Beer & Wine Wine

The 14 Best Cabernet Sauvignons to Drink in 2023

The top cab is is the 2016 Château Pape Clément Pessac-Léognan.

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Best Cabernet Sauvignons

Liquor / Chloe Jeong

From its ancestral homeland in southwest France, to the sun-drenched vineyards of California and Washington, to emerging footholds in Tuscany, Australia, and South Africa, cabernet sauvignon stakes a fair claim as the most beloved wine grape in the world. A recent study revealed that it's now the world's most widely-planted grape variety, up from fourth place as recently as 1990 (when boxed wines and jug wines made of lesser varieties held significantly more market share).

Besides consumer preference shifting toward so-called "varietal" wines, another cause for cabernet sauvignon's meteoric rise is that it’s relatively easy to grow; the grape berries are known for their thick skin and natural ability to flourish in a wide range of climates. More important than its ease of cultivation, however, is the fact that cabernet sauvignon is simply delicious. Bold and sturdy, with satisfying dark fruit flavors and big tannic character, it’s a crowd-pleasing favorite that's almost never absent from a restaurant wine list (and, more often than not, will be among the priciest offerings on the menu).

With so many bottles to choose from, we've compiled a list of some of the best cabernet sauvignons from around the world—from budget bottles to pair with Wednesday night dinner, to inimitable classics hailing from Bordeaux—like our top choice the 2016 Château Pape Clément Pessac-Léognan—to culty once-in-a-lifetime indulgences. Grab that decanter and read on!

Best Overall: 2016 Château Pape Clément Pessac-Léognan

2016 Chateau Pape Clement Pessac-Leognan Bordeaux France

Region: Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France | ABV: 14% | Tasting Notes: Cherry, Black truffles, Tobacco

It’s hard to overstate the brilliance of the 2016 Château Pape Clément. The bottle is named after Pope Clement V, who owned the vineyard when he was just a scrappy upstart Archbishop of Bordeaux in the early 14th century, meaning the vineyard’s been in operation for over 700 years. Operated by esteemed French winemaker Bernard Magrez, this cabernet is a liquid luxury that’s impossible to resist (not that you’d want to).

Complex and beguiling, this wine boasts a diverse flavor palate of dark fruits, cherry and fig, along with black truffles, forest floor, tobacco, and mocha and vanilla-tinged oak spices. It's medium to full-bodied with fine-textured tannins, silken fruit and a long, elegant finish. In a word, exquisite. 

Best Value: 2019 Substance Cabernet Sauvignon

Charles Smith Substance cabernet sauvignon

courtesy of

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington | ABV: 14% | Tasting Notes: Blueberry, Violet, Pencil lead

Winemaker Charles Smith, a former band manager who spent the first few years of his wine career selling his bottles out of the back of a van, has been churning out quality Washington State wine since 1999. Within fifteen years of his first vintage, he had been named Winemaker of the Year by both Wine Enthusiast and Food & Wine, and his recognizable black-and-white labels were gracing shelves in all fifty states and a couple dozen countries abroad.

Substance, one of his newest lines, comprises single-variety wines that are fermented naturally and bottled unfiltered and unfined. The 2019 "Cs" cabernet sauvignon is already making fans with its bold and pleasing characteristics of dark fruit, violet, pipe tobacco, and pencil lead, but the wine is sturdy enough that it should continue to evolve and add finesse over the next decade at minimum. Nothing wrong with popping it on a random weeknight, however; with its sub-$20 price tag, it's the type of indulgence you can come back to again and again.

Best Splurge: 2016 Lokoya Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

2016 Lokoya Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Region: Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley, California | ABV: 15% | Tasting Notes: Blueberry, Truffle, Wild herbs

Not to knock Champagne drinks, but if you have an occasion worth celebrating, try skipping the bubbly and diving into this exquisite bottle of cabernet. The Lokoya Mount Veeder is an indulgence, and you'll know why as soon as the first drops fall on your tongue. It combines the best of Napa Valley’s mountain climate, rich soils, and expert winemaking from Lokoya’s artisan of the grape, Christopher Carpenter. 

This is an example of peak cabernet. It is intensely aromatic with blueberry, violet, and blackberry notes bolstered by truffle and wild herbs. It's also full-bodied with tannins that grip and refuse to let go. Enjoy with reckless abandon.

Related: The Best Napa Cabernet Sauvignons

Best French: 2016 Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac (Grand Cru Classé)

Chateau Lynch-Bages Pauillac

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Region: Pauillac, Bordeaux, France | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Notes: Mulberries, Damson plum, Tapenade

"Let's go to the left bank of the Gironde River for the most famous expression of cabernet sauvignon on the planet!" says Matthew Kaner, host and producer for SOMM TV and the 2013 Food & Wine Sommelier of the Year. Indeed, it's hard to imagine a better standard-bearer of old-school cabernet sauvignon than the region of Pauillac, home to some of the most legendary and storied red wine producers in Bordeaux—and one producer crafting their cab-dominant blends in a consistently traditional fashion is Château Lynch-Bages.

"I love this style of cabernet for having a gentle ripeness of fruit, while also capturing the terroir so well," says Kaner. "As Château Lynch-Bages ages, it gains an incredible peatiness, kind of like Islay Scotch! I love it so much."

Best California: 2014 Heitz Cellar Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Heitz Cellar Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Oakville, Napa Valley, California | ABV: 14.5% | Tasting Notes: Bay leaf, Cedar, Red currant

Heitz Cellar is a jewel among Napa Valley wine producers, and Martha’s Vineyard cabernet is their flagship bottle. Aged five years in French Limousin oak barrels, this wine is made with intensely purple grape berries from an exclusive Oakville vineyard situated within its unique micro-climate—meaning this is one exemplary wine. Every vintage since 1966 is coveted by collectors, but 2014 was a particularly good year for this cabernet. 

Positively a classic with true cabernet herbal aromas of bay leaf, cedar, mint, and flavors of raspberry, red currant, sassafras, dark chocolate and eucalyptus. Sweet, svelte tannins find a long, dry finish supported by mouthwatering acidity. Best of all, you could be drinking this and enjoying it 50 years from now!

Related: The Best Red Wines, According to Experts

Best Washington: Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon

Woodward Canyon Artist cabernet

courtesy of

Region: Washington | ABV: 14.5% | Tasting Notes: Black cherry, Menthol, Baking spices

Washington State might seem like an odd place to cultivate a big, rich, warmth-loving red grape like cabernet—after all, isn't Seattle rainy about ten months out of the year? Maybe so, but once you get east of the Cascade mountain range, the climate is considerably drier and sunnier, yielding one of the nation's premier growing regions for hearty reds.

Only the second winery to be established in Washington's prolific Walla Walla Valley, family-run Woodward Canyon has been churning out delicious reds since 1981, and their “Artist Series” cabernet is a blend of grapes sourced from some of the most highly regarded vineyards in the entire state, including the lengendary Sagemoor Vineyard. "The result is a silky, medium- to full-bodied wine bursting with notes of ripe black cherry, blueberry, cassis, warm baking spices, cedar, black pepper, menthol, and cocoa," says Claire Coppi, a Certified Sommelier and a cast member on SOMM TV. "Wait about five years before opening, as the wine benefits highly from a little time to integrate in the bottle."

Best Australian: 2018 Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon

2018 Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: South Australia | ABV: 14.5% | Tasting Notes: Tomato leaf, Brown butter, Mocha

Try cabernet the Aussie way with this fruity rendition from Penfolds. This South Australian multi-regional blend is made with grapes from the country’s cooler climates, maturing in French and American oak for a full year. The result is this deep and structured wine that’s worth crossing the Pacific for.

You’ll find aromas of blackberry compote, on-the-vine tomato leaf, cassis, and brown butter sage out the gate. This is a medium-bodied wine with wispy tannins and flavors of black and red currant, cherry and nutty mocha. This wine tastes excellent today, but will also improve over the next decade.

Related: The Best Wine Glasses, According to Experts

Best Chilean: 2016 Clos Apalta

Clos Apalta Red Blend Colchagua Valley Rapel Valley Chile

Region: Colchagua Valley, Chile | ABV: 15% | Tasting Notes: Blackberry, Crème de cassis, Olive tapenade

The Lapostolle family is Chilean royalty, and a member of the family, Charles de Bournet Marnier Lapostolle, is president and CEO of Clos Apalta. With the help of two notable French winemakers, Michele Rolland and Jacques Begarie, they are producing some of the best cabernet blends on earth.

With 64% carménère, 19% cabernet sauvignon and 17% merlot, this is a compact red, bursting at the seams with black raspberry, blackberry, red currants, crème de cassis and olive tapenade. Grippy, powerful tannins are underscored by savory tobacco, mint, and cacao—all leading to a focused and harmonious finish. 

Best Under $20: 2017 Flat Top Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

Flat Top Hills Cabernet Sauvignon California

Region: California | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Notes: Strawberry, Jasmine, Violet

Under the banner of the famed Mondavi winemaking family comes this delicious and mercifully affordable cabernet, which combines the robust flavors of grapes sourced from Paso Robles and the Monterey coast to Yolo County. Because of its rich flavor, this bottle offers great value.

Fruity and spicy, this wine has notes of vivid wild-berry and red fruit strawberries, along with herbaceous aromas of jasmine and violets. Expect easy-drinking soft fruit with good juicy acidity and smooth tannins. It even pairs wonderfully with a rare burger.

Related: The Best Cheap Wines, According to Experts

Best Under $50: 2017 Experience Cabernet Sauvignon

Experience Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Region: Napa Valley, California | ABV: 14.2% | Tasting Notes: Raspberry, Blackberry, Dark Chocolate

If you want to experience a cabernet under $50 that encapsulates the style of the grape when expertly grown in new-world environs, this is it. Crafted by husband-and-wife duo Catherine and Travis Vale, barrel-fermented and aged in French oak, this affordable wine is treated like triple-digit royalty and is perfect for accompanying your more relaxing moments. 

With bright raspberry and red cherry notes, this is a medium-bodied wine with gentle tannins and sweet red fruit, fresh-pressed blackberries and gobs of dark chocolate, along with a spicy finish.

Best Under $100: 2016 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2016 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Alexander Valley, California | ABV: 13.9% | Tasting Notes: Toasty oak, Cassis, Wild herbs

For almost five decades, the Duncan family has shepherded Silver Oak Cellars on a continued path of perfection. Their Alexander Valley property is worth a visit to California alone, just to experience their LEED Certified Platinum winery and, of course, to taste their Alexander Valley Cabernet.

Classic Silver Oak layers of deeply delicious toasty oak notes are harnessed with vanilla, blackberry, cassis and violets, further revealing black currant and wild herb notes over time in the glass. Expect bold tannins, bold flavors and mind-boggling complexity. 

Related: The Best Wine Openers, According to Experts

Best Organic: 2018 Bonterra Organically Grown Cabernet Sauvignon

Bonterra Organically Grown Cabernet Sauvignon California

Region: Mendocino County, California | ABV: 14% | Tasting Notes: Plum, Spice, Vanilla

Bonterra’s reputation in the beverage trade can be distilled into two major points: first, they’re committed to producing quality wines, and second, they were organic before it was cool. Yes, even as far back as 1987, Bonterra has made their wines without using pesticides. The extra effort is evident in their 2018 cabernet, an inspired feat from the originators of organic vino.

Expect flavors of cherry, plum, and spice with pretty oak notes tinged with vanilla. The wine has a hearty structure with soft acidity and a fresh finish.

Best Classic: Château Cos d’Estournel Saint-Estèphe

Chateau Cos d'Estournel

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Region: Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux, France | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Notes: Cassis, Graphite, Chocolate-covered cherries

Whether it's a genre-defining hip-hop album or a seminal Hitchcock film, sometimes you just need to go back to the old-school offerings to make sense of the new stuff—and it's hard to imagine a more classic interpretation of cabernet sauvignon than Château Cos d’Estournel. "This famous estate can trace its winemaking roots back to 1811, and was classified as a second growth in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification, making it one of the elite producers of the region," says Coppi. "It is a an absolutely stunning wine with the blend consisting of predominantly cabernet sauvignon along with merlot and a splash of cabernet franc."

As is the case with any serious Bordeaux, some patience is necessary if you want the wine to express its true potential. "In their youth, these are monolithic, muscular, powerhouse wines," says Coppi. "After a decade or more of cellar aging, the complex layers and nuance of the wine unfold in the glass; leather, tobacco, cassis, violets, graphite, black tea, stewed plums, chocolate covered cherries, and coffee are framed by silky tannins and fresh acidity." It's an old-school track worth waiting for.

Related: The Best French Wines

Best Vintage: 2016 Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

2015 Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Alexander Valley, California | ABV: 14.5% | Tasting Notes: Blackberry, Cedar, Chocolate

A Sonoma staple founded by the late ballet dancer Rodney Strong, the winery's 2016 Reserve Cabernet is one of their exceptional standouts. Even today, Rodney Strong continues to be a force known for sustainable production of quality wine (for instance, the winery practices water and soil conservation methods, such as drip irrigation and runoff management).

Find notes of blackberry, cherry, dark plum, tobacco, cedar, chocolate and toast. This wine is refined and robust with a long finish—an ideal match with beef and lamb dishes. 

Final Verdict

With cabernet sauvignon now being cultivated in nearly every wine-producing nation on the planet, there's an increasingly diverse set of styles and expressions to choose from—but for a bottle that exemplifies cabernet's classic and historical style, it's pretty impossible to beat the 2016 Château Pape Clément from Pessac-Léognan in Bordeaux (view on If your tastes skew a bit more "new world," however, spring for the Heitz Cellar Martha's Vineyard cabernet sauvignon (view on Vivino) or the Woodward Canyon Artist Series cabernet sauvignon (view on to experience the splendor of this classic grape given new expression by visionary winemakers operating in sunny, cab-friendly climates.


What's the difference between cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc?

These two grapes share more than a name and a few characteristics, such as classic notes of blackcurrant and pencil shavings—they also share a genetic lineage. DNA testing in 1996 confirmed what had long been suspected by many in the wine world: cabernet sauvignon is the genetic offspring of cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc, likely the result of an accidental crossing in 17th century France. So while cab franc might be lighter in body than cab sauv, it's actually the elder statesman!

What's the proper temperature to store cabernet sauvignon?

Store your cabernet at "cellar temperature," i.e. roughly 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Like most wines, cabernet will age best when it's kept away from light and heat, so if you don't have a wine fridge, a dark, undisturbed corner of your closet is probably the ideal spot. Ideal serving temperature is somewhere partway between "cellar temperature" and "room temperature," so if your cab was stored at 55, simply pull it out of the fridge twenty or thirty minutes before serving. (Keep in mind that you may want to decant—cabernet is an extremely tannic wine, especially when it's on the young side, so it will likely benefit from some extra exposure to air before it's poured.)

How long can cabernet sauvignon age?

This depends on a lot of factors, from the quality of grapes to the winemaking methods to the age of the vines. As a general rule, cabernet sauvignon that's priced in the "supermarket" range (e.g. $20 or less) is probably best to consume within three to five years after purchasing, although some may continue to show well after even a decade of proper storage. If you're buying more expensive bottles with the intention of laying them down for a while, speak to your friendly neighborhood wine merchant about an ideal selection. Serious, well-made cab from top producers in excellent regions will reward the patient buyer with decades upon decades of increasing complexity and elegance.

Why trust

This roundup was edited by Jesse Porter, who has worked as a sommelier at numerous California restaurants featuring excellent cabernet sauvignon programs. His favorite thing about great cab is the mouthfeel, and his second favorite thing about great cab is when a guest says "why don't you pour yourself a glass?"

Jonathan Cristaldi has written about wine and spirits for over a decade. He regularly tastes wines from around the globe and was named a "Wine Prophet" by Time Out New York for his witty and often avant-garde approach to wine education.

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Article Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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