Home Varietals Cabernet Sauvignon Good Cheap Cabernet Sauvignon – 27 Reviewed

It seems as though I’ve been reviewing Cabernet Sauvignon for ages.  But to tell the truth, I really don’t mind.  Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my favorite varietals.  It’s considered the King of wines for a reason.  Strong-bodied and elegant with complexity and intensity.  Who could not love Cabernet?

All together, I tasted 27 different Cabernets and it’s time to summarize the results.  Why not go on to 30 and have an even number?  Because I like to be different.  If you’re a value wine consumer and Cabernet Sauvignon is your preference, this is the reference for you.

Top Picks

Cellar No. 8 Cabernet SauvignonMy top pick goes to Cellar No 8 2005 from Asti Winery in California.  This wine has good complexity, concentration and varietal character.  It’s very well balanced and has abundant ripe fruit but isn’t a fruit bomb. It’s quite smooth and has a perfect touch of spice, earning it a 90 rating. 

Unfortunately I haven’t seen it in many shops.  In my area (Cincinnati, OH) I’ve only found it at the Fresh Market for $9.99.  I’m sure it’s in other shops too, but I haven’t come across it yet.

A close second place goes to a Chilean Cabernet, Root:1 2005.  (Interesting that the top 2 picks both have numbers in their names.)  Although the ratings for Root:1 and Cellar No 8 both came out to 90, I picked Cellar No 8 as my top choice for two reasons:
Root:1 Cabernet Sauvignon

  1. Root:1 is not quite as approachable as Cellar No 8.  It has a very intense bouquet that definitely benefits from decanting, but even then may be too much for some. 
  2. Root:1 costs $1 more and we are about finding the best values at Cheap Wine Ratings.

I do recommend that if you try this one, you only buy one bottle until you know that you like it.  Not because I want you to leave more for me on the shelves.  Rather, this does seem to be a love it or hate it wine and I am not kidding when I say the nose is intense.  

Others Worth Mentioning

There were a number of good wines at reasonable prices.  Some of the others I was impressed with:

Hats Off to Chile

For a while during this series I was at risk of needing to change the name of the site to Cheap Chilean Wine Ratings.  I found so many good Cabernets from Chile that I kept trying more.  Six wines from Chile scored over 85 and I would recommend trying any of them:

Prior to these Cabernet reviews I avoided Chilean wine due to a bad past experience, but Chile has been redeemed and I am now a huge fan of Chilean wine.  I look forward to discovering more great gems.

Ultimate Bargain

Fish Eye Cabernet SauvignonIf finding the lowest price is your priority, then go with either Fish Eye 2004 from California or San Felipe 2004 from Argentina.  Both are $5.99, but you’ll have a much easier time finding the Fish Eye.

As I noted in my original review of Fish Eye, it needs to open up.  When I first tasted it I was quite underwhelmed, but I decanted it and let it rest and it opened up to become a very nice wine.  Give it a couple hours to open up.  If you’re serving for a party, open a few bottles early (before the party starts) and let them breath.  Its characteristics are strawberry, vanilla and leather, although the viscosity is a bit low with an alcohol level of only 12.5%.  It may not be the best example for true varietal character, but it’s tasty for the price.

The Rating Chart

Brand

Year

Region

Rating

Price

Cellar No 8

2005

California

90

$9.99

Root:1

2005

Chile

90

$10.99

Five Rivers

2004

California

89

$8.99

Red Diamond

2005

Washington State

89

$8.99

McManis Family Vineyards

2006

California

89

$9.99

Paringa

2005

South Australia

89

$9.99

Cousiño-Macul

2005

Chile

88

$8.99

Casa Lapostolle

2005

Chile

88

$9.99

Melania Colleccion Especial

2004

Chile

87

$8.99

Ste. Chapelle

2001

Idaho

87

$8.99

Los Vascos

2005

Chile

87

$9.98

San Felipe

2004

Argentina

86

$5.99

Fish Eye

2004

California

86

$5.99

Twin Fin

2004

California

86

$6.99

Carmen

2005

Chile

86

$7.99

Aquinas

2004

California

86

$9.99

Santa Rita 120

2005

Chile

84

$6.99

Marlena

2006

Argentina

84

$8.99

Veramonte

2005

Chile

84

$9.99

Hess Select

2004

California

84

$12.97

Pepperwood Grove

2004

California

83

$6.99

Aquinas

2005

California

83

$9.99

Alice White

2006

South Eastern Australia

82

$6.99

Bear’s Lair

2003

California

79

$3.99

Concannon Central Coast

2004

California

79

$8.99

Trader Joe’s French Market

2004

France

75

$4.79

San Andre’s

2005

Chile

71

$3.99

12 replies to this post
  1. Thank you so much for putting together the chart. I’ve been curious about many of these wines, and feel better about buying some of them to try knowing you like them.
    I have also been turned on to Chilean wines recently, and have been impressed by several Carmeneres. Have you tried the Concha Y Toro 2005 Carmenere? It’s a good value at $9.99. I was even more impressed by Lan Zur Carmenere.
    Thanks for all the recommendations!

  2. Thank you! I’m delighted to find that I can enjoy “good” wine without taking out a loan.

    Please comment on wine sold in boxes.

    Also, can wine go “bad”?

    I read last night that Chardonny is the “general go-with” for Chinese food. So I stopped on the way home and bought a bottle of Yellow Tail. The label told me that I would taste peaches and berries and apples with hint of honey and vanilla. NOT. It is tangy to the extreme, almost “carbonated” when it hit my tongue. Really nasty stuff. Will it help you to know that my favorite ETOH beverages are: Cabernet Sauvignon, cream sherry, triple sec, sautern. I won’t know where to look for a reply, but I’ll check back at this site. Thanks much.

  3. Hi Sharon.

    All the prices in the chart are for 750ml bottles. This just represents the price I paid. You may find slight variations in your local shops.

    Regarding boxed wines, I’m not a fan. Some predict that the bottle will one day be replaced with tetrapaks, but I can’t see that happening any time soon. Generally wine sold in boxes is a lower quality wine and I just don’t bother.

    Can wine go bad? Absolutely! I try to finish off a bottle within 24 hours of opening it, otherwise the quality degrades rapidly. Occasionally, you may even be bad before you open it… either it had a bad cork, it was improperly stored or it is past its prime.

    For Chinese food chardonnay can be a good pick, but so can merlot, pinot noir, zinfandel, sauvignon blanc, sherry and many others. There are a broad range of flavors in Chinese food that match with a broad range of wines. I say drink what you like. Chardonnay can be an easy pick since it goes with a lot of different foods.

    You might look here for some ideas on chardonnay to try:
    http://cheapwineratings.com/2007/08/28/chardonnay-challenge-16-low-priced-chardonnays-reviewed/

  4. Great write-up indeed. I’ve written a few down that I keep (mistakenly) bypassing at my local shop, and the prices are great in the US!

  5. I don’t know much about tasting wine but I know when one tastes really good. I like your pick on the Five Rivers. I have tasted cheap and expensive wines and really liked it. I was out with some friend one night at a casual restaurant and came to the conclusion that it was one of the best I had come across.

  6. A very good list I love wines but at the same time cannot afford some higher end wines. I would like to recommend Kaiken Cab from Argentina cost around $9 and is a great cab. Also ironstone cab is an easy drink wine in the same price range.

  7. A great list of bargain Cabs. I always love Hawks Crest, made by Stags Leap in Napa. It does, however, cost around $15 a bottle…..still a bargain for the quality of the wine.

  8. i would love to try the cellar no8 cab sav however i am having trouble finding this wine in my area.is there a store in the cleveland area that carries this brand?

  9. I’m sure there are stores in Cleveland that carry this. You might try searching on snooth.com to find it locally.

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