To a certain extent, this is why Cabernet is so ubiquitous. The grape does a good job of producing exceptional wines at the top end of the spectrum, as well as some fairly impressive wines at the bottom end. Where it tends to get a little tricky, as is the case with many wines, is in the middle, where winemakers who strive to make a more profitable product sometimes don't end up making a better product.
These value Cabernets, all under $12 a bottle, show just how much can be achieved at this rather modest price point. While some countries have a decided advantage, flat vineyards, inexpensive and abundant labor, I was able to find a nice selection of winning wines, each exhibiting something of a regional style that set one apart from another.
You might not like them all, but you are bound to find a great wine for your next party from this list of great Cabernets!
Photo courtesy eightfivezero via Flickr/CC
2009 Root:1 Colchagua Cabernet Sauvignon Chile 14% $10
This is really bright on the nose with some lovely floral/herbal/fermented tea elements over a base of lightly exotic, passion fruity red currant and tomato fruit. Rich and supple on entry, with well integrated acidity and softly dense tannins filling this out nicely. The fruit is like the aromas, slightly exotic with nice red currant, plum and tomato notes accented with hints of clove, mace and a nice mineral edge. Good tension in the mouth and a nice, caramel/cigar box and toasty spice edge leads out the black fruit of the finish. This is very attractive and a great value. 88pts
2009 Casa Silva Colchagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Chile 14% $12
This is heavy and damp with old wood on a nose, showing some pithy grapefruit aromas and hints of mint and tomato leaf all over a bed of dark, dried fruits. Very nice texture on entry and medium bodied, but with really refined tannins, well integrated yet bright acids and a seamless mouth feel. The fruit shows more precisely on entry with black currants and dried tomato flavors over a base of lightly caramel, very gently cedary wood. The finish is a bit dry and lacks some freshness, revealing an almost brothy element. This is a rustic wine in many ways, but one that feels quite natural and right. This will lack fruit for many palates. 88pts
2009 Mandolin Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon CA 14.5% $12
A low-key nose of black currant, smoke and sage greets the nose with background notes of chalky earth and vanilla. This is relatively rich on entry and a little chunky, with nicely sweet, plummy fruit up front that transitions to more blackberry tones with spicy oak accents on the back end. The tannins are nicely brisk and dry, really offering nice contrast to the fruit and delivering a refreshing and spicy finish. Sees the return of blackberry notes on the finale. This is a very nicely put together and balanced Cabernet at this price point. A touch rustic but at the same time a bit gutsy. 87pts
2010 McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon CA 13.5% $10
A bit tight on the nose, with furry black fruits, bittersweet chocolate shaving, some toasty oak and marshmallow vanilla notes. This is fairly rich and fruit driven on entry, with good underlying acidity lending freshness to the blackberry and black currant flavors. This is quite well balanced with nice interplay between the fruit, spice and vanilla oak character. The finish is a bit short and austere, though time should come to add more length. Smaller scaled but well balanced with nice freshness of fruit. 87pts
2008 Wente Charles Wetmore Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon CA 14.5% $12
Creamy and spicy on the nose with plenty of cinnamon and allspice notes accenting the red currant, strawberry and herb fruit. Soft but broad in the mouth, with a nice balance of herbal undertones, broad black cherry fruit and framing notes of spice and wood tannin topped with some spicy wild strawberry notes. The finish is a touch dry and influenced more by wood than fruit, though it does have a nice red fruit and herb finish. This is pretty well crafted and awfully drinkable in this style. 87pts