wine is best served at room temperature. You can enjoy your wine however you desire, but to get the most out of your red wine means chilling it to slightly lower than room temperature. A full-bodied red like Cabernet Sauvignon is commonly served at roughly 55°F to 65°F or 15°C to 18°C. This is the perfect temperature range to experience the full flavor potential of your wine. 

The serving temperature will depend on your wine storage practices. If your wine is stored properly in a chilled cellar or wine fridge, you may need to warm it up just a bit before serving. This can be done by simply leaving it at room temperature for about half an hour. You will also want to keep this time frame in mind if you are chilling Cabernet Sauvignon before serving.

The Relationship Between Temperature and Flavor

The flavor of your wine can be affected by a number of factors, such as time, light, humidity, and movement. Temperature, however, plays the most significant role in flavor. Storing your wine in places that are warmer than room temperature can cook the wine, causing it to age faster and spoil. For this reason, it’s wise to never store your wine near your stove/oven or windows. Spoiled wine will taste sour and vinegar-like. 

Temperature fluctuations can be tricky to control. A wine refrigerator is an excellent option for any wine enthusiast hoping to preserve and store their fine wines at the right temperature. Wines held at the right temperature will often improve over time, aging and increasing in intensity and complexity. For serious wine lovers, refrigerators are a worthwhile investment.

How to Maintain the Temperature

It may not seem necessary to explain how to drink your wine, but it is necessary if you want to maintain the flavor through temperature control. Once you’ve served your Cabernet Sauvignon at the right temperature, it will start to warm with the ambient heat in the room. Even this subtle change in temperature can affect the flavors and experience. To ensure your wine warms to room temperature as slowly as possible, hold the wine glass by the stem. Your hands will warm the wine quicker when you hold the glass by the bowl. This is a major reason why many wine experts recommend not using stemless wine glasses. Double-walled insulated wine glasses offer another way to slow the warming and protect your wine from the heat of your hands.

The Perfect Cabernet Sauvignon

All-in-all, Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that can be enjoyed chilled if stored at room temperature or room temperature if stored in a chilled environment. Finding that balance in the temperature at which it’s served will help you get the most flavor and aromas out of your wine. And however it is that you enjoy Cabernet, you can explore a wide selection of cabernets by visiting JJ Buckley Fine Wines. JJ Buckley has the finest selection of this classic variety of wine, with bottles from vineyards and wineries across the world.