Prelius, a smartly run estate in Southern Tuscany, has crafted a nifty $13 Cabernet that will melt many California lover’s hearts. We nicknamed it the Tuscan Cowboy. Here is an Italian wine starring in the lead role of California’s most famous grape. And you know what? It works. The Italians do drama well and Prelius holds its own with the same warmth and bravado of any superb value California Cab. It’s ripe, it’s smooth and carries enough balance and charm to warrant serious attention.
2016 Prelius Cabernet Sauvignon
92 Points, James Suckling
More about the Wine
Due to increased prices (and seemingly decaying standards) the sprawling genre of “Value California Cab” has gone by the wayside leaving it exposed to other lesser known entities to capture the business. Enter the Tuscan Cowboy.
Admittedly Tuscany is not the first appellation you think of for Cabernet Sauvignon or cowboys. We get that. Funny enough however, the appellation actually has a long history of butteri, Italian cowboys, who for centuries have roamed the marshes of the Maremma, a coastal area that stretches across parts of the Tuscany. It’s appropriate then that Maremma also has another American icon: Cabernet Sauvignon. For the money, no one is doing it better than Prelius.
“Prelius” is the name given by the Romans to an ancient costal lake, Lacus Prilis, for you Latin nerds, which was a vital natural landmark for thousands of years here. Hence the fat blue blob for the wine’s label – admittedly one of the less beautiful labels we’ve ever sold. But looks can be deceiving.
Behind the label is the Stianti Mascheroni family. Leaders in Tuscany’s organic viticultural movement, the family revitalized the village of Volpaia in the heart of Chianti Classico near Radda in Chianti. In 2007 they bought land in Maremma and smartly recognized the potential for good Cabernet: sandy clay soils with high temperatures during the day being cooled with coastal breezes at night (the sea is less than 3 miles away). The fact the family pursued organic viticulture – costly and timely as everything has to be done by hand –along with using new large format oak barrels ($$$) has made for a product much more artisanal than anything you expect to see for $13 Cabernet in California. And yes, needless to say but Sergio Leone would be proud.