Chile's Cabernets: Hard To Go Wrong

Cabernet has been in the dog house lately, and not without reason. Too many producers growing it in the wrong places has turned it into a one note wine. On the west coast, the overwhelming majority of it is overpriced, and these factors have coalesced, putting cabernet on the ropes. So, when a six pack sampler of Chilean wines - all cabernets - showed up for review, they were received with a groan.    

But wine, like people, requires an open mind, and the thing is, these cabernets are good. Very good, actually. In fact, if you had $20 to aim at any section of the wine shelves, Chile would be at the top of the disappointment-free/low-risk list. 

This sampler pack was sent as a compare and contrast exercise; a way to illustrate the differences between two of Chile's main growing valleys: Maipo and Colchagua. There is so much diversity within these growing regions, let alone between them that it can (hopefully) be forgiven if the common palate fails to distinguish between them. However, and perhaps equally important, is what these wines all share and how Chile's cabernets seem to be evolving.

In contrast to what domestic cabernet has become, these red share a reservedness and, for the most part, an absence of prominent pyrazines that often typify Chilean red wines (and which can often be off-putting, particularly to American tastes.) Yet, they are still identifiable as Chilean, and they aren't masquerading as anything but. Rather, they are what might be termed as having internationally-influenced style. The result is quite alluring, and the consistency and quality across these producers is equally impressive. 

Moreover, eleven years ago I wrote that the sweet spot for South American reds was in the $12-$15 range. The fact that the price point has moved to the $20 mark seems reasonable - even modest - over a decade, but these wines are all evidence of that sweet spot, and I would not hesitate to recommend any of them (save perhaps one at the top end of the price scale.) And one wine in particular is deserving of an exceptional rating. (Stay tuned for that!)

Over the next week or so, reviews for these six Chilean cabernets will drop here in no particular order. Some are easily found, while others less so. Regardless, the overarching point is that you are likely to find lots of drinking pleasure with Chile if you've got $20 to spend on a cabernet.