Cabernet Sauvignon is the world’s most widely planted grape variety, and for good reason. Its powerful personality
always seems to come through, making ripe full-bodied dry red wine practically everywhere it is planted. Slap its name
on a bottle and sales are assured. Thus the wine buyer faces an ocean of formulaic ubiquity. For us, good Cabernet
Sauvignon should not only be fully ripe, but should also show varietal character (dark fruit, often blackcurrant, rich texture
and earthy, herbal, or savory notes) and express its region of origin clearly. These two wines were clear standouts in our
tastings, exemplifying grape and place with aplomb and delicacy. The Andes mountains separate them geographically
and contribute to the differences between them. On the western side, in Chile, Cono Sur’s Reserva Especial 2012 comes
from the Maipo Valley, a natural haven for the grapevine, first planted by the Spaniards in 1541. On the eastern side,
in Argentina, Ernesto Catena’s Tahuan 2013 comes from the Vistaflores and Altamira districts of Mendoza, high in the
foothills, a harsh semi-desert climate where fine wine production is dependent on the technical know-how of modern man.
Cono Sur’s Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with small amounts of Carmenere, Syrah, Merlot and Malbec; with notes of
ripe blackcurrant, dark cherry, mint, herbs and spice; it is instantly recognizable as Chilean Cabernet. The Tahuan shows
red and black fruits, spices, tobacco and subtle chocolate; on the light side for Cabernet Sauvignon, elegant and fresh,
with firm tannins that assure varietal authenticity without giving hard edges; it could almost come from anywhere, but
given its origins its levity and freshness are a surprise. Both wines will be great with grilled red meat: try flank steak
marinated with soy, rosemary and thyme, or lamb chops with a mint Chimichurri.