If you are a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, you may have heard of Abacus wine, a unique multi-vintage Cab blend created by the ZD Winery in Napa Valley, California. The wine contains a blend of various vintages of the winery's reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Although the winery also produces other varietals, their flagship wine, Abacus, is also their most well-known-and most expensive-wine.
Buying Abacus Wine
Due to its unique winemaking techniques and the limited bottling, Abacus wine has gained cult status. This means bottles can be difficult to find, and the release price is high. The average release price of Abacus is around $600 per bottle. The wine sells quickly, mostly as wine futures (purchases made before the wine is released) or winery direct sales. You may also be able to find Abacus at auction or on secondary markets. Futures are sold in three bottle packs directly from ZD wines. To purchase, contact ZD Wines at (800) 487-7757.
The Birth of ZD Wines Abacus
This exclusive blend was born out of a simple conversation between two brothers sipping wine at a family gathering. As Robert and Brett de Leuze discussed their appreciation of an old, perfectly aged bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon they were sharing, they lamented the fact that while older wines have delicate tones and profound complexities, they lack the distinct fruit flavors of younger wines. Robert wondered if there was a way to create a blend of older and younger wines that would have the attributes of both. He chose to accept the challenge of producing such a product, and created Abacus using a method called the solera process.
The Solera Process
This method of aging and mixing has been used for centuries in the production of many liquids from beer to wine, vinegar, brandy, sherry, and port, among other consumable liquids. The word solera actually refers to the barrels or containers used in the procedure. The process is simple and methodical. Wine producers fill a series of containers with products at successive stages of aging, with each vessel representing a specific vintage or period. When they complete the filling, the winemakers tap the oldest liquid into a bottle. They repeat the process with the second oldest mixture. When they reach newest or youngest, the winemakers refill it with the new product. At the end of each aging period, the maker repeats the procedure, so each mixture is unique in content and flavor and contains a small amount of many different vintages of wine.
The Ascension of Abacus
Once Robert perfected the wine blending technique, Abacus was on its way to fame. The first bottling released on November 1, 1999, and contained wine from vintages from 1992 through 1998. The winery bottled only 15 percent of the wine in elegant bottles designed especially for the Abacus label, which produced only 200 cases. The rest of the blend was returned to the barrels to wait for the next young wine addition, which was a 1999 reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The winemakers at ZD Winery, with each bottling being as well received as the last, have repeated this process almost yearly. They release Abacus in October each year.
Abacus Critical Reception
Due to the exclusivity of tasting Abacus wine, it hasn't been rated by critics very often. Users at wine-searcher rate the wine 5 out of 5 stars, indicating they find it a wine of high quality. Wine Enthusiast rated the Abacus IV many years ago and awarded it a 93-point rating noting aromas of mint, leather, and cherries. At Vivino, where Abacus is ranked in the top 1% of all the world's wine, wine drinkers also award Abacus 4.8 out of 5 stars calling it "stunning", "complex", and "incredibly smooth" among other superlatives.
Robert de Leuze wanted the name of his new blended wine to be as outstanding as its flavors. Each bottle of Abacus has a metallic medallion attached with a picture of an abacus on it. The abacus, an ancient counting tool that uses beads on two tautly strung wires to perform simple math calculations, is divided into two parts, with five beads on the bottom wire and two on the top. Each lower bead represents one unit and each upper one, five units. The beads are arranged on the Abacus labels to represent the first and last vintages used to make the first Abacus mixture, 1992 through 1998, when their values are added together. A zero row on the tool serves to separate the first and last vintage years of the first bottling of Abacus. Because the wines aren't named by vintage, the different bottlings are denoted by roman numerals. October of 2020 will mark the release of Abacus XXI, indicating the 21st bottling of the multi-vintage wine covering vintages from 1992 to 2019.
If you find the Abacus concept intriguing and would like to taste this innovative blend, contact the ZD Winery and sign up for an Abacus tour. Besides touring the winery operations, you will get to taste the reserve wines as well as the latest bottling of Abacus.