Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! My experience with selling and talking about wine has taught me that enthusiasts will almost always enjoy a good Cabernet Sauvignon. People love the intense flavors, gripping tannins and full body of a good wine and Cab Sauv delivers that in spades. What customers don’t enjoy about Cab Sauv is the price, which easily tops $20 for most entry-level wines in the USA section. France has some good options in Bordeaux blends but once again, the price has easily reached $20 for most “budget” wines.

I set my sights on Chile this week with the goal of finding a good (I’ll take acceptable) Cabernet Sauvignon that won’t destroy your budget. The initial goal was wines under $20 but when I saw the $10 wines at the bottom of the shelf, I realized I needed to know the truth: are these wines any good or do people drink them out of desperation? I’m surprised to say that even at this price level (the lowest of possible price points in the store), there is some flavor and enjoyment to be found!

My first sip of the week was Antares 2021 which left a sour taste in the mouth. Too much acidity and highlighted bitterness shows that even wines with a D.O. designation can be a let-down. The growing area must have been quite cool for that lower alcohol level and focus of red fruits (green pepper is another telltale sign of under-ripe Cab Sauv grapes).

Next up was my favorite of the week: Gato Negro Cab Sauv. I’ve always passed by this wine in the Chile aisle and wondered what it was like. As this wine is priced low, I didn’t expect much, but the color was deep, the aroma was intense and while this might not replace your other favorites, it makes a good option for a party/BBQ or when someone wants one more glass but doesn’t want to open another bottle of more expensive wine. This scrathes that Cab Sauv itch but still doesn’t live up to the quality of California Cab Sauv.

Finally, I tasted and rated the third budget Chilean Cab Sauv: Fronterra. You will notice a lack of vintage on the label and at this price point, I was expecting a big disappointment. This wine lands in the middle, it’s not bad but it’s also not great. The flavors taste muted like they are waiting to come to life with basic red fruit and just enough acidity to balance the wine. It is drinkable and I like the toasty finish but I would pass on another purchase.

This experiment yielded some good results and each wine won and lost points for different reasons. Overall, the Gato Negro is my top choice! Here are my wine picks of the week!  

Fronterra Cabernet Sauvignon: (Product of Chile). Dry red, deep purple color. The aromas coming from the glass are low-intensity with somewhat muddled notes of cherries and raspberries. The palate has slightly more activity going on with gentle, soft notes of red cherries, plums and raspberries and hints of floral pepper which carries into a medium-length finish of toasted oak and fruit. Acidity is low which keeps the wine mild and easy to sip while the medium body lends just enough weight to make the wine enjoyable. The fruit flavors blur a bit on the mid-palate and overall, the wine is quite simple, but its easy-going nature and tasty finish wine Fronterra a few points. Pairs well with mild, creamy cheeses. Good! $12, 12% ABV

Antares Cabernet Sauvignon 2021: (D.O. Central Valley, Chile). Dry red, medium purple color. The nose focuses on red forest fruits like cherries, raspberries, strawberries and currants with hints of green pepper. Good intensity on the aroma. The flavors on the palate are dry with an immediate burst of tart acidity (high) and sour red fruits (cherries and currants). Unfortunately, this sour style heightens the sensation of bitterness brought on by medium tannins. While not overly rough or gritty on the mouth, the tannins taste quite astringent. The woodsy flavors of cherry, strawberry and currant move into notes of low-intensity oak spice and bread on the quick finish. Simple and off-balance, this Chilean red tastes better with fresh salami or a salty, crunchy snack like Cheezies. Average. $12, 12.5% ABV

Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon 2022: (Product of Chile). Dry to off-dry red, deep purple color. The high-intensity nose announces itself with a juicy bouquet of plums, blackberries, cherries, blueberries, grape juice and a touch of gassiness. The first sip reveals a wine that tastes less fruity than it smells but still delivers a medium-bodied combination of dark cherries, vanilla, plums and red/black currants. The simple but fruity profile leads into a medium-length finish of oak spice and dark fruits. Medium acidity adds balance and soft/smooth medium tannins give a bit of grip. The wine could use some more concentration but for a budget wine it is quite tasty and easy to sip on. There are no points awarded for complexity or length but the wine has impressive intensity and flavor for its price point. I would consider buying this in a box to have on the counter. Nothing fancy but it tastes pretty decent! Pair with bison burgers, grilled steaks or dry ribs. Good! $12, 13% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!