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Cabernet Sauvignon, that king of grapes, is synonymous with the great reds of Bordeaux and California but when it comes to value there is only one place to look – Australia, the great southern land.
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We will travel this giant red country all the way from Western Australia to Coonawarra to explore this grape in its myriad expressions. Some of them may not be dirt cheap but when compared to the prices some top Bordeaux and California reds command, the value then becomes more apparent. All the wines that have made it onto this list are of exceptional quality with a minimum of 92 points each from our aggregated critic scores.
Yes there are other places to visit for great-value Cabernet, too, including Argentina and – perhaps surprisingly – Napa, particularly when we started looking for wines that are available in the US and not just wines confined to single markets.
So even though some of these carry above-average table wine prices, there’s a reason for that. After all, there is an element of that often used phrase, you get what you pay for and with this, I would argue you get far more from Australia.
1. Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza Top of the charts in our Australia-heavy list is this wine from Mendoza, Argentina – the ridiculously good-value Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon. At $16 with 92 points, you would be hard- pressed to find a better wine for the price than the 2013 vintage. Designed with food in mind, the winery website itself provides a recipe for Criolla-style beef to pair with the Ultra. With a slew of awards behind it, this big, elegant wine from the Andes is a no-brainer if you can get your hands on it.
2. Hardy’s Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon And now it’s back to Oz where we will stay for a large part of this list. A flagship wine from one of Australia’s most famous wine brands, Hardy’s Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon is a fitting tribute to the founder. At $70, the 2012 vintage isn’t cheap but with a collective 94 points, it’s guaranteed to be a winner. With enough backbone to see it through to at least 2040 – lover of all things Aussie, James Halliday gave this is a whopping 97 points.
3. Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon A reasonably pricy wine but, compared to some Bordeaux, this is, I assure you, value for money. Howard Park is one of Australia’s 12 First Families of Wine.To be considered a member, the estate must have been family-owned for at least two generations and produce a wine that is widely considered to be a landmark product – and their Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon is that product. At $72, the 2012 vintage is the most expensive wine on our list but carries a score of 94 points. This is a wine noted for its structure, elegance and ability to cellar. Sure it may not be cheap but for the same quality, you could spend an awful lot more in other parts of the world.
4. Shingleback The Davey Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale Moving across to McLaren Vale, South Australia, we go to one of the region’s most famous wineries, and their highly awarded 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. At $20, with an average critic score of 92 and more awards than you can shake a stick at, it’s not a surprise this little beaut made it onto our list. Having spent 14 months in both French and European oak, The Davey Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a particularly well-crafted wine, one that will delight especially with some time in the cellar.
5. Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra Our last stop is back in Coonawarra with Wynns. Famed for their Cabernet Sauvignons, our list would be incomplete without at least one of their wines appearing. So we go to the 2014 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon at $24 with 92 points. In production since 1954, certain vintages are now quite collectible, using only the best quality Cabernet fruit, they have consistently demonstrated their capacity to age.
6. Wirra Wirra The Angelus Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale This little beauty might be hard to track down, but we think you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts. Various vintages of this wine have hit the high 90s, with the 2013 getting an enthusiastic 97 from James Halliday; overall, the average critic score is 93. Not too shabby for a wine with an average price of $45.
7. Robert Foley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Finally we reach Napa and – you’ve guessed it – the prices start skyrocketing. However, you do get some impressive bang for your average price of $98, including 98 points from the Wine Advocate for the 2013 vintage. It has also been getting more and more popular with Wine-Searcher users, climbing from a search rank of 70,000th to the mid-4000s.
8. Balnaves of Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra It’s back to Australia again with this wine, whose chief advantage – apart form a $30 average price – is its consistency. You have to go back 15 years to find a sub-90 score for this wine and its price has remained remarkably stable too, staying in a $30-$32 band for the past five years.
9. Kilikanoon Blocks Road Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley A relatively recent addition to Australia’s fine wine firmament, Kilikanoon was founded just 20 years ago. Since then it has impressed critics and consumers with its range of wines, and this is no exception. It has an average price of $28 and an overall average score of 90; Halliday rated the 2012 a 95.
10. Forman Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley We finish back in Napa with this Ric Forman wine, which might not seem like great value at $103 on average, but it does offer an average score of 93 – and the 2013 has an average score of 94, with Antonio Galloni awarding it 97. You might want to get some of this sooner rather than later, as it has increased in average price by 25 percent across the past five years.
And so, we leave this year’s Best Value Cabernet Sauvignon List comfortable in the knowledge that – for the moment at least – Australia most definitely wears the crown for great quality, great value Cab.
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