Who’s your daddy? Who, indeed
Like Syrah, we regard the Cabernet Sauvignon wine grape as also being ancient, noble and aristocratic. Its world-wide ubiquity is a testament to its success as the grape variety, attracting devotees who kneel and genuflect before its holy altar. With nearly endless potential for aging, with its high degree of adaptability, and with its attractive black currant complexion, Cabernet Sauvignon, grape and wine, is celebrated the world over, winning favor in every wine circle. Our affection for the variety often compels us to refer to it with great familiarity, even giving it an abbreviated name, all despite the fact that before the year 1690, no single grape of this variety ever existed.
Our beloved, ancient and noble Cab Sauv has not always been a mainstay of Bordeaux, that bastion of French aristocracy and home of the many well-storied chateaux? Put quite simply, no.
Cabernet Sauvignon, as the French once surmised then soon forgot, is in fact the prodigy of two genuinely ancient grape varieties, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. The airborne pollen of the former did fertilize a bloom of the latter, in a natural cross-pollination. Alas, until the early twentieth century, Cabernet-Sauvignon (complete with hyphen) was the preferred spelling to convey the suspicion of its status as a botanical hybrid, an inter-species cross, a viticultural love-child.
Truly amazing is the fact that one seed in one Sauvignon Blanc grape was the Genesis of the first Cabernet Sauvignon plant from which all others have sprung. All of which was due to the neighboring Cabernet Franc vineyard, a favorable wind and an opportune moment to cross the property line. The chances of the hybridized seed making it to a fruiting plant without being tilled out of the vineyard row are astounding, let alone the chances of anyone analyzing the fruit for its enological aptitudes to reveal its superior qualities. The tell-tale evidence was that the errant vine yielded red grapes in a vineyard that otherwise bore white grapes. By 1720, it was a leading grape variety in all of Bordeaux and its surrounding wine estates, and was certainly well-established there by the end of the 18th century!
With the advent of DNA “fingerprinting” technology, a veritable grapevine paternity test was ordered in 1997, with Drs Meredith and Bowers of UC-Davis conducting the investigation. They proved conclusively what was always suspected but had never before been proven: Cabernet Franc, together with Sauvignon Blanc, was a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon.
So, Cab Sauv, who is your Daddy?
The male Cab Franc pollen crossed the fence to pollinate the Sauv Blanc flower, so he is the father. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, father and son, are reunited in the 2004 Cave B Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve to commemorate and celebrate the creation of a world-renowned prodigy.