To call me precocious about wine as a teenager would be more than accurate. At 17 I was already bragging to my (surely uninterested) peers about my growing wine journal, where I recorded tasting notes of the relatively infrequent glasses I was afforded the opportunity to try.

It’s not like I was cracking into fine, dusty vintages — instead, it would be whatever sub-$15 dollar red my Grandfather insisted was opened on Sunday when he came over for dinner (confusingly, he never touched a drop but enjoyed the aesthetic of wine served with food). I took an immediate shine to brash Cabernet Sauvignons, and one of the very first I ever recorded in my just-cracked journal was Cathedral Cellar, hailing from Western Cape, South Africa.

It kicked off my abiding love of the complex, often smokey reds endemic to South Africa, and ultimately laid a path to discover one of my family’s all-time favourite reds, Faithful Hound. But that was well over a decade ago, and my tastes have broadened since then. In fact, it wasn’t until recently I decided to reach for a bottle of the Cathedral Cellar Cab Sauv and check in. Would it still resonate with me the way it had when I was a teenager?

Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Review

This wine pours a gorgeous deep ruby — it looks kinda like movie wine, almost impossibly rich and red (though you really should seek more from your wine than its good looks). On the nose, Cathedral Cellars offers a promise of that South African smokiness, with rich dark fruit and cedar spice. It’s not wildly complex, but what’s there sure smells dandy.

This is a stiff glass of wine, there’s no doubt about it. At 14.5% ABV, you can taste a bit of the alcohol, which doesn’t bother me, as its matched in potency with intense flavours of blackcurrent, dark chocolate, smoked wood and relatively tongue-smacking tannins. It’s not overly sweet, with a decent acidity, but with all the flavours present you almost expect it to taste sweeter than it is. The finish softens into a lingering — albeit somewhat single-note — vanilla.

To put it plainly, Cathedral Cellar is an absolutely enjoyable wine, and maybe even an exceptional one in its price range. As I proved at 17, it’s a great introductory wine, if you’re looking to convert someone to a red drinker. But even for the experienced imbibers, it still has a lot to offer, and is well worth sipping slow.


Final Verdict

Cathedral Cellars remains an enjoyable Cabernet Sauvignon worthy of introducing a new wine drinker or sipping as a seasoned imbiber.