It's the world's favorite wine grape, but the wines are so expensive. Or are they?
The wine world is in a constant state of change, but one great truism remains – Cabernet is king.
Or is it? Looking at our database, search numbers are softening – Pinot Noir is closing the gap and even Merlot is on the comeback trail – but Cabs and Cabernet blends still dominate our most searched-for wines. They also dominate the hierarchy of the wines with the most click-throughs – where a user finds the right wine at the right price and clicks through to the retailer.
There are good reasons why Cabernet still dominates these databases. It is, after all, the most popular grape variety in the world among consumers. It produces wines with great structure, vibrant flavor profiles and immense longevity; just what people want in a wine.
There is also its global reach. Not only is it popular with consumers around the world, it is also hugely popular with growers and winemakers. There are few parts of the New World where it has not been grown at some stage – most "new" wine regions have tended to take Bordeaux, Cabernet's home, as their model.
That global spread is changing, however – at least when it comes to value. The last time we looked at this list, four of the wines were from Chile and one from Argentina. This time round, there is a much wider spread of regions represented, although seven still come from the Southern Hemisphere. In 2020, there were no Northern Hemisphere wines and in 2019, only one northern wine made the list.
We should probably also mention the American dimension. No country loves Cabernet quite so much as the US, and that country's top wines tend to be based on the grape. Cabernet is such a major grape there that it has become synonymous with Napa. For all that incredible Cab thirst, however, it doesn't tend to do it well at the more affordable end of the scale. In our wider list of the 25 best-value Cabernets, there are just three that tickle our algorithm's sweet spot, and the cheapest of those has a global average retail price of $100.
At Wine-Searcher, the algorithm that ranks our best value wines can be confusing and not always in line with what people perceive as "value". For this series of best value stories, we work with a more direct point-to-dollar ratio for a simplified "bang for buck" scale than our standard algorithm. Simply dividing the aggregated critic score by the price gives a value factor and the higher the factor the better the value – a kind of points-per-dollar scale. The higher the value factor, the more points per dollar. All the wines have a minimum critic score of 91.
Usually, when we run our superlative lists, we don't take vintage into account, but since vintage variation affects the score so much, we concentrate on individual vintages of wines for our best-value lists.