South American Cabernet 

A trio of fine reds from south of the equator


Chile and Argentina are known for their value-priced wines but in the late 1980s, a few higher-level entries began appearing in the United States and during the past decade, we've seen an influx of superior South American wines. Still, this cabernet tasting was something of a revelation. The quality was impressive and while not cheap, these wines deliver a lot of bang for the buck. Here are the top three picks:

2011 Domaine Bousquet Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $17.99

Jean Bousquet, a French transplant, started his Argentine winery in 1998. This cabernet-dominant red adds 15 percent malbec to the blend. It has tart cherries on the nose, with heady hints of dill, herb and red bell pepper. It's velvety smooth, with flavors of berries, bittersweet chocolate, hazelnut, sweet cream and coffee. This wine is a very good value.

2011 Koyle Royale Cabernet Sauvignon, $24

This juicy red, which comes from a fifth generation Chilean winemaking family, offers aromas of brambleberry with touches of eucalyptus, oak and anise. This exceptionally well-structured wine is filled with dark cherry and berry flavors, and backed by intriguing nuances of tar, leather and red pepper. Smooth tannins come through on the long finish.

2012 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon, $22

Deep, dark aromas pour from the glass along with notes of mocha-laced berry, plum, menthol, basil and light licorice. A richer style that's big but well balanced, this wine offers a crowd-pleasing mix of flavors, including silky blackberry, bright cherry and crisp cranberry. The finish is a creamy combo of dark fruit and toasty oak.

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