The monthly Wine Focus discussions are now held in the main Wine Forum (above). The forum remains open as an archive, but please post comments and questions in the Wine Forum.
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Robin Garr

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WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Robin Garr » Mon Sep 04, 2006 11:22 am

Wine Focus - Chile vs. CalCab

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Cabernet Sauvignon may be the most flattered of wine grapes. As the leading variety in Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon for centuries has battled Burgundy's Pinot Noir, with few other contenders, for the title of most respected red wine grape.

But it's only in recent years that Pinot has been grown with much success outside its native region; while Cabernet's fanciers have spread its production around the world's temperate zones for generations, growing it with great success in California, Australia, South Africa, South America and beyond.

Grown with care on appropriate soils in a properly cool climate, nurtured in the vineyard to produce reasonable but not excessive yields, Cabernet Sauvignon makes serious, structured, complex and ageworthy wine.

On the other hand, to be honest, if it's harvested under-ripe it can be lean, mean and tannic, reeking of green peppers or even green beans. Cabernet can also be greedily overcropped and mass-produced, soaked in oak to conceal its flaws, yielding an embarrassing rendition that may bear Cabernet's name but doesn't boast much of Cabernet's character.

Then there's the question: To blend or not to blend. Bordeaux is rarely all-Cabernet Sauvignon, usually adding Merlot and Cabernet Franc and sometimes Petit Verdot and Malbec to the mix; in some parts of the region, particularly St.-Emilion and Pomerol and their Right Bank neighbors, it may take second or third place in the blend behind Merlot and Cab Franc.

Even in the U.S., which all but invented 100 percent varietal Cabernet, there's a growing tendency to mix Cabernet Sauvignon into Bordeaux-style or even more idiosyncratic blends (some of the former labeled with the trademarked "Meritage"); and under current federal law, even a wine labeled simply "Cabernet" may contain up to 25 percent of other varieties. Indeed, as splendid as Cabernet can be, some might argue that it's best rounded out with other varieties in a blend.

So many Cabernet-producing regions, so many styles, so many price points. Does any region outside Bordeaux produce a "benchmark" Cabernet? Must one invest in high-end Bordeaux or "cult" Napa Cabernets to sample the best? These are some questions we hope to address in our interactive forums this month, as we narrow our Wine Focus for September to a geographical look at the Cabernets of two New World wine regions: <b>California</b> and <b>Chile</b>.

Value is the focus in our CompuServe/Netscape WineLovers Community, where the "Wine of the Month" feature will seek out "California and Chilean Cabernet for $20 or less." In our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG), September's Wine Focus program invites you to compare and contrast Chilean and California Cabernet Sauvignon at any price level, from bargain-basement to high-end collectible.

Please feel welcome to participate in both forums with your questions, comments and tasting notes; you needn't be a wine expert to take active part in these friendly, civil online communities.

Today, let's open the discussion with a quick side-by-side look at two modestly priced 2004 Cabernets, one from Chile's Colchagua Valley, the other from California's Paso Robles on the Central Coast. As the month goes by, we'll hope to establish whether these wines are typical of what their growing regions and price points have to offer. Both wines are made for immediate enjoyment, and both went well with a dish made for Cabernet, lamb braised with fennel.

<table border="0" align="right" width="150"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/losv0902.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Los Vascos 2004 Colchagua Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.99)

Back in the late 1980s, the proprietors of Bordeaux's Domaines Barons de Rothschild, producers of first-growth Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, joined with California's Chalone to purchase this already respected Chilean producer, pledging to upgrade and modernize its facilities. As it turned out, high-end Rothschild continues to position Los Vascos ("The Basques") as an "affordable" wine made in significant quantities, more than 3 million bottles per year. Very dark ruby in color with reddish-orange glints, an initial high-toned whiff of volatile acidity blows off to reveal more characteristic Cabernet aromas of black fruit with fresh herbs - tarragon and oregano. Flavors follow the nose, lean and rather austere, good acidity and soft tannins. There's a definite French accent here in a wine with Bordeaux-like character, but frankly, it's like a rather low-end generic Bordeaux. U.S. importer: Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, N.Y. (Sept. 2, 2006)

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
Domaines Barons de Rothschild has a Los Vascos page at this link.

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Find vendors and check prices for Los Vascos 2004 Colchagua Cabernet Sauvignon on Wine-Searcher.com.

<table border="0" align="left" width="110"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/libe0902.jpg" border="1" align="left"></td></tr></table>Liberty School 2004 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($12.99)

Very dark reddish-purple, clear garnet edge. Blackberries and blueberries, ripe and fruit-forward. Juicy and fresh, sweet berry fruit and a whiff of vanilla; appropriate acidity provides necessary structure. Oak becomes quite apparent with a distinct dill-pickle note that seems to increase with time in the glass. Easy drinking, New World style, but I'm not sure the varietal character is there to nail it as Cabernet Sauvignon in a blind tasting. For many years, Liberty School was a second label for Napa's respected Caymus Vineyards, but in 1997 the brand was sold to Chuck and Marlyn Hope, who had been grape growers for Liberty School in Paso Robles, and who now make it as a second label behind their more pricey Treana brand. (Sept. 2, 2006)

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
This Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon fact sheet on the Treana Website includes a link to an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file with further information about the wine.

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Find vendors and check prices for Liberty School 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon on Wine-Searcher.com.
Last edited by Robin Garr on Mon Oct 02, 2006 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:56 pm

I found this website whilst googling around ..........

http://www.winepros.org/wine101/grape_p ... b-sauv.htm

Think it may be of interest to "newbies" and wine starter-offers!! Mind you, I don`t drink too much cab so I found it interesting.

A few years back, the Wine News published this article on Chile.......

http://www.thewinenews.com/aprmay00/feat.html

Still think it is pretty relevant!!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Jenise » Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:47 am

Robin said:
from bargain-basement to high-end collectible
.


Begs the question, for you or anyone else: are there any real high-end collectible Chilean wines? Oh sure, there are wines producers want you to regard as such, like Montes M and whoever's pricey Sena, and there are wines that can handily catch a geek's attention like CyT's Don Melchor, but are there any Chileans that geeks take seriously as "high end collectible"?

Best as I can tell from the sidelines (as far as Chilean wines are concerned) and at about ten years after we saw the first collectible-price-ranged Chilean wine enter the marketplace, most afficionados still seem to be at the "gee, that's a lot of money for a Chilean wine" stage.
Last edited by Jenise on Wed Sep 06, 2006 2:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Howie Hart » Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:52 am

Hey Jenise! We've missed you. Hope you had a good trip.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Bob Ross » Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:54 am

Welcome back, Jenise. :-)

I'm with you -- there are some nice people making wine in Chile, and lots of marketing efforts -- high scale tastings, free trips for retailers, etc. But there seems to be something missing -- something that prevents Chilean wines from being truly high end. At least to my taste.

Regards, Bob
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Sep 06, 2006 11:19 am

Welcome back Jenise. You missed the Rachael Ray thread!!
Going back to Chile, the wines seem to take up a lot of shelf space so it will be interesting to see what is out there. So far, not so good and I am beginning to see why blends seem a better idea. Guess we will find out?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Carl Eppig » Wed Sep 06, 2006 11:30 am

Bob, I think you are spot on about the blends. That is why my favorite Chilean "Cab" (Rothschild's Escudo Rojo) under $20 is a blend.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Sep 06, 2006 11:45 am

That one is in town Carl. Will pick up and write some notes, do you have any for interest sake?
Last night I opened a Cousino Macul for a friend from Chile who nannys down the road and she said "too much wood". Stay tuned forumites.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Carl Eppig » Wed Sep 06, 2006 11:58 am

Don't have any right now. Our local NH Liq Store has it for $14.99 U.S., but I can get it online for a little over $10 U.S. Will get some after computing the S&H differential.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Robin Garr » Wed Sep 06, 2006 12:36 pm

Jenise wrote:Begs the question, for you or anyone else: are there any real high-end collectible Chilean wines? Oh sure, there are wines producers want you to regard as such, like Montes M and whoever's pricey Sena, and there are wines that can handily catch a geek's attention like CyT's Don Melchor, but are there any Chileans that geeks take seriously as "high end collectible"?

Best as I can tell from the sidelines (as far as Chilean wines are concerned), about ten years after we saw the first collectible-priced Chilean wine enter the marketplace, most afficionados still seem to be at the "gee, that's a lot of money for a Chilean wine" stage.


Well ... I was really thinking more of California when I wrote that, but semi-consciously decided not to skew people's attitudes by expressing the obvious. :) Is it Montes that makes a wine called "Folly," which self-descriptively sells for about $75? Short answer is that I think you're probably right.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Jenise » Wed Sep 06, 2006 2:24 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:That one is in town Carl. Will pick up and write some notes, do you have any for interest sake?
Last night I opened a Cousino Macul for a friend from Chile who nannys down the road and she said "too much wood". Stay tuned forumites.


Bob, let me throw you a contrasting opinion. As long as the oak integrates and doesn't give a wine vanilla pudding or pine flavors, I'm fine with it. And the Cusino Macul IMO gets it right--it's one of the few Chileans I have liked because it's earthy and more traditional in style. Definitely not a fruit bomb.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Sep 06, 2006 2:25 pm

Carl Eppig (Middleton, NH wrote:Bob, I think you are spot on about the blends. That is why my favorite Chilean "Cab" (Rothschild's Escudo Rojo) under $20 is a blend.


I think we could find some surprises out there and surely that is the whole point of the months Focus. I feel that we are going to find more accessible wines from California (tongue in cheek!)......looking at the tasting notes from Chile so far.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Redwinger » Sat Sep 09, 2006 8:16 am

I'd recommend the Los Vascos Reserve Cabernet from Chile priced in the high teens. The 2002 and 2003 vintages are both very good.

A little off topic, but a customer calls the store a couple of weeks ago and says his wife really likes the 2003 Los Vascos Reserve and he'd like to order 10 cases...I'm still trying to figure out if she drinks it or bathes in it.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Andrew Windsor » Tue Sep 12, 2006 11:56 pm

Unfortunately up here in Toronto there is practically no such thing as high end or collectible wines from Chile, or S. America for that matter. I have the fortunate position of working for an importer of fine U.S. wines and have ploughed through plenty of high end Cali Cabs.
If anyone from Ontario gets this and can recommend some 'high end' Chilean Cabs please do.
Until then hats off to Tom Eddy, Nyers, Hobbs and others. They get my nod!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Sep 13, 2006 12:05 am

Hey welcome Andrew! There are a few here from your area, all good guys....mostly!!
Yup, we are all looking for a good cab from Chile right now. Montes Alpha next one up for me.
Hope to see more info about your wine preferences! Say Hi on the main forum.

Bob.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor/WineFocus: Chile vs California Cabernet Sauvignon

by Andrew Windsor » Sun Sep 17, 2006 10:18 pm

Bienvenue,
A nice Vouvray and a Barbera, both quality wines this weekend, but nothing from Chile yet. Once I get a taste of a good one I will post my thoughts.

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