For a number of years, I’ve seen Ruby Cabernet as one of the grapes in some of WineShop At Home’s red blends. I’ve always thought of it as a softer Cabernet but decided to do some more exploration today. Here’s what I learned. Thank you to the blog AmericanWineGrape for their help with this article.
What Is Ruby Cabernet?
Ruby Cabernet is a cross of Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon that was created in 1936 by Dr. Harold Olmo at UC Davis. Olmo’s intent was to combine the superior quality of Cabernet wine with the resistance to heat and high yields of Carignan in an inexpensive table wine. The grape was very popular in the 1960s. According to Wine-Searcher, “The typical Ruby Cabernet varietal wine is best described as simplistic and easy-drinking with notes of cherry and blackberries. The variety, however, tends to lack complexity and is used most commonly in bulk wine blending to add deep color and some earthy characters.”
Ruby Cabernet is middle to late ripening making it suitable for warm to hot wine regions. It was specifically bred for the Central Valley Region in California, and is also grown in other states of the USA notably Texas, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Virginia.
The most extensive plantings outside of the USA are found in Australia and South Africa.
It’s main use is as a blending variety, especially in cask or box wines and is also as part of the blend for fortified wines.
Ruby Cabernet was developed at UC Davis for California’s hot climate. Interestingly, it has been found to produce better quality grapes and resulting wines when grown in cooler climates. Apparently, in hotter climates, the grapes take on a plum or raisin quality. In cooler climates, the grape produced can lead to deeper, more complex wines with flavors similar to darker cherry and dried fruit.
There can also be hints of some earthy flavors. Most noticeable will be the tannins, and that is why Ruby Cabernet is most often produced into cheap bulk red wines or added to other bulk red wines to add color and tannins (especially to wines high in alcohol and acid levels to help give more balance).
Ruby Cabernet possesses a vigorous vine due to its engineered resistance to disease and rot. The vine produces a lot of fruit per vine with grapes that grow in smaller, tighter bunches making them resistant to wind sheer and heavy gusts. While this abundance in fruit is great for use as a blend, production of a finer, nuanced and complex wine is more challenging. With a large number of grapes competing for water and other nutrients the characteristic cherry flavor is understated and high alcohol levels are present
Where Is the Grape Grown?
While the grape is still grown in California, it’s also growing in Texas, Nebraska, Missouri and New Mexico. Outside of the United States, you can find some vineyards in Australia, Chile (although they don’t admit it) and Argentina.
According to AmericanWineGrape, if you’re able to get your hands on a really good quality Ruby Cabernet, you’ll want a fuller, richer big dish to match it. Below are a list of foods and dishes that should pair well with Ruby Cabernet:
- Chili Con Carne
- BBQ Beef Ribs
- Mushroom Risotto
- Tandoori Chicken
- Duck Breasts with Green Peppercorns
- Full-bodies Cheeses
- Grilled Beef Ribs with Bearnaise Sauce
- Mutton Curry
- Grilled Ostrich Steak
- Peppered Sauteed Pork