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What I’m Drinking Now: 2008 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon

Nina picked up on my enthusiasm for my latest wine purchase, and turned the bottle into a little girl. Here’s why.

I’ve lived long enough and bummed around Bordeaux sufficiently to know the name Château Lafite Rothschild, which produces some of the finest—and most expensive—wines in the world, but my regular drinking tends to skew toward less famous—and cheaper—wines. I believe that many delicious wines can be found for less than $20; much less, if you know where to look.

I favor Spanish wines, which don’t have the acclaim and price of French wines, and I like New Zealand for its Sauvignon Blancs. My one higher priced weakness is for a good Brunello di Montalcino, but even there I’m a minor league player, keeping my rare purchases south of $50 a bottle.

My favorite way to buy table wine these days is to go to one of my neighborhood stores, Red White & Bubbly, and buy their four-pack of the month. Every few weeks they package a nice selection at a price point I’m comfortable with, and I usually find a few good surprises.

Lately, though, I’ve been too harried to make even this nominal effort, and I’ve taken to drinking the cooking wine. I can go without having a glass of wine with dinner, but I cannot abide by a kitchen without big jugs of white and red for deglazing pans, splashing in sauces, and otherwise enlivening most dishes.

To buy cooking wine, I walk to a different store, 7th Ave. Wine & Liquor, and head to the lower shelves in the back and grab the biggest bottle of dry cheap white I can find. On the way out, I’ll often look for a bargain red, too. The other day I picked up a bottle of the 2008 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon, from Colchagua Valley, in Chile. I paid about $10.

I’ve never liked Cabernet Sauvignon—it always seemed too aggressive and rough around the edges (at least the ones I was willing to spring for). But this one was different: complex but balanced, assertive not aggressive, and full of rich flavor. I was really enjoying it. I brought the bottle out to the table to have another glass.

As I looked at the label, I noticed a bit of small print at the top: “Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite).” Wow, I thought, am I really having a Lafite with dinner? Sure enough, I was. The French producer expanded into Chile in 1988, taking over an estate where grapes had been planted since 1750, and has been turning out excellent and affordable wines since then.  I went back a few days later for another bottle, and not one to cook with.

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