The Selfridges Wine Guide

Learn everything you need to know about the world of fine wine with our guide to grape varieties, countries of origin and the perfect food pairings


GRAPE Varieties

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is capable of growing almost anywhere there is a reasonable amount of sunlight, from the warmth of the Gironde riverbank in Bordeaux to the heat of the Barossa Valley in Australia. It can be made as a single varietal wine but is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc among others. It marries well with oak which adds both a spice and toast but also softens the tannins.

It has a full body and prominent tannins, meaning it has the potential to age well, anywhere between two and thirty years. In the Old World, Cabernet Sauvignon shows cassis, blackcurrant, cedar wood and tobacco. When unripe it can be leafy and taste of bell peppers and pencil shavings. The Medoc in Bordeaux and Bulgari in Tuscany are classic examples of this Old World style. The New World style is more about rich dark blackberry fruits, menthol, eucalypt, chocolate, mocha and coffee. Coonawarra in Australia and the Maipo Valley in Chile showcase this style, whilst Stellenbosch and the Napa Valley sit happily between the two.

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From Santa Barbara in the south to Medocino in the north, California is the powerhouse of American wine making. Napa and Sonoma have become household names with their powerful spicy Zinfandels and rich Cabernets. Oregon is home to Burgundian style Chardonnay and Pinot, whilst Washington's cooler climate gives fresh Cabernet and Syrah. Virginia has amazing potential and some very elegant wines are starting to appear. New York mainly grows non-European varietals and hybrids which produce a distinct style with quality on the up.

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FOOD & wine pairings


Goat's cheese - Goat's cheese is a tough one as the acidity and delicacy, in many cases, of the cheese can fight with the wine's tannins. A great pairing with lighter styles is a restrained Sauvignon Blanc, drier Riesling or even a Pilsner beer. If going for a red wine try a light fruity Beaujolais.

Hard cheese - Red wines and hard cheese do work better than with other cheeses but there are other more interesting pairings. Vintage and young Ports are classic and fuller bodied red wines with good fruity flavours. With a pecorino or parmesan, Champagne is a fun choice and a good Manchego with Amontillado sherry. A great pairing is a full IPA beer.

Soft and strong cheeses - These are often the hardest to pair as they can make wine taste metallic. Matching the texture of the cheese if it is not too strong can work for example a creamy Viognier with a soft triple cow's milk cheese. Off dry Riesling, fruity Beaujolais and American style IPA beers will cope well with stronger flavoured cheeses such as Epoisse.

Blue Cheese - Red wine and cheese is viewed by many as the go to pairing but the tannins in red wines can often work against the cheese. Look at the type of cheese first and the strength. Blue cheeses have strong flavours so the wines will need them too. Try classic sweet wines like Sauternes or Port, for the more adventurous try a sweet Riesling or a rich Stout.

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