Bordeaux versus Margaret River

28th June 2009

The aim of this tasting was to compare wines from Bordeaux and Margaret River. It is my view that Margaret River region produces the best new world cabernets and in quality terms, the wines can match the best of Bordeaux. All wines were served blind and in pairs. The wines were matched for vintage, and with the odd exception (sorry guys), there was one from each region.

Style wise, the wines from Bordeaux wines were characterised by their firmer (but fine) tannins. The New World wines tended to have slightly riper fruit characters, but this was not uniform. The tasting highlighted the quality of wines from both regions, but also serves to highlight the much better value that the Australian wines offer. With the best Margaret River wines nudging $100, they represent better buying than the best bordeaux’s (the 2008 indents are charging $400 – $500 for 1st Growths).

Myles emphasized that our palates get used to certain styles of wines. This is very true, and people who only drink big Australian Reds would find some of these wines challenging. Preferences were spread across the group, with no real tendency towards one style or the other.

Thanks to Norbert and Kerry Fandry for hosting this tasting and dinner.


Vasse Felix – Cabernet – 1982. (17.5) Colour still bright with an orange rim. The nose is soft, fragrant and perfumed. There is a touch on mint and menthol, but the wine is balanced and smooth. The palate is fine, long and silky. The fruit is fading, and the tannins are soft but present.

Chateau Branaire Duluc-Ducru – Bordeaux – 1982 (18.5). Colour still bright with an orange rim. Leads with earthy characters. This is a complex wine. Opens up with air to reveal some lovely perfumed fruit. The complex palate still has bright fresh fruit characters. It is very long and fine, with some cedar/cigar box to close. Lovely

Phelan Segur – Bordeaux – 1994. (Corked)

Penfolds – Bin 407 – Cabernet – 1994 (18). Mint and menthol to open, but rich fruit develops with air. The palate is long, bright and earthy. Serious complexity. The finish is round soft and succulent. Very good

Chateau Soutard – St Emillion – 2001 (18.5). Complex nose with typical cool fruit characters. The palate is complex, deep, long and fine. The tannins shut down the fruit still. Chocolate to close (5yrs)

Arboleda – Merlot – 2001 (17). Unusual nose of dried herbs. Continues on the palate, but is swamped by sweet fruit with chocolate overtones. textured and long. The palate is better than the nose.

Vasse FelixHeytsbury – Cabernet – 1997 (18+). Wow, powerful fruit. Dense, ripe with a touch of menthol.The powerful palate is full of chocolate fruit that is long and layered. There is some licorice to close. There was a question over whether the tannins would outlast the fruit. Drink up and lets not find out.

Chateau Lagrange – Pomerol – 2005 (17). Mint and cassis on the nose. The palate is lean right now with pronounced drying tannins. May evolve.

Leeuwin EstateArt Series – Cabernet – 2002 (18.7). Complex, earthy with a touch of classic Margaret River Mortem. This wine is all about the superb structure and texture on the palate. There is minty fruit, but this wine will need 10 years to show its best.

Chateau Branaire Duluc-Ducru – Bordeaux – 2002 (18.5). Tight and long with a touch of cassis. The palate is fine and tight, though the tannins shut down the finish. Will be very good. (10 years)

Voyager Estate – Cabernet Merlot – 2004 (18.3). Powerful. Ripe and succulent fruit with a touch of mint, tobacco and complex earthiness. Lots of ripe cassis on the palate with a silky textured finish. A bit of a fruit bomb, so will appeal to many.

Chateau du Pez – St Estephe – 2004 (18). A complex wine with a touch of herbal/menthol fruit. A touch of mocha and meaty characters too. The palate is complex and surprisingly ripe. The finish is fine and silky. An elegant wine that needs a few years to open up.

Leoville Poyferre – St Julien – 1995. (18). Earthy fruit with chocolate and coffee notes. The palate is long and silky, with complex earthy fruit. Tannins remain firm.

Devils Lair – Cabernet – 1995 (17.5). Cooler style with minty fruit. Develops chocolate fruit as it opens. The palate is a touch lean and drying.

Rauzan Segla – Bordeaux – 1994. (17.5). Complex, ripe and earthy. The palate shows cassis, lanolin and earthy notes. The mid palate fruit is flattened by drying, dusty tannins.

Pierro – Cabernet Blend – 1994 (18). Both Chocolate and mocha on the nose. The palate displays cassis fruit, with a touch of mint and menthol. Ripe fruit, good texture and viscous. Drinking well

Stony RidgeWaiheke Island – Cabernet – 1996 (17.9). Gorgeous nose. This displays ripe powerful fruit with a touch of herbal complexity. The palate is complex, and powerful with tobacco and menthol.

Les Forts de La Tour – Bordeaux – 1996 (18+). Leathery, complex and earthy. The palate is big, rich and ripe. Very long with leathery edges to the black fruit.