As you can imagine, any wine known as royalty can be pricey. The $60 2004 Grgich cab, for example, is fine, indeed, but that was definitely not the price point my friend had in mind.
But she wasn’t looking for the cheapest thing on the shelf either. She passed on Two Buck Chuck 's Cabernet which sells for –wait for it —two bucks. (Inflation may have driven up the price but you get the idea).
The Cabernet grape is grown all over the world, from France to California to Chile.
Turns out the Cabernet grape is hardy, tough enough to withstand most diseases that affect other wine grapes, and adaptable enough to grow in a variety of soils. So there is a lot of Cabernet to choose from, enough so that can consider price without forgoing taste.
Cabernet Sauvignons are full bodied, ripe with tannins. Tannins are the ingredient in red wine which leave your mouth with that dry cottony feeling. Bold and tannic wines like cabs typically turn off a lot of wine drinkers who find the tannins overwhelming. I’ve found, however, that avowed non cab drinkers begin to appreciate the majesty of the wine when they drink it with food because food softens the tannins. And Cabernets are made for food that is substantive—hearty lamb meatballs or a thick juicy steak. Spicy fragrant dishes like vegetable curry also make a good pairing but you might want to rethink pairing a cab with spicy hot dishes which can compete with the spice in the wine and flatten out its taste. (Better to drink a Riesling with your Sichuan chicken.) And while you’re enjoying your meal, you can congratulate yourself on keeping healthy. Cabernet Sauvignons have a high concentration of resveratrol, thought to be protective against heart disease.
With my friend’s end of the workday deadline fast approaching, I came up with a list of choices. Notice all of the recommendations have some bottle aging because a Cab is best with some aging—perfect for storing on your wine rack.
2004 Miguel Torres Santa Digna Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 15 or less
2004 Ironstone Cabernet Sauvignon $17 or less
Rodney Strong $17-18 or Geyser Peak Alexander Valley $18 or less
I can also vouch for Black Box Paso Robles Cabernet which comes in –well—a box and holds about 3 bottles of wine. Yeah I was skeptical too, but it’s good. I’m still working through my angst about screw tops so this was a big leap for me.
Finally, a wine buddy highly recommended 2005 Wyatt California Cabernet Sauvignon –supposed to be in the $10 dollar range.
Of course, my friend ended up in a wine store which had none of the above! No worries. The wine clerk steered her toward a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. Naturally, she can’t remember the name. I’m guessing it was (Concha Y Toro Marques de Case Concha).
Hey, she discoverd a new wine, and it was a big hit at the dinner party. How can you lose with the king of wines?