I love me some Napa Cabs, but it’s not exactly a place to go for value. Sonoma, Mendocino and Paso Robles are home to some decent value Cabernet Sauvignons, sure. But in the $20 Cab range, go for Chile and Argentina.
Chilean producer Montes churns out a massive amount of wine, from many different varieties and at many different price points. Their mid-level wines, the Montes Alpha label, tend to be quite complex for around $20. I recently tasted their 2012 and 2011 Cabs (which retail for about $18) and was impressed with the quality, complexity and even cellar potential.
From Argentina, Trapiche’s mid-level wines, Broquel, are another source of quality and value. Their Broquel Chardonnay and Malbec are great for the price, as is their 2012 Cabernet, which retails for about $15.
You can spend a lot of money on Chilean and Argentine Cabernets, too, and many of the pricey wines are stunning. But these value-driven bottles are a good primer on South American Cabernet.
2011 Montes Cabernet Sauvignon Alpha - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
Deep ruby color. Nose shows tart plums, currants and blackberries, mixed in with some notes of vanilla, violets, roasted figs, underlying note of loam and granite. Firm tannins but a bit more fined down and manageable than the 2012, Tart berries, perhaps a bit more towards the red berry and plum fruit, but still those darker fruit tones throughout. Lots of roasted coffee and dark chocolate here, but some deep floral and granite notes, loamy soil, some tobacco coming out. Still could use a good decant or another year. Includes 10% Merlot. (88 points)
2012 Montes Cabernet Sauvignon Alpha - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
Deep ruby color. A bit deeper and more roasted berries on the nose than the 2011, perhaps needing a bit longer to open up aromatically than the 2011, or perhaps just a year younger and a bit more floral. Firm and drying tannins give the wine solid grip but moderate acid helps balance it out. All sorts of tart red and black plums and berries, intermingled with a sense of pencil shavings, loamy soil and smashed rocks. Some tobacco and roasted coffee notes along with the toasted oak. Needs a bit of time to open up, and much better on day two. Includes 10% Merlot. (87 points)
2012 Trapiche Cabernet Sauvignon Broquel - Argentina, Mendoza
Aromas of blueberries and black cherries, lots of loam and spice, hedonistic elements of cedar shavings and vanilla. Juicy and full of bright fruit on the palate, the currant and blueberry fruit is rich but not overdone. Accents of smoke and loam, the oak is significant with vanilla and mocha signatures. Fine, moderate tannins mix with some medium acid and the combination is a fruity and rich wine that’s easy to drink but shows moderate complexity. (88 points)