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Georges and Daniel Daou grew up in Lebanon, which was part of the ancient land once known as Phoenicia. Winemaking in Phoenicia can be traced back more than 5,000 years and was documented in Ugaritic poetry and the Old Testament. The Phoenician word for the fermentation of grapes or wine—Cherem—holds a special place in the hearts of the Daou family.
When Winemaker Daniel Daou decided to produce a special, small-lot Cabernet Sauvignon that hearkens back to early styles of the variety, he immediately knew the perfect name for the wine.
“Cherem is an entirely new project that is rooted in the historical styles of Bordeaux and California Cabernet Sauvignon,” Daniel says. “It is a lower-alcohol wine that aims to capture a varietal heritage that has largely been lost.”
Daniel explains that the finest Cabernet Sauvignons of today—including DAOU’s—are typically in the range of 14 to 15 percent alcohol. But it was not always this way. The great Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons of the 1960s through 1980s were most often made in the 12 to 13 percent alcohol range. The same could be said of the finest Bordeaux wines, which have also seen higher alcohol percentages in recent years.
Alcohol is a product of sugar. During fermentation, yeasts consume grape sugars to produce alcohol and CO2 gas. After the CO2 gas blows off, the alcohol remains. The higher the sugar levels in the fruit, the higher the alcohol level will be in a finished, dry wine.
There are multiple causes behind the increase in wine alcohol levels over the past few decades. Climate change is perhaps the biggest factor. Warmer average temperatures generate higher sugar levels as the grapes reach peak ripeness. Advanced vineyard management techniques have also increased fruit quality and fruit sugars, and many wine drinkers have become accustomed to these riper styles, further perpetuating demand for what is now considered the standard.
This evolution in wine begs a challenging question: Is it still possible to produce a fully balanced, elegant, classic, world-class Cabernet Sauvignon at 12 percent alcohol, today?
This is where Daniel’s signature innovation comes into play. Daniel chose a singular block of Cabernet Sauvignon vines on the cooler valley floor of our mountain vineyard. He then reduced the vine canopy size to decrease the amount of photosynthesis and slow the progression of sugar development.
Under these unique circumstances, the fruit achieved “physiological ripeness”—a balance of tannins, acidity, and sweetness—at lower grape sugar levels.
“This is not easy to achieve at these lower sugar levels, but we pulled it off beautifully,” Daniel says “I love it because it reminds me of a classic Old- World Cabernet Sauvignon. Cherem is born from the fact that we love to pursue different expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon. This is why we make wines like Soul of a Lion, Eye of the Falcon, and, now, Cherem. We want to master all styles of this incredible grape. This is a wine I made, first and foremost, for our DAOU members. They are so invested in our Cabernet story, and this is the type of curated wine that deepens our journey together. I cannot wait for them to experience it.”
The result is a spectacular new DAOU Cabernet Sauvignon that rejuvenates a classic but largely forgotten style and reveals a timeless expression of this beautiful wine.