Chile now exports six million cases of wine to the United States annually: no wonder boatloads of these bottles crowd the shelves of supermarkets and wine shops. The star grape of them all? Cabernet sauvignon. There’s a lot of thin plonk with names like Walnut Crest and Gato Negro under $6, but if you move up to the reserve category, you will find yourself saying, “This is the real thing.” Don’t expect them to taste like Bordeaux or Napa cabs; they’re more like juicy, jammy Aussie reds—and that’s not a bad thing with smoky summer grills of steak, ribs, and hamburgers. Winners I’ve recently uncorked include the 2005 Viña Montes Colchagua Valley Reserve ($9), the 2002 Los Vascos Colchagua Reserve ($15) made by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (yes, the French Lafite outfit), the 2003 Viña Santa Rita Maipo Valley Reserve ($10), and the 2003 Viña Carmen Maipo Valley Reserve ($13). Good sipping and good values all.
–D. R. W.