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Cheap Cabernet, Malbec Wines
Malbec Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon Wines
For this product category we've taken an unusual approach and selected many best cheap red wines. We had little choice because this segment of the market is awash with product that is vendor-specific.
In other words, all of our picks are not sold everywhere and we wanted to provide a range of options to increase the likelihood that you'll find at least one of the best cheap red wines on our list at a local wine shop or through your preferred wine vendor's website.
While you can order wine online from places like Wine.com or WineAccess.com, this is not a recommended strategy for frugal consumers -- shipping charges can double the price of your order. Alternatively, go to wine-searcher.com to find the nearest source offering the best price on the wine you're seeking. If your preference is for organic wines, try OrganicWineFind.com; for kosher wines try KosherWineRack.com.
Bear in mind that wine drinking is a very subjective experience. We're offering suggestions for the most popular wine varieties and suggest that you use the list as a jumping-off point, tasting and deciding which ones appeal to you, noting the qualities that add to that appeal, and making future selections accordingly.
Wines are discussed by type and presented in alphabetical order.
Cheap Cabernet Sauvignon Wines.More Cabernet Sauvignon wine is sold than any variety except merlot. This popular grape grows in every wine producing region, and has been a boon to second-tier producers such as Bulgaria, Greece, and Hungary. It also flourishes in California's Napa Valley, Washington State, Chile, and Australia.
Wine from the Cabernet grape evokes the flavors of black currant, bell pepper, grass, a bit of mint. If the grapes aren't harvested at just the right moment, the resulting wine may seem too jammy or vegetal. Younger (cheaper) Cabernet wines can be very tannic but with time they can become smooth and earthy; they need about eight to 10 years to reach full flavor and optimum mellowness. As you might imagine, aging is an expensive proposition that adds significantly to the wine's price. For this reason, cheaper Cabernets are often blended with other grapes (usually Syrah and Merlot) to tamp down the tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon is a fairly bold and full-bodied wine that pairs well with red meat or strong cheeses.
Our entries for best cheap Cabernets start with one of our top picks, Esser Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, a California entry (starting at $9, Wine-Searcher.com). Reviewers say it's a lot of wine for less than 10 bucks, smooth and balanced, with a rich flavor that is surprisingly complex for a cheap wine. A blogger notes that it pairs well with Indian food, and shows off enough body to hold up to the spice. Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (starting at $9, Wine-Searcher.com) garners 88 points from the Wine Enthusiast, which names it a best buy and says it's well worth the money. Unlike most Cabernets, this one hails from South Africa, and reviews say it is a smooth, medium-bodied wine with a bit of sweetness. Another cheap contender is Castle Rock Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (starting at $8), from California that is described as intense and full-bodied, with several reviewers noticing a hint of cherries. It won a bronze medal at the San Francisco Chronicle competition for best Cabernets under $15.
One Cabernet that doesn't pass the taste test is Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon ($2.49 at Trader Joe's), known in the popular vernacular as "Two Buck Chuck" (but now that the price is $2.99 in some states, it should be "Three Buck Chuck"). The consensus in wine reviews on sites such as Snopes and Cellar Tracker is that this red wine is all about its rock-bottom price. It barely tastes like wine, one blogger asserts, noting that it's more like alcohol-flavored grape juice.
Cheap Malbec Wines.The Malbec grape originated in southwestern France. Its popularity surged after arriving in Argentina, where the deep red color and intense flavor of Malbec wine complements the beef raised there. Malbec grapes now also grow in Chile, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and the U.S.
This grape is often used in blends but can stand on its own, yielding a medium- to fuller-bodied wine that's somewhat spicy and tastes of blackberry, plum, pepper, and (yes) leather. Malbec interacts well with spicy cuisine and should be drunk while relatively young (which helps to keep prices low). The cheapest Malbec wines are less intense but have some depth.
Our preferred cheap Malbec wines all hail from Argentina. Our tasting panel tried the Callia Alta Malbec 2011 (starting at $8, Wine-Searcher.com), which they found to be a good, medium-bodied table wine that was smooth and fresh with a hint of spiciness. It is also aged in old French casks, and while it doesn't have great depth and complexity, Wine Enthusiast gives it a thumbs up with 87 points. Santa Julia Malbec 2010 (starting at $10) is sustainably-grown, partly aged in old French barrels, and boasts good deep color and smooth texture with a hint of acidity. Reviewers say it has enough structure to hold up to roasted meats. Cupcake Malbec 2011 (starting at $9) is dry and-full bodied with a hint of spiciness and a strong, long finish, making it a cheap match for chili or steak.
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