Tag Archives: Cabernet Merlot

Cabernet and Friends

New Release

Reviewed: 6 January 2013

Cabernet based wines must surely be the King of wines. Powerful, structured and majestic, their ability to age is second to none when it comes to red wine. This power was certainly on display during this tasting, though the expression varied. In some, the power was overt, while in others, there was latent power wrapped up in a cocoon of silky fruit.

In the first category, the wines included the Deep Woods and Killerby. Powerful wines that stand up and make their presence felt. The second group was typified by the Moss Wood and Faber. Elegant, restrained wines that have supple, fragrant fruit. In a large line-up of wines, it is easy to overlook these wines as they are all about elegance and supple balance, rather than in-your-face tannins and oak.

It took a couple of days for the second group to really hit their peak, but the result was beautifully fragrant wines of charm and style. Bravo!


Killerby – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (18+). Mint/menthol, eucalypt and herbal notes on the nose. The palate is chewy, textured and long. The tannins are firm and the oak is sitting over the fruit at present. Opens with air to show blackcurrant, cedar and eucalypt, with hints of bitter chocolate, coffee and spice to close. A structured, angular wine that, while a touch raw now, will be superb in 10 years. A high quality wine.

Deep Woods – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 2010 (18). Closed and brooding, this is an assertive wine that has plenty of extract and grip. The length is good, while the persistence is outstanding. The wine is remarkably silky up front, though this is difficult to drink now due to the firm finish. 10 – 15 years should see this hitting its peak. With air, there are intense, ripe berry flavours with a touch of tea leaf savouriness. A serious wine for the long haul.

Wolf Blass – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Malbec – Black Label – 2008 (18). Beautiful colour. Leads off with hints of varnish and resin on the nose from the oak. This blows off to show ripe, though restrained fruit on the nose. The palate has ripe, but firm fruit, with red fruits, cedar and spice. The length is prodigious and the tannins firm and drying. The oak is ever present on the finish. Complex, structured and tannic, this opened up over several days to show lovely, fragrant fruit. No apologies required for being made in the Wolf Blass style.

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (18). Subtle fruit and oak on the nose. Everything about this speaks quality. The refined winemaking has resulted in elegant fruit being well matched to silky oak. The tannins are polished, though noticeable, while the finish is precise. The length is very good and the mouth-feel evolves for some time after the last sip, with a touch of mocha characters to close. This is an intense wine with essence-like fruit. With air the blackcurrant, eucalypt and herbal notes really shine.

Evans and Tate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Metricup Road – 2010 (17.8). Spice to open on the nose with cedar over a core of ripe, mid-weight fruit. This is a structured, textural wine that has little in the way of primary fruit. Opens and builds with air, but some patience is required. There is no doubting the quality, it is just that there is no joy as yet. Give it plenty of air or, better yet, 5 – 10 years in the cellar to show its best.

Moss Wood – Merlot – Ribbon Vale – 2010 (17.7). Wow, the lovely perfumed fruit leaps out of the glass. This is redolent of blackcurrant, cedar and spice. There is even a hint of fruitcake. The palate is beautifully ripe and precisely weighted. The fruit is balanced by very fine tannins and savoury, texturing oak. The length is excellent and the fruit flavours build and evolve for some time. The finish is near seamless, though there is a touch of grip to close. Will age well, but is absolutely delicious now.

Faber Vineyard – Malbec – Dwellingup Vineyard – 2011 (17). The colour is almost crimson/purple. This is very deep smelling, with blueberry and raspberry over mint, with briary, earthy undertones. The souring finish adds life, though there is a touch of astringency on the close (that softens noticeably with air). This wine has excellent quality fruit that has been massaged in the winery, resulting in a pretty wine full of subtlety.

Faber Vineyard – Petit Verdot – 2010 (17). Overt nose that shows very pretty, ripe fruit and well-handled oak. The palate on the other hand is firm and quite tannic. There are also plum and mulberry jam components. After a day on the tasting bench, this really softened, allowing the pretty, fragrant fruit to shine. Whilst ideal for lovers of a big red now, this will be much better with a few years in the cellar. Diam cork closer.

Juniper Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Juniper Crossing – 2010 (17.3). Not in the “typical” cab/merlot style as this is a big, powerful cabernet with rich fruit and firm tannins. The oak sits over the fruit on the finish, further accentuating the structure. Chewy, this is a wine that I would prefer to see again in another 5 years.

Angove – Merlot – Long Row – 2011 (16.3). Plump, soft fruit with good attack. Redcurrant and spice lead on to a somewhat developed palate. (This is also reflected in the colour). Soft, round and generous, with no rough edges. The lack of fruit intensity can easily be forgiven at this price. An easy drink.

Cabernet and Blends – New Release

Reviewed: 12 December 2012

A large bracket of cabernet based wines makes for a tiring tasting. The firm tannins and relatively reserved fruit present a challenge. This was typified by the wines from Moss Wood and Cape Mentelle. Both are obviously high quality, though they really need several (many) years in the cellar to show their best.

By comparison, the Devil’s Lair was much more approachable. This is a superb wine that whilst very age-worthy, is a lovely drink today.

Finally, the Long Row is another bargain from Angove.


Devil’s Lair – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (18 – 18.5). Inky fruit here! Expect mint, spice and red fruits with a touch of eucalypt to reflect its cooler region origins. There is blackcurrant fruit on the palate and the wine has been superbly made. The oak, whilst shutting the fruit down on the finish somewhat, is supple and sympathetic to the mid-weight fruit. The tannins are refined and precise on the finish, making this an excellent drink now or in ten years +.

Moss Wood – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Ribbon Vale – 2010 (17.9). A closed nose only hinting at potential, with violets and blueberry aromas developing in the glass. It is on the palate that this really shows its class with fine fruit and refined winemaking. Elegant and reserved, this is a wine that needs plenty of air or 10 years in the cellar to show its best. The finish is quite tight courtesy of the very fine oak and tannins. A leaner style that will evolve. (This took 5 days on the tasting bench to really open up).

Cape Mentelle – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Trinders 2011 (17.7+). There are hints of succulent fruit here, however this is quite reserved and tight on first presentation. There are firm tannins, dense fruit and a touch of spice too. The depth on the palate with brambly blackcurrant fruit, structural oak and excellent length, is a highlight. Whilst this is on the third rung of the Cape Mentelle quality ladder, this is a serious, high quality wine that deserves time in the cellar. Excellent buying at under $25, but give it plenty of air if you are going to drink it soon.

West Cape Howe – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Hannah’s Hill – 2011 (17.6). Dense fruit on a nose that is ripe and alluring, yet still quite tight. The fruit is quite bright, showing cassis and minty notes. The palate is quite firm and austere, suggesting that this wine needs a few years to reach its drinking window. We had this as the first wine of the tasting, which is always difficult when the wines are tannic.

Marri Wood Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 2009 (17.5). Appealing aromas of red and blueberry fruit, with a touch of eucalypt and new oak (cedar and coconut). There is dense, ripe fruit, with supple tannins that coat the mouth. There is excellent length and mouth-feel to close. I assume the “Reserve” title is due to the amount of time this wine spent in new oak. Time will tell whether the medium-weight fruit will fully integrate with the oak, but this is an appealing wine all the same.

Galafrey – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (17.4). I like the balance here. The good quality fruit has been matched well to fine-grained oak. The tannins are ripe and fine while the fruit expresses itself on the finish. The palate is long and succulent, with chewy tannins to close. Perhaps a touch rustic, but an enjoyable wine.

Angove – Cabernet Sauvignon – Long Row – 2010 (16.9). Ripe fruit that is forward and succulent. The palate is quite simple, but balanced and supple. A good, early drinking style, with very fine tannins and a hint of oak. Not overly concentrated, but this is varietally correct. At under $10, this is another screaming bargain from the team at Angove. (This received a gold medal from one taster).

West Cape Howe – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot -2011 (16.5). Ripe fruits with a touch of menthol and sweet oak on the nose. This is a relatively straightforward wine that is very easy to drink. The tannins are supple and add texture to the finish.

Cabernet Sauvignon – New Release

Reviewed: 18 September 2012

A strong line up of wines, though there was some diversity to the styles, reflecting the different locations in which the grapes were grown.


Flametree – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2011 (18). Quite firm and tannic, the fruit is ripe, if a touch lean right now. Excellent length on the palate. This just needs a few years to open up and settle down. A serious wine, the points are for potential.

Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 2008 (18). Taught, fine, but unrewarding at present. There are hints of berry fruit and excellent length. Like all the wines wearing the “Art Series” label, this is a wine that needs many years to show its best, but will reward in spades.

Ferngrove – Cabernet Sauvignon – Majestic – 2010 (17.7). Cooler climate fruit with strong mint over red fruits. The acid is a little forward on the palate initially, but this has high quality fruit and textured, yet fine oak. Dense and long, with dusty tannins. If you like Bordeaux, this age-worthy wine is worth a try.

Killerby – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (17.5+). Sweet ripe fruit up front, with tar, cedar and attractive spice notes. Blackberry, tar, cedar and hints of cassis, with good length and texture to close. Whilst there is forward fruit, the oak and fruit tannins need to soften before this will reach peak drinking. Cellar for at least 5 years.

Fairbrossen – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (17.5). Mint and eucalypt to open in the nose. Darker fruits than on the Killerby. On the palate there is blueberries, spice and a silky mouth-feel that is attractive. Very long, the tannins are fine and the oak sits well with the fruit. The fruit quality is good, but the winemaking is excellent.

Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Prelude Vineyards – 2007 (17.5). Powerful fruit that belies the “second wine” status of this wine. The palate is dense with chewy tannins. The cooler area fruit defines this wine. A serious wine that took 3-4 days to open up and show its best! Worth trying if you like cool climate cabernet fruit.

Cabernet – New Release

Reviewed: 5 September 2012


A strong line up of wines here. There are many that are worthy of mention, but the two that I will single out are the Howard Park Miamup and the Parker Terra Rossa. Both are excellent and represent very strong value for money.


Shingleback – Cabernet Sauvignon – D Block Reserve – 2009 (18+). I struggled with the power of this initially. It is a big wine with precise, ripe fruit that has been expertly handled. The density of the fruit is superb and the finish extraordinarily refined. Not classic cool climate cabernet, but a superb wine for the cellar.

Brookland Valley – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2010 (18). This is a smart wine. Blackcurrant fruit is the primary character on the nose, but there is a touch of quality oak in the background. The texture is silky and supple. The tannins are very fine, conferring a degree of drinkability, but I get the impression that this will improve for some time and live even longer. Super effort.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Miamup – 2010 (18). Very intense nose that is ripe, yet restrained. There is obvious power to the fruit. The palate is restrained and tight, but the quality of the fruit is undeniable. The finish is long and very fine, but needs a few years to show its best. The best wine we have seen in this range, it should be around $25.

Voyager Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2008 (18). A dense wine that is just a baby. There is chocolate fruit with hints of tar. The finish is very textured and layered. The oak and fruit blend well. This will evolve for a long time, but the ripe fruit reflects the excellent growing season. Well made, this is an excellent wine.

Parker – Cabernet Sauvignon – Terra Rossa – 2008 (17.8+). Menthol and eucalypt to open that is typical of Coonawarra. The nose is initially quite restrained and tight. The palate has good length, and the fruit builds on the finish. There are dusty tannins to close that frame the fruit. With air, this really hit its straps showing dense ripe fruit of very high quality. The depth and richness continued to build for some time and made the perfect accompaniment to a piece of steak. Will be even better in a few years.

Stormflower – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz – Dry Red – 2010 (17.8). A very smart wine. The fruit is dense and textured and the length excellent. There is chocolate and spice on the palate. A rich and dense wine that is textured, ripe and balanced.

Flametree – Cabernet Sauvignon – S.R.S. – 2010 (17.7++). Lovely ripe fruit that has mint and red currant on the nose. This has lovely fruit. The balance is excellent and the mouth-feel superb. The silky finish is very long and the fruit continues to evolve. The oak and tannins on the finish balance the fruit well. Very smart early drinking, but this will evolve and improve for at least 5 years. From Wilyabrub, this has high quality fruit and is very well made.

Shingleback – Cabernet Sauvignon – The Davey Estate – 2010 (17.5). Slightly dusty, earth fruit here with hints of chocolate that good McLaren Vale reds can get. The palate has rich, velvety fruit with silk tannins. There is a touch of grip on the finish from the oak and tannins, but this complements the juicy fruit nicely. Not overblown, just ripe and concentrated.

Cabernet and Merlot

14th April 2012

Some very smart wines here, thought there was a variety of styles on display.


Bird in Hand – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (18.3). Very dense and powerful yet the fruit is very shy and reserved. The palate follows the theme with great length and very fine texture, but again, the fruit is subdued. Has everything in place for the long haul, but requires patience. Mint and blackcurrant are the dominant fruit characters with a touch of plum on the close. Will appeal to many!

Penley – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 2009 (18+). The nose is redolent of mint and blackberry fruit, though this is taught and more muscular than the HandPicked. Again, very long, though the tannins are more assertive in the mid-palate. The finish is balanced with a touch of coconut and vanilla showing from the oak. Everything is in place here, though ten years is required to see this wine really open up and show its full potential. This will last for a long time. Cork closure.

HandPicked – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Selections – By Peter Douglas – 2009 (17.8). Menthol and peppermint typical of Coonawara are a highlight on the nose. This is an attractive wine of some quality. The palate has eucalypt and peppermint over rich fruit that is very dense. There is a silky mouth-feel with prominent, (very fine) fruit and oak tannins. Lovely textural components and good line and length define a finish. This will evolve for many years and represents outstanding value at around $20. The only caveat is the cork closure.

Stormflower – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz – Dry Red – 2009 (17.8). A real surprise here. Mint and eucalypt over red and blackcurrant fruit, with cedar and spice adding interest. An attractive wine that has quite powerful fruit. The finish is totally shut down by very fine tannins and oak, but the high quality fruit is hidden away. Lovely Margaret River cabernet. Points for potential.

Bird in Hand – Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (17.5). A more classically proportioned wine showing eucalypt, mint and cedary oak on both the nose and the palate. Long and savoury, the oak and tannins are a touch dominant at present but really soften with air. There is quality fruit and winemaking on display and the wine will evolve.

Grant Burge – Merlot – Hillcot – 2010 (17.4). A harmonious nose with aromas of coffee and spice over ripe red fruits. The palate shows fresh and vibrant fruit with a touch of vanillin oak to add complexity. The finish is textured and balanced, with a savoury twist to close.

Smith and Hooper – Merlot – Reserve – 2008 (17.4+). A real contrast to the easy-drinking style championed by the Oxford Landing. There is intense fruit on the nose that is complex, rich, ripe, dense and evolving. This has quality stamped all over it. Herbs, Satsuma plum and cherry combine with plenty of high quality cedary oak on the palate. There are coffee aromas to close. This needs time to fully integrate. The wine will not be to everyone’s taste, but it is an impressive wine all the same.

Grant Burge – Cabernet Sauvignon – Cameron Vale – 2010 (17). A good wine, but without great excitement. Ripe, well made and with decent length, there is a silky mouth-feel and good texture. Very easy drinking, the fruit leans more to plum rather than cassis.

Vasse Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2010 (16.9+). Lovely nose that has Margaret River written all over it. Berry and cedary oak combine with dusty (though very fine) tannins to confer impressive length and mouth-feel. Needs a few years to open up, but an enjoyable wine just lacking the concentration of the great wines. Now to 10 years.

Juniper Crossing – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2009 (16.8). Dense, plummy and earthy, with a core of ripe fruit. Savoury, almost cigar box like notes add complexity to the package. The palate is dense, slightly viscous and mouth-coating. Made in an approachable style, typical of this blend (at this price at least). This is an excellent red for a cold winter’s night and an open fire.

Shingleback – Cabernet Sauvignon – Red Knot – 2011 (16.6). More immediate appeal here. Not particularly dense, this is a lovely early-drinking red. Ripe fruit that has hints of plum. A very well made, medium-bodied wine, but in a less serious style.

Smith and Hooper – Merlot – 2009 (16.5). There is a lovely balance of fruit and spice on the nose. Mid-weight and elegant, this is a pretty wine for short term consumption. This would probably look even better with a light meal.

Oxford Landing Estate – Merlot – 2011 (15.5). Fresh strawberry, Ribena and spice on the nose. A simple, uncomplicated and fresh palate that has enough life to make it good drinking. (Did I mention the smart packaging)?

Cabernet Sauvignon – New Release

Reviewed – 10 March 2012

There was some discussion amongst the panel as to the quality of the 2009 vintage in Margaret River. It is my view that these wines are deceptively easy to drink as the fruit is ripe and approachable. Look beyond this though and there is a fine backbone to the wines that should ensure that they age well. Perhaps, not as long lived as the 2008s, these may provide better drinking in the short to medium term.

I have commented before on how youthful many wines are these days. It was refreshing to see the Clarault from 2007 in this tasting. The extra drinkability that the bottle age confers was enough to get it over the line for a gold medal.


Clairault – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Cellar Release – 2007 (18.5). Ticks all the boxes. Classic nose of red fruits, mint and gentle eucalypt with subtle cedary overtones. Superb palate that is refined, precise and very long. This is not a big wine, but there is latent power to the fruit. Excellent length and fine structural components. Very well made, using high quality fruit. The fact that this is such good drinking now tipped it in to the gold medal bracket.

Cape Mentelle – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (18 – 18.5). Tight and refined nose. Cedary oak combines well with complex berries and spice. Long and dense, this has plenty of potential. I particularly liked the silky mouth-feel and excellent length. Very reserved, elegant and inviting, there is an intense core of berry fruit that carries right through the palate. An elegant wine of distinction.

Hay Shed Hill – Cabernet Sauvignon – Block 2 – 2010 (17.5 -18). Powerful nose up front with a palate that is bursting with flavour. Quite robust, this is a candidate to go along with your favourite Spaghetti Bolognese if you must drink it now. Dense, long and textured, the oak handling really suits the fruit. This is a powerful wine with great structure and it should age for many years.

Clairault – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (17.7). Another super wine here. Lovely fresh fruit on the nose and palate, with enough textural notes to make the finish very attractive. Ultimately, not as dense as the best, but a cracking effort.

Deep Woods – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 2009 (17.5+). Closed, but shows ripe fruit (fresh berries). A solid wine that delivers immediate pleasure with a lovely mouth-feel, good length and decent fruit weight. Not overly massaged in the winery, this is a solid effort. With air, the fruit and structure start to show through. One to watch.

Streicker – Cabernet Sauvignon – Ironstone Block – Old Vine – 2009 (17.5+). Beautiful, almost ethereal nose. This is so seductive, with perfume, red berries and plum over cedary oak. The palate appears more about primary fruit initially, though this is deceptive as the finish is very long and builds in power. This evolves in the glass and the mouth suggesting it may get higher points as it develops over time.

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (17.5). This wine divided the panel, with two judges giving high silver medals. Mint, eucalypt and even a touch of insecticide all proclaim the Margaret River origins here. Dense, dark fruit that has hints of cedar and spice over lovely plum and berry fruit. There is even at touch of aniseed. In the mouth, the length and structure are stand-outs. Very fine and refined, this has excellent fruit that has been handled very well. Uncompromising, this needs time to fully express itself.

Cape Mentelle – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Trinders – 2010 (17.4). Lovely fresh fruit with hints of mint and eucalypt. Not overly serious, but attractive and elegant. Tar, spice, tannins and acid complement the quality fruit. The structure really is quite good and the finish fine and silky. This will improve for a few years making for excellent mid term drinking.

Hay Shed Hill – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (17.1). Bright and forward nose with blackcurrant. The palate is flooded by sweet fruit that is reasonably complex and quite dense. Finishes well, making this an excellent mid week wine for early consumption. Good length.

Mad Fish – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Premium Red – 2009 (17). A well made, if straight forward, wine. The silky finish is quite long and this may improve in the short term. Good drinking and excellent value.

Leaping Lizard – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2009 (16.9). Quite a silky wine, with blueberry, cedar and gentle spice. Very well made, the tannins and structure are highly polished and very refined. Good length and a finish that evolves and builds. The only question was around the balance.

Clairault – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2010 (16.5). A touch rustic on the nose. A sturdy wine with solid fruit. Quite juicy and fleshy, this would make an excellent pizza wine.

Western Australian Cabernet

Lamont’s Cottesloe

Reviewed – 30 September 2011

A few weeks ago, Brendan Jansen reviewed the Hyatt Cup, a cabernet tasting aimed to showcase and contrast the wines of Margaret River and the Great Southern. I was unable to attend due to work commitments, so when my good friend John Jens said that he wanted to try the wines himself, I made sure that I was free this time.

Winemakers/staff from Houghton, Woodlands, Cullen and Mosswood plus a couple of wine writers attended the tasting.

When you look at cabernet sauvignon based wines, Margaret River has an enviable reputation. There is no doubt in my mind that the region produces the best wines in Australia. There was some discussion around the table as to whether Margaret River could lay claim to the best cabernet in the world.

I do not try enough great Bordeauxs to make a definitive statement, but several people thought that the best WA cabernets would stand up well in a line-up of First Growths. When you factor in the cost differential ($100 v $1000+), there is no argument for me. Indeed, you can buy some of the wines reviewed below for between $30 + $50. Try finding a decent bordeaux for under $100 dollars.



Ferngrove – Cabernet Sauvignon – Majestic – 2009 (18 – 18.5). Lovely balance and poise. This wine reeks of class. The nose has red fruits, but has more of the sour cherry aromas. The palate is very complete, with superb fruit in evidence. The oak is a touch dominant now as are the slightly chalky tannins, but time is all that is needed for this to shine. The best value wine here!

Fraser Gallop – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (18.2+). Restrained and quite closed on the nose. The fruit is more in the black fruit spectrum. Concentrated and dense, this has layers of flavour coming from the ripe fruit and quality oak influence. The balance is spot on, as is the mouth-feel. Needs time for the silky tannins to settle, but an excellent wine for the long haul.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Abercrombie – 2009 (18+). There is just a touch of ferment notes here suggesting that the wine has not been in the bottle that long. The palate, however, is a stand-out. Textured, spicy and supple, this has a very silky mouth-feel. The fruit is very closed, but the quality is hinted at. The textural components are spot on. Destined for a long life.

Woodlands – Cabernet Sauvignon – Alma May – 2009 (17.9). Lovely ripe fruit. Cedar, spice and fresh red fruit show cherry and strawberry highlights. The palate has cherry, spice and cedary oak. The tannins are remarkably fine and integrated for a young wine. There is excellent length of flavours and good persistence. Not as dense as some wines here, but a very pretty wine that is a lovely drink.

Cullen – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Diana Madeleine – 2009 (17.5/18.3). More of the elegant, bright red fruits as seen in the Woodlands. There is lovely sweet fruit, but the wine still needs to settle down. The palate is a bit hollow at first, but opens up to reveal more depth. A very elegant and feminine wine. Excellent balance and structure, but requires effort to get the best out of it. More Bordeaux than Margaret River.

Higher Plane – Cabernet Sauvignon – 200 (17.5+). An almost medicinal note with menthol to the fore. Sweet vanillin oak is evident on the nose. A big wine in every sense of the word. The palate is dense and tight, though there is an abundance of berry flavours and hints of earth and spice. Very long, I would like to see this in a few years to get a better idea of where it is going.


Woodlands – Cabernet Sauvignon – Nicholas – 2007 (18.7). This is middle of the road, blending some of the red fruits of the lighter wines with density and structure of the bigger wines. Really classy palate that is both subtle and supple. The palate is ripe and fresh and very long. Lovely mouth-feel and texture. A super wine.

Cullen – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Diana Madeleine – 2007 (18.5). Lighter, more elegant fruit. Cherry, spice, raspberry and spice. Silky and very long. A very refined wine of real class. Superb palate and the tannins are extraordinarily fine.

Forest Hill – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2007 (18.5). Wow. This is a blockbuster. Spectacular ripe fruit with cigar box, menthol and a touch of savoury, salty complexity on the nose. Follows through on the palate with tremendous concentration of fruit. Yes, the oak is apparent, but it does not dominate. A super wine, but it is not shy or retiring.

Cape Mentelle – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2007 (18.4). Bright red fruits here. This is a silky wine though the structure on the finish prevents the fruit from properly expressing itself. A really long finish with very fine tannins. This is a very classy wine and one that I would love to drink in another 5 – 10 years.

Mosswood – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2007 (18.3). Slightly cooler fruit with eucalypt and mint. The fruit is ripe and very precise in the mouth. This is an excellent example of cooler spectrum fruit. The length and texture are very good. A real contrast to the Forest Hill, but a lovely wine all the same.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Abercrombie – 2007 (18+). Balance in evidence. Ripe dense fruit on the palate. This is really fine and silky. It is not a generous wine, but there is complex fruit and superb structure. Excellent mouth-feel in a wine that will only get better.


Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Jack Mann – 2008 (18.7). Another beautiful wine possessing the most remarkable balance and poise. Beautifully weighted fruit combine with silky tannins and very tight, sympathetic oak to make a wine of real class and elegance. One of my favourites.

Vasse Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon – Heytesbury – 2008 (18.5). Seductive nose. Cooler fruit again on the palate. Very refined and excellent balance. Ripe choco-berries, this has quite cool fruit notes, but the fruit is perfectly ripe. Very long and fine, this will be a star in a few years.

Cape Mentelle – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2008 (18.5). Shy and retiring. This is still shut down by the very fine tannins and quality oak. Textured and almost chewy, the tannins are super fine and the finish quite seamless. A really smart wine, and a highlight of the tasting.

Mosswood – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2008 (18.3). Lovely nose. There is a degree of ripeness, but there is also elegance and depth to the fruit. The palate is bright though dense. A really classy wine that has real length and finesse. The fruit really fans out on the finish. Lovely, elegant wine.

Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – C.W. Ferguson – 2008 (18.2). Silky and refined, though without joy at first. Opens up with air. A very good wine that requires patience. Superb structure and presence, but again, not a wine for the everyday drinker.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Abercrombie – 2008 (18). Fantastic ripe fruit here. This wine has good structure and real depth to the fruit, though the acidity is a touch high now. This, however assures a long life. Silky finish.

Woodlands – Cabernet Sauvignon – Shelley Anne – 2008 (18). Another superb wine, though perhaps a touch lighter bodied than some here. Pretty fruit combine with skilled winemaking. Excellent medium term drinking.


© 2009 – 2013 Fine Wine Club

New Release Cabernet and Riesling

Reviewed – 6 September 2011

One thing that really struck me with this tasting was how tight cabernet sauvignon can be. A tasting of 15 shiraz would deliver a number of aromatic or savoury wines with instant appeal. With this tasting however, I found myself going back to the wines several times over 3 days watching their development. With each passing day, my enjoyment of the wines increased.

With time in the bottle, the fruit became much more accessible and the tannins softer. No doubt, these will cellar well.

The rieslings reviewed were much more approachable, though the best will age for 15 years.


Leasingham – Riesling – Bin 7 – 2010 (18). The nose is floral, with fresh, lemony fruit. There is a touch of pear skin too. Fresh, zingy acid, with steely lime fruit running through the palate. Impressive length and line. A lovely wine that ticks all the boxes. Good now, but better in ten years.

Talisman – Riesling – 2011 (17.2). Gentle floral fruit on the nose. This is very approachable now, but with enough acidity to keep the palate fresh. Good length and intensity, and the fruit really builds in the mouth. The best drinking in this group now, though this will still age well in the medium term.

West Cape Howe – Riesling – 2011 (17). Musk, lime juice and lavender on the nose. The palate is fresh and vibrant, though there is a degree of restraint courtesy of the fresh acid. An enjoyable wine that builds intensity.

d’Arenberg – Riesling – The Stump Jump – 2009 (16.7). Unusually tropical in its outlook, with plenty of passionfruit and citrus. Rounded and approachable, this wine represents very good value.


Stella Bella – Cabernet Sauvignon – Serie Luminosa – 2008 (18.3). Intense fruit on the nose! Blackcurrant, menthol and a touch of perfume. Perhaps a touch of violets even. Fantastic fruit on the palate. This is virtually seamless and very intense. The quality fruit has absorbed the fine grained oak with ease. The finish is tight courtesy of the oak and silky tannins, so give it air or ten years in the cellar. This is in the cooler spectrum, so it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I loved it!

Ferngrove – Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon – The Stirlings – 2008 (18.2). More fruit intensity here. Lovely palate with cedar, spice and fresh fennel. Long and very intense, this has excellent structure and mouth-feel. Really builds in the mouth, with the shiraz adding some licorice components to the finish. This is an excellent wine that will benefit from at least ten years in the cellar.

Bird in Hand – Cabernet Sauvignon – Nest Egg – 2009 (18). Classically cabernet. Cooler region characters on display, with subtle eucalypt, herb and menthol. Mouth-filling, dense and quite rich, this is an easy wine to like. The length is excellent and the dense, ripe fruit floods the middle palate. Fine oak adds structure. Took days to open up and will last for many years.

Voyager Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2007 (18). An angular wine that lacks generosity at first. Mint, mortien, capsicum and tomato leaf on the nose, Very intense, powerful and textured. This really blossomed over a few days. Great wine, just give it time.

West Cape Howe – Cabernet Sauvignon – Book Ends – 2009 (17.6). Seductive. Ripe and succulent fruit that is varietally correct, but more generous than some on display here. Some of the minty notes have been replaced by ripe, almost plumy, fruit. Good length and intensity, in a more approachable style. Enjoyable now or in 8 years. A pretty wine with plenty of appeal.

Chapel Hill – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (17+). Surprisingly cool region fruit notes on the nose, with capsicum and a touch of insecticide. Sour cherry and Satsuma plum flood the palate. Intense and focused, this is a wine of some power and structure. Plum and menthol to close. Not mainstream, but with significant charm.

Forester – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (17). Taut, fine, dense and reserved. This has dense, quality fruit and slick winemaking. It needs 5 years to start to show its best. A souring finish makes this a great choice with food if you are going to drink it now.

Penfolds – Cabernet Sauvignon – Thomas Hyland – 2009 (16.8). More straightforward red fruits on the nose. The palate is forward and ripe, though there is remarkable balance and structure for a wine of this price. Delivers plenty of joy.

d’Arenberg – Cabernet Sauvignon – The High Trellis – 2009 (16.7). Enticing nose that is both restrained, yet displaying lovely ripe plumy fruit. The palate is fruit driven, with some fruit weight. Not the longest, but very approachable. From a warmer region, this has more ripe fruit and less mint/herbal notes as compared to the Western Australian wines here.

Coonawarra Barrel Series 14

2010 Vintage

22 July 2011

Each year, the Coonawarra Vignerons Association holds a dinner and wine auction as part of their Coonawarra Cabernet Celebration. Seven of Coonawarra’s best wine producers each provide a single barrel of wine that is sold on the night. In previous years, you could purchase a minimum of five cases from any barrel. So get a few friends together and start bidding.

So to the wines. There is only one word I would use to describe these wines – remarkable. As a collection, the quality of the wines is outstanding. There really is no weak link, though the styles do vary from one producer to another. Due to the unfinished nature of the wines, I am not awarding points, though they all would have scored 17.75 to 18.5+.

A special thanks to Max Veenhuyzen for kindly arranging this tasting.


Brands Laira – Cabernet Sauvignon – Barrel Series – 2010. The colour is a standout. The fruit on the nose is actually seductive and quite feminine. The palate is powerful, though the fruit is totally shut down by the (balanced) structural components. Give it time.

Katnook – Cabernet Sauvignon – Barrel Series – 2010. More balanced fruit on the nose, managing to integrate the fruit and structural components well. Powerful fruit, but incredible balance for an immature wine. Again, the quality French oak dominates the finish, but this is very fine grained. This will be superb and is, undoubtedly, one of the stars!

Lindermans – Cabernet Sauvignon – Barrel Series – 2010. Menthol, blackcurrant and cedar lead off on the nose. Sweet red fruits on the palate that are held back by fine, austere tannins. Really builds and shows great promise.

Majella – Cabernet Sauvignon – Barrel Series – 2010. Gorgeous colour. The nose is redolent of fragrant, high quality fruit. The palate is quite raw and the oak is a touch dominant, though there is a core of blackcurrant and cedary spice running through the finish. Impressive length. The most immature tasting wine here that needs a few years to come together, but it will blossom.

Parker Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Barrel Series – 2010. Silky, yet restrained fruit on the nose. Firm, structured, medium bodied and elegant, this is the sleeper of the tasting. Excellent length of flavours, with fine tannins to close. A polished wine.

Yalumba – Cabernet Sauvignon – The Menzies – Barrel Series – 2010. More of the peppermint and menthol that I have come to expect from Coonawarra. Silky, supple and fine, this is an exercise in restraint. Excellent balance and length make this a very good barrel.

Wynns Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Barrel Series – 2010. Impenetrable nose. Whilst this is one of the most refined wines tasted, the nose gives little away. Silky and remarkably well integrated, the fruit/oak balance is spot on. Excellent fruit handled with skill, this is a wine for the long haul.

Zema Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Barrel Series – 2010. Dusty and less integrated than the Katnook. Again, the fruit quality is superb and the structure is spot on. It just needs time to settle down. Great length of flavour on the palate and there was plenty of peppermint and chocolate, typical of a classic Coonawarra cabernet.

Western Australian Cabernet

Reviewed 23 June 2011

Over a period of four days, I reviewed almost 80 cabernet based wines. I have already reviewed some elsewhere, so hear is a cross-section of some of the others.


Devils Lair – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2008 (18.2). Lovely nose that is a blend of red fruits and mint/eucalypt. Displaying obvious cooler region characters, this has promise. Long and fine, with silky tannins. Will take years for the fruit to come out. One for the lovers of Bordeaux.

Woody Nook Wines – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gallaghers Choice – 2009 (18+). Structured and dense, this offers little on the nose right now. The palate shows excellent fruit quality and slick winemaking. Structure and length are spot on. The mint, eucalypt and herbal notes suggest a cooler region. Give it a few years.

Credaro Family Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (18). The key to this wine is its balance. Ripe fruit, skilled winemaking and quality oak all evident. The fruit really is good and the slightly chewy tannins are very fine. Could develop into a star.

Capel Vale – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – The Scholar – 2008 (17.9). There is a core of ripe fruit here, with a seductive and quite beautiful nose. A superb palate follows that has ripe fruit and textural components. A fine wine with excellent balance. Well made.

Capel Vale – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2007 (17.8). Closed and reserved right now. A very fine wine in the mould of Cullens. Has extraordinary finesse and length, with very silky and refined tannins. Really opens to show lovely mouth-feel and fruit.

Clairault – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2007 (17.7). A solid wine with a core of dense, ripe fruit. This is quite complex and well made. The length and complexity on the palate are notable. Fine cabernet fruit, this is complex and very long. A smart wine with lovely red fruit.

Brown Hill – Cabernet Sauvignon – Great Boulder – 2008 (17.5). More restrained nose with hints of blackcurrent and raspberry. The palate is very structured. Long and fine with quality fruit and winemaking on show.

Forest Hill – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (17.5). A powerful wine of some note. Masculine, though there are hints of quality fruit. Builds in the mouth. Excellent oak and winemaking. in a very structured package.

St Aidens – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2011 (17.3+). A very pretty nose that has floral notes. The palate has vibrant red fruits, with enough tannins and acidity to keep it fresh.

Wills Domain – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2011 (17+). Too young to assess, but this has good fruit in an approachable package. Genuine length of flavour and good mouth-feel make this a good prospect.

Rosabrook – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2010 (17). Shows more fruit intensity than some, combined with solid winemaking. This offers plenty of appeal, but needs a year or two to settle down. Smart wine.

Wignalls – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2010 (17). Took its time, but this opened up to show pretty fruit and good length of flavours.

Windance – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2009 (17). A lovely nose here. Refined and elegant, this has ripe fruits at the heart of it. The palate has super-sweet fruit. This is made to drink now and offers plenty of appeal

Windance – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz – 2009 (17). Closed and tight nose. Quality fruit that is dense yet refined. Good length of flavour and nice mouth-feel. The quality oak is notable on the finish, but does not detract.

Windance – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2010 (16.5). Ripe and plump fruit, with good fruit weight and mouth-feel. Suitable for early consumption, this is juicy and generous.