A cross between the famous Cabernet Sauvignon and another wine known as Carignan, Ruby Cabernet is more often than not used as a blending wine to add colour and flavour to a more delicate wine. The wine was created in order to unite the strength and quality of the Ruby Cabernet with the resistance to mold, rot and heat of the Carignan. The inventors wanted to produce this wine as inexpensively as possible, in order to provide an enjoyable, good quality table wine. Ruby Cabernet has become very popular in the Southern Hemisphere, and some parts of America, due to its resistance to heat and good-quality wine.
Wine farmers considered Ruby Cabernet to have lots of potential, and planted it eagerly, but they have found that it is not as easy to grow as they believed, and most areas have now given it up. Only Robertson, with plenty of heat and irrigation, continues to grow the grapes, and they are often used in South Africa’s Red Blends for that district. Although the grape is very tough, the fruits have been difficult to produce in South Africa, and it has fallen prey to mildew. The colder nature of the Western Cape has probably ruled out any really promising vintages of Ruby Cabernet from that area.
The other problem is that the ground used to grow Ruby Cabernet could also be used to produce other types of wines that are more popular, and are more likely to produce a single varietal wine. Ruby Cabernet is generally a blender, and this means that wine farmers are less likely to grow it, simply because they can plant other, less demanding, vines and get a better crop, which makes more economic sense. Ruby Cabernet is a vine, and a wine, which needs dedication and hard work, and this can be too much for some wine producers.
The wine produced by Ruby Cabernet grapes is a slightly weaker version of Cabernet Sauvignon. It does not have the strong body of its parent, and it certainly lacks that immediately-noticeable flavour of the Sauvignon which makes it a favourite around the world. However, it is a gentle and rather plummy nature. When it has been grown outside of the Robertson district, in cooler areas, there is usually a deeper cherry-like flavour, and a hint of sultana or raisin. In both harvests there will be an earthy and rich flavour, with quite clear tannins. If you have a red blend mix, you may notice the tannins from the Ruby Cabernet more than you notice the taste of the variety itself.
Ruby Cabernet does not produce a high alcohol content, which is another reason why it is used in blends, since it can soften other wines with more alcohol. In its single varietal, the wine is suitable for use as a lunch-time accompaniment, and it also goes well with big, powerful dishes such as chilli con carne, curries, or meats with peppered sauces, as well as with full-flavoured cheeses.