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The question

What’s a good substitute for California cabernet? I love it but the prices are off the charts.

The answer

Buddy, I hear you. I drink less of it now than I used to – for the same reason. Although one can still find many California cabernet sauvignons in Canada for sensible prices, the bulk of the good stuff that made California famous is way north of $20.

My top source for bargain cabernet sauvignon is Chile. Long before California carved out a specialty in cabernet, Chile had embraced the vine in a major way thanks to plant cuttings from Bordeaux and even expert cabernet winemakers that had made their way to the South American country from France as the phylloxera root-louse epidemic destroyed almost all the wine vines in Western Europe.

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Today, many Chilean producers turn out remarkably well-structured cabernet sauvignons for between $10 and $15, including the big companies Santa Rita and San Pedro. Style-wise, Chilean cabernet tends to be truer to the Bordeaux style of old in that they are bone-dry (unlike a lot of bargain cabs from California) and carry textbook essences of mint and black olive in addition to the trademark blackcurrant flavour that you’ll find in spades in most California renditions.

In addition, you might want to check out South Africa or Australia. (You may detect a Southern Hemisphere theme here.) In Australia, many of the best cabs come from the Coonawarra region as well as Margaret River in Western Australia, but the best values tend to be labelled with the broad regional designation “South Eastern Australia.”

Beppi Crosariol will once again be participating as The Globe’s wine expert on both the July 1-11, 2019, Globe and Mail Seine River (Paris and Normandy) Cruise and the July 28-Aug. 7, 2019, Globe and Mail Portugal River Cruise. For details on how to reserve your cabin visit GlobeandMailCruises.com.

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

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