Winery in Focus – Houghton
Part One: Cabernet
Barry Weinman: 18th May 2016
Houghton must surely be the most important winery in the history of Western Australia. Established in 1836, Houghton set the standard for Western Australian wines. Much of Houghton’s reputation can be credited to the skill and passion of Jack Mann, a brilliant winemaker who has made numerous remarkable wines over a number of decades.
Fast-forward several decades and winemaking is now safely in the hands of Ross Pamment. Ross is one of the unsung heroes of the Australian wine industry. Despite Houghton being absorbed into what is now the Accolade portfolio; the wines are now as good, if not better, than ever.
The challenge for Houghton now, is to build consumer recognition for their premium wines (and their senior winemaker). A great example of the impact that this tactic can have is Penfold. Under Peter Gago’s stewardship, Penfold’s reputation has continued to climb, along with their sales.
This tasting highlighted that the comparison to Penfold is warranted in another very important way; the tremendous depth of the range. Whilst I focussed on the premium wines for this tasting, all wines over-deliver on quality, when compared to the price.
The Jack Mann is a magical wine, the equal of any Cabernet in the world. The Gladstones also deserves to be considered at the very top of the Cabernet tree. The fruit for these wines come from different regions, but the quality is equally impressive.
Ross Pamment should be a name that all wine-lovers recognise and respect. Here’s hoping that the marketing team can generate the publicity to make this happen.
N.B. This was not a blind tasting, so my points are best used as an indication only.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Wisdom – 2011 (18pts – $32). From Margaret River, there is a step up in terms of fruit quality and density compared to the likes of Crofters. The suppleness of the fruit on the palate is a feature, but with air, the textural components really start to build. The tannins are very fine, yet add firmness to the finish, getting quite chewy to close. Whilst age-worthy, this is more approachable than some of the higher priced offerings.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – C.W. Ferguson – 2008 (18.5pts $65 from the winery). Almost peppery fruit, with blueberry and peppermint notes. The fruit on the palate is superb, though the structure is still firm. Whilst youthful, the extra time in bottle has allowed the fruit to start to open up and express. Very good now, but will live for many years. From the Great Southern.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – C.W. Ferguson – 2012 (18.5pts $65). Blackcurrant fruit to the fore, with chocolate and hints of coffee on the nose. Dense, ripe and textured, the palate is very long. On the finish, the oak adds texture rather than overt flavours. Needs years to reach its peak, but the fruit builds nicely with air. A lovely wine.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstones – 2012 (18.7pts $70). Closed, taut and structured, there is a touch of mint and eucalypt over fragrant blackberry fruit on the nose. The palate is firm yet balanced, the fine tannins and supple oak keeping the fruit in check. The dusty tannins add texture. A superb wine that needs 10 years before drinking, and will live for many more. From Margaret River.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstones – 2013 (18.7pts NA). Superb nose with blackberry and hints of vanillin oak. This is more accessible than the 2012. The supple and fragrant berry fruit is set against silky oak and refined tannins. With air, this gets grippy and dense, the fruit needing time to blossom. As good as it is now, this will be better in 10 – 15 years.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Jack Mann – 2011 (19pts – NA). From the Justin vineyard in Frankland River. Dense, powerful and unyielding nose, that only hints at what is to come. There are hints of mint and eucalypt over dark red berries. The palate is outstanding, with great depth of fruit and excellent mouth-feel. The fruit is superb! The finish is somewhat closed, with the supple oak and very fine tannins holding the fruit quite tight at the moment. The length and depth of the fruit is breathtaking. Majestic!
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Jack Mann – 2012 (19pts, $100). Superb fruit quality. More approachable initially than the 11, yet of equally high quality. The supple mulberry and blackcurrant fruit really shines. The palate gets all spicy, with pepper, cloves and a touch of minerality. The fruit carries the length of the palate, with the fine tannins and oak providing a counterpoint. A powerful wine that will reward patience. One of the world’s great wines.