Want Killer Cabernet for Less Than $20? Look to Chile!

Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon holds a special place in my heart. Back when I was getting deeply into wine, bargain priced Cabernet Sauvignon from South America, and Chile in particular, helped drive my interest. It was amazing to me that there was so much good wine for such a low price. Cabernet from other areas didn’t seem like it could compete dollar-for-dollar with what was coming from Chile.

Flash forward 20 years and some things have changed. Bargain-basement-priced Cabernet isn’t the thing I first think about when I think of Chile — instead I’m consumed with the amazing bounty and diversity hitting our shelves from there at more than fair prices. And when it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon specifically, there may not be a lot of great ones for $6 these days, but other regions still have a hard time competing with Chile dollar for dollar. This time out I’m looking at three Cabernets from Chile that retail for under $20; they really spoke to me when I tasted them side by side.

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First up is the William Cole Vineyards 2010 Columbine Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This offering is 100 percent Cabernet. All of the fruit for this wine came from the Colchagua Valley. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks over eight days, and aging in French oak barrels over 12 months followed. This wine, which has a suggested retail price of $18, is widely available. Violet, plum and blueberry aromas are joined by vanilla bean on the nose of this Cabernet. The black fruit characteristics steal the show here, with blueberry and zingy black raspberry leading the way. Minerals galore, earth and spices such as black pepper and cardamom mark the finish, which is above average in length. This is an elegant and graceful Cabernet for the price point.

Next up is the Peñalolen 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine blends together Cabernet Sauvignon (85 percent), Cabernet Franc (7 percent), Merlot (6 percent) and Petit Verdot (2 percent). The fruit for this Cabernet came from the Maipo valley. After fermentation, barrel aging took place over 12 months, and 20 percent of the barrels utilized were new. Roughly 80,000 cases of this vintage were produced, and it has a suggested retail price of $19. Aromas of Red Delicious Apple emerge from the nose of this Cabernet. Cherries, spice and bits of red raspberry are present as well. The palate here is proportionate and balanced with loads of red fruits, joined by hints of cinnamon and pepper. Soft tannins mark the structure, which is all about balance and grace. This Cabernet leans toward red fruit flavors from the first whiff to the last note on the finish, which has solid length. This is an approachable, food friendly Cabernet Sauvignon that will drink well over the next five years. This wine will work with a wider array of foods than the average Cabernet.

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