Great Cabernet Values
Cabernet Is King It's the primary grape of some of the best wines in the world—France's Château Latour, Italy's Sassicaia, Napa Valley's Dominus Estate—and some of the priciest. Yet more and more great, affordable Cabernets are being made almost everywhere people plant vineyards. And if you poured them blind, most tasters would guess they cost three times the price.
Ready to Drink Now Unlike a first-growth Bordeaux such as Latour, these wines don't need years in a cellar to reach their peak; they're delicious now. That said, the last five on this page will also develop over time.
2003 Finca El Portillo Cabernet Sauvignon ($9) This jammy, blackberry-scented bottling, from vines growing almost 4,000 feet above sea level in Argentina's Valle de Uco, is part of the El Portillo line of affordable wines from up-and-coming producer Bodegas Salentein.
2003 Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon ($10) Winemaker Rafael Tirado uses grapes from vineyards in Chile's Maipo Valley—the country's most famed Cabernet-growing region—for this polished red, rich with cassis flavor.
2003 Root: 1 Cabernet Sauvignon ($12) This dark, voluptuous Cabernet takes its name from the origin of the grapes it was made from: ungrafted vines in Chile's Maipo Valley descended from 19th-century Bordeaux cuttings.
2003 Bishop's Peak Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($16) Well-known Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producer Talley Vineyards buys grapes from top-quality Paso Robles, California, growers for this silky Cabernet, enhanced by a floral touch of Cabernet Franc.
2003 Kettmeir Cabernet ($16) Founded just after World War I in Italy's Trentino-Alto Adige region by a Zurich-based wine broker, Kettmeir Winery is still family-operated, producing traditionally styled wines like this medium-bodied, lightly herbal Cabernet.
2001 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($16) Australian producer Wynns's "Black Label" Cabernet is possibly the most age-worthy inexpensive Cabernet in the world—even the first vintage, from 1954, is still drinking beautifully. The smooth, rich 2001's black-fruit flavors gain additional complexity from a hint of leafy tobacco.
2003 Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) In 1996 Australian winemaking legend Jim Barry purchased a former cricket ground in Coonawarra and planted it to Cabernet vines. The result, named for a cricket batsman's shot, is one of the world's top Cabernet values: smoky, powerful, packed with black currant character.
2002 Château Haut-Batailley Pauillac ($32) Bordeaux's complicated 2002 vintage was best for late-ripening grape varieties, particularly Cabernet, and careful hunting can unearth some extraordinary values. This graceful, cedary wine comes from a fifth-growth property in the Pauillac region.
2002 Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon VIII ($45) Dunham's profound 2002 bottling offers more proof that Cabernets from Washington State's Columbia Valley can challenge the best of Napa at half the price. It's exotic and seductive, full of spiced cherry flavors outlined by black mint.
2002 Pasanau Finca la Planeta ($45) A tiny, rocky vineyard at the base of the cliffs surrounding Spain's Priorato region provides the grapes for this intense, minerally Cabernet, whose formidable tannins are softened by a small percentage of old-vine Grenache.