Tag Archives: Cabernet Sauvignon

Higher Plane – February 2015

Reviewed: 10th February 2015

Higher Plane was established in 1996 by Cathie and Craig Smith, with a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The vineyard is close planted (4000 vines per hectare).

In 2006, the winery and vineyards were purchased by Juniper Estate (established/owned by the Hill Family) and Mark Messenger assumed responsibility for wine making. In conjunction with Ianto Ward, who took over management of the vineyards in 2008, the wines have never looked better!


Higher Plane – Sauvignon Blanc – South By Southwest – 2014 (17). A decent wine that sits in the middle of the road, with gentle tropical fruit being the primary focus. A crowd pleasing style. (RRP $22).

Higher Plane – Sauvignon Blanc – Barrel Fermented – 2014 (17.5). This is a savoury, food friendly wine that has grassy notes with a touch of almond and stone fruit. The palate has a touch of viscosity and crisp, lemony acidity. The lees contact and barrel ferment characters add a lovely textural component and there is excellent length. Great value (RRP $25).

Higher Plane – Chardonnay – 2012 (18.5). Opens with tropical/pineapple fruit, leading on to stone fruit and melon aromas. The palate is long, fine and silky, with cashew nut and spice highlights. The texture and balance are a highlight. With high-quality fruit and oak, handled sympathetically in the winery, this is a complete wine and a lovely drink. (RRP $40).

Higher Plane – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – South By Southwest – 2011 (18). I like the way the high quality fruit and earthy notes combine into a complex, savoury package. There are hints of mocha, and the cedar-like oak complements the fruit, without dominating. The structure is a highlight, with chewy tannins to close. Bargain. (RRP $22).

Higher Plane – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (18.5+). This is a very fine wine. The fruit is perfectly ripe, yet subtle and shy. The structure is fine and savoury, with silky oak and fine tannins cloaking the fruit at present. Excellent length and persistence.Patience is required though, as this requires several years for the structure to unwind and for the fruit to open up. Sophisticated and polished. (RRP $50).

Redman Wines – December 2014

Reviewed: 1st December 2014

The Redman family are pioneers of the Coonawarra region, having been involved in growing grapes and making wine for almost a century.

Redman has stayed true to form and continues to only make red wines from grapes grown on the famous Terra Rossa soils. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz are the only varieties used.

The wines have typically been made in a savoury, food-friendly style and have often aged very well. I have enjoyed several 30 – 40 year old bottles over the years and they have been a delight.

The contrast between the 2012 Cabernet and the other two wines reviewed here was marked. The older wines have settled into their structure and develop secondary characters. With 2012 however, the primary fruit characters were allowed to shine, without diminishing the ability to age. Admittedly, 2012 was an outstanding year for Coonawarra reds.

Whilst the Redman family are trying to stay true to Owen Redman’s philosophy on making wine, they are not standing still. Currently, there is a program of vineyard rejuvenation/replanting underway. Interestingly though, the wines are still bottled with cork.



Redman – Cabernet Sauvignon /Merlot/Shiraz – The Redman – 2004 (18.3). The bottle age here is obvious, as the fruit has started to open and soften within a complex savoury frame. There are lovely minty cabernet notes on the nose. The palate is still fresh and vibrant, with the fine fruit sitting nicely with the oak. The tannins are still firm, but in combination with the acid, they keep the wine youthful and alive, whilst adding texture. An impressive wine that, whilst enjoyable now, is sure to age well for some time to come. (RRP $70. 200 dozen produced).

Redman – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 – (17.9). Impressive nose that has depth and power to the fruit. A classic Coonawarra Cabernet that has menthol and eucalyptus notes over blackberry fruit. The tannins are a little grippy – though this adds to the mouth-feel. A powerful (though elegant) wine that needs a few years to hit its straps. Whilst maintaining a link to the other wines, the impression is that an effort has been made to preserve the fruit characters.(RRP $29).

Redman – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2009 (17.5). Varietally correct nose, with menthol, eucalypt and herbal notes. This is a savoury wine with bright acidity carrying the finish. Though not an overt blockbuster, the fruit is supple and ripe and the mouth-feel excellent. Good depth on the palate, with excellent length and persistence to close. This is a savoury wine, with leaner fruit characters and balanced tannins and is sure to age well for a decade or more. Will sit well with food today. (RRP $35).



Western Australia’s Best Cabernet Region?

Reviewed: 20th July 2012

Everyone knows that Margaret River makes Western Australia’s (and possibly Australia’s) best cabernet based wines.  Right?  They certainly make the most high quality cabernets of any region in Australia.  The region also produces the highest number of quality wines as a percentage of the total volume produced.

But what about the Great Southern region centred around Frankland River?  Cabernet, after all, is not the main focus here.  The focus in the region is primarily on riesling and shiraz.  Cabernet plays a much smaller role in the region’s output.

The question of where the best WA cabernets come from was brought into sharp focus with the current tasting, courtesy of the new release wines of Larry Cherubino.  Here is a producer that has access to some of the best fruit in the state.  Submitted for the tasting were both the Margaret River and Frankland River cabernets under the Cherubino label as well as Frankland River cabernets under the Yard and Ad Hoc labels.

The Frankland River Cherubino was the star of the tasting and, at $110/bottle, was also significantly more expensive than the Margaret River version of the same wine.  In fact, when compared to the Margaret River wine, The Yard and Ad Hoc (Frankland) wines from the same producer represents excellent value for the quality on offer.

So Cherubino’s best (and most expensive) cabernet comes from Frankland River, but what about other producers?  Well, Houghton produces a number of very high quality wines from Margaret River, but their most expensive wine is the Jack Mann from Frankland River.  Separately, in a recent tasting of some of Margaret River’s finest cabernets, it was the 2010 Abercrombie from Howard Park (18.5 – 19pts) that stole the show.  The only problem was that this wine is also from Frankland!

So, in summary, three of Western Australia’s finest cabernet producers each source the fruit for their top wines from Frankland River and, in the case of Howard Park, this is my equal highest pointed cabernet of the year.

So to the rest of the tasting….

The wines from Xanadu are in top form and their current release cabernets are outstanding.  The standard release 2010 cabernet is an absolute steal at around $35, whilst their special release wines are stylish and very age-worthy.

This was a very high quality tasting with a number of excellent wines.


Cherubino – Cabernet Sauvignon – Frankland River – 2011 (18.5).  An excellent wine that has a Jeckle and Hyde character.  Initially, this is very structured, with lean, precise fruit and a very long and drying finish.  This really builds in the glass to show full, ripe and dense fruit of the highest quality.  Flavour characters include mint, eucalypt and a touch of menthol.  An excellent, no-compromise wine that demands time in the cellar (or at least an hour or two in the decanter) if you are going to drink it now.

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (18/18.5+).  Very complex nose that has savoury characters balanced by fresh fruit aromas.  Think cedar, brambly blackcurrant, licorice, pepper and black fruits with earthy, forest floor highlights.  The palate is taut and austere, the acid, tannins and quality oak subduing the fruit.  Opens to show really dense, bright fruit with superb mouth-feel and structure. This wine is a star and is destined for a very long future.

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon – Stephens Road – 2010 (18.3).  Precise nose. Precise palate.  This is a superb wine, where the quality fruit has been carefully crafted in the winery.  Restrained mint and eucalyptus are present on both the nose and palate.  The oak is very fine and silky, though in combination with the tannins, serves to shut down the fruit.  Elegant and age-worthy.  (Made in tiny quantities).

Flametree – Cabernet Sauvignon – SRS – Wilyabrup – 2011 (18+).  Touch of sweet and sour here.  This is a much bigger, more textured wine than some here, with dense, chocolaty fruit.  Very long and persistent, with a somewhat chewy finish, though the balance is spot-on.  This demands time, or a big steak now.

Killerby – Cabernet Sauvignon – Margaret River – 2011 (18).  Lovely minty cabernet fruit to open on the nose, with slightly dusty, cedary oak and a touch of herbs.  The palate has bright redcurrant, cedar and spice.  The oak is well married to the high quality fruit and the tannins, whilst firm, are not aggressive.  Quite a pretty wine now, but the best is yet to come, as the texture and mouth-feel build and replace the overt fruit characters.  Although it lacks a bit of joy now, give it time to open and I am sure the marks will get even higher.

The Yard – Cabernet Sauvignon – Riversdale Vineyard – Frankland River – 2011 (18).  Whilst there is no doubting the quality of fruit that has gone into this wine, it is a touch disjointed at present, with the fruit at odds with the oak and tannins now.  Chewy, textured and dense, this is a powerful wine.  Like a jigsaw, the pieces will come together over time allowing the full picture to be seen.

Ad Hoc – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Avant Gardening – 2012 (17.9).  Smart wine here.  This has lean fruit, courtesy of the cooler region, though the fruit is fully ripe.  The palate is powerful, taut and full of nervous energy.  The finish is more about the structure, as the oak and fruit tannins shut down the fruit characters.  Whilst this is quite user friendly, I would still recommend decanting now to drink with a steak, or give it a few years to hit its straps.

Victory Point – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2008 (17.8).  Cedar and spice on the nose, with a core of ripe fruit and regional mintiness.  The palate is dense, thick and textured, a wine with plump, ripe fruit.  Opens with air to show lovely minty fruit, good texture and fine tannins.  The oak is present, but not overt and carries the finish well.  Quite a big wine that could be drunk now or in 10 years.

Thompson Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (17.5-18+).  Quite subdued nose that merely hints at the potential of this wine.  The palate is drying, long, savoury, restrained, fine and elegant, with dusty tannins framing the finish.  Beneath it all is serious, opulent fruit and good line and length in the mouth.  Just needs time to show its best.

Bussell – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – JG – 2011 (17.9).  A lovely wine that has ripe cabernet fruit as the focus.  The winemaking has been very sympathetic to the high quality, refined fruit, with the oak providing a framework in which the fruit sits.  Hints of mint and eucalyptus to close on a long, lingering finish.  Real potential here.

Castelli – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Merlot – Il Cavaliere – 2010 (17.5).   Aromas of redcurrant and cedar to open.  Thick, dense fruit up front in the mouth, but the middle palate is quite subdued at first, with the tannins really closing this down.  Genuine Bordeaux style.

Yalumba – Cabernet Sauvignon – Y series – 2011 (17.3).  Blackcurrant, cedar and cool climate fruit on the nose, with redcurrant fruit to close.  This is very persistent and elegant, the precise fruit well matched to the oak.  Good length, but needs 5 years to hit its straps.  Good value.

Brookland Valley – Cabernet Sauvignon – Unison – 2011 (17).  A solid wine that has lovely, cool climate, cabernet characters.  Mint, eucalypt and herbal notes to the fore on the nose, and these flow through to the palate.  The oak sits well with the ripe fruit and there is enough structure to take some aging.

Western Australian Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 Vintage

Reviewed: 4th June 2013

One of the local wine groups recently hosted a tasting of many of the best 2010 cabernets from Margaret River. This presented a wonderful opportunity to look through a very strong line up.

Margaret River has been blessed with many good or great vintages starting in 2007 and continuing to 2013. 2010 is considered by many to be one of the best!

There were a couple of real highlights. None more so than the Abercrombie from Howard Park. This is right up there with the best young Australian cabernets that I have tried. The others were the Penfolds Bin 707 (Iron fist in a velvet glove) and Xanadu (Outstanding value). I note that the 2009 Xanadu cabernet topped a recent tasting in Gourmet Traveller, so this outfit is obviously in great form!

The tasting served to highlight the consistent quality of the vintage, as well as the superb standard of Western Australian cabernets.

  • Tasted:                  21
  • Reviewed:            12


Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Abercrombie – 2010 (18.5 – 19). This is a beautiful wine! The nose has perfumed, fragrant fruit that is beautifully ripe and balanced. The palate is silky, supple and refined and the finish near seamless. The length is outstanding, as is the wine-making. The balance really is the key to this wine. The finish has powerful, yet silky tannins. I can only guess at how long this wine can be aged, but it may well outlive me.

Penfolds – Cabernet Sauvignon – 707 – 2010 (18.5 – 19). This is a superb wine as it combines fruit that is concentrated and powerful with elegance and sophistication. The superb fruit is redolent of blackcurrant, with hints of cassis. Supple, fine and round in the mouth, the tannins and oak add depth and texture without overwhelming the fruit. Superb balance here and a wine built for the long haul.

Cape Mentelle – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (18.5+). Concentrated fruit on a nose that is classic cabernet. The palate is powerful and structured yet has plenty of red fruits. Long and savoury, this is a wine that is all about potential. Everything is in place, it just needs 10 years to start to evolve and build. Will be very long lived.

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (18.5+). Now this is a great effort! Superb fruit quality has been matched to very fine oak and slick wine-making. This is elegant and refined, yet there is latent power palpable on the palate. The finish is very long and near seamless, the oak texture adding density to the fruit. This may well be the bargain of the year.

Cape Mentelle – Cabernet Sauvignon – Wilyabrup – 2010 (18.5). I could define this as an elegant monster. Refined, fine, tight and structured, this has superb wine-making, balance and composure. Underneath the refined exterior is a wine of tremendous power and concentration. The fruit is of the highest quality, yet the finish is quite subdued now. In 10 – 15 years, this may well be one the best wine here.

Fraser Gallop – Cabernet Sauvignon – Parterre – 2010 (18.5). Cooler fruit aromas that combine minty red fruits with a touch of eucalyptus and herbs. The palate is quite shut down by the acids and tannins, yet the fruit is supple and fragrant, complementing the structure very well. Not mainstream, yet a very compelling wine.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Scottsdale – 2010 (18.4). Opens with hints of menthol and jubes. This is a delicious wine that has ripe, yet cool climate fruit combined with slick wine-making. The very long palate has a slightly chewy finish. The density of fruit is deceptive and the tannins are very fine, though ample. A great each way bet, as this is good drinking now, but is also sure to age well.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Leston – 2010 (18.3). The fruit here is fine, fragrant, supple, bright, long and savoury. The bright acid carries the finish, where the tannins are soft, yet palpable. A lovely wine of elegance and class, though a few years would really be of benefit.

Hay Shed Hill – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2011 (18.2). Menthol and a touch of herbs on the nose suggest a cooler sub-region or vintage. The palate is bright and fine, yet taught and tightly wound. The cooler region characters are also present on the palate, yet this is beautifully ripe and supple. The palate is only medium weight, yet there is real presence and excellent length and persistence. Drinks well now, but sure to age for many years.

Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstones – 2010 (18++). I like this for the balance of dense fruit and elegant structure. This is somewhat of a sleeper, as the fruit density on the mid palate is a touch lean, yet all the elements are in place for this to blossom with time in the bottle. Blackcurrant, cedar, spice and very fine tannins all flow on a finish that, whilst not seamless now, is very seductive all the same.

Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Wisdom – 2010 (18). Lovely fragrant red fruits that are a touch softer and more straight forward than some here. The bright fruit combines on the palate with complex savoury characters, supple oak and fine tannins. The length is outstanding and the structure really evolves and builds in the mouth. Did I mention that this was long? (Excellent value from Margaret River).

Woodlands – Cabernet Sauvignon – Margaret – 2010 (18). This is quite a subtle wine on the nose, though the palate has plenty of life courtesy of the bright acidity. This is quite lean initially, and Bordeaux lovers will appreciate the structure. Opens to show real potential. An elegant wine with real finesse.

Woodlands – Cabernet Sauvignon – Margaret – 2011. (17.8+). Youthful, closed and tight on both he nose and palate, this has eucalyptus and hints of menthol. Cedary oak is quite prominent on the finish, though the fruit is visible through the tannins and acid. This needs time to evolve as there is excellent fruit and wine-making. (Another ring in from 2011).


Magnum Lunch

Fraser’s Restaurant

24th May 2013

Eighteen wine enthusiasts, twenty one magnums of outstanding wine and one of Perth’s best chefs recently combined for a truly memorable experience. No occasion was needed to bring a remarkable collection of both wines and people together for the second magnum lunch at Fraser’s Restaurant in Kings Park.

The lunch was conceived by John Jens, but it was Bob Winterbottom who made the lunch a reality. Bob set the guidelines for what wines could be brought and coordinated selections to ensure that there was a spread of wines from various styles. Once the list was finalised, Bob passed this on to Chris Taylor at Fraser’s. Chris developed a spectacular meal that complemented the wines superbly.

There were so many vinous highlights that it seems unfair to give the wines points. Needless to say that many of the wines would have been awarded gold medals. I will go out on a limb and say that the line-up was one of the best collections of wine that I have tasted in years.

One highlight for me was the bracket of Corton Charlemagne’s from Bonneau du Martray. It was fascinating to see how the style has evolved over the last few years. The 2008 was drinking spectacularly, but the 2010 was, quite possibly, the greatest wine of the tasting.

Another highlight was the three Second Growths from Bordeaux. Whilst the quality of the 2000 vintage was superbly highlighted by the Leoville Barton and the Cos d’Estronnel, the 2001 Leoville Las Cases was also a superstar.

The food that was prepared to accompany the wines was uniformly superb. For me, the highlight was the roast whole pig! A special mention must go to William and Bronwyn from Fraser’s who provided us with superb service throughout the event.

Ultimately though, it was the company of the other 17 wine tragics who attended that made the day so memorable.

How soon can we do it again???


We started the lunch on the restaurant forecourt where Chris shucked Ceduna oysters as we sipped on the four Champagnes. It was a perfect start, the picturesque backdrop only adding to the sense of occasion.

Pol Roger – Champagne – 1996. This wine stood out for its great finesse and balance. Yes, it was fully mature, but there was still life and vitality. A great way to start. (From Magnum).

Krug – Champagne – NV. Remarkably, this had spent 11 years in bottle since it was purchased. Fully mature, complex, rich and finely balanced, this was a great drink and perfectly complemented by the ocean tang of the oysters. (From Magnum).

Dom Perignon – Champagne – 1990. Unfortunately, the cork on this spoiled the party. (From Magnum).

Dom Perignon – Champagne – Oenotheque – 1996. Unbelievably fresh and tight, the lemony citrus characters leading the charge on both the nose and the palate. This needs years to reach its drinking peak but is a superb wine!


The pairing of the Climens and the parfait was an inspired combination. The silky texture of the parfait was the perfect foil to the wines richness.

Chateau Climens – Barsac – 1995. Balanced, precise, rich (though not in any way cloying) and very long. Apricot, almond and marzipan combine with wonderful spice notes on both the nose and the palate. Whilst this is superb now, it will last for many more years.

White Burgundy and Chablis

Given the refinement of the wines in this bracket, I was concerned that the mushroom risotto that accompanied it would overwhelm the fruit. In reality, the risotto was remarkably delicate and refined, adding a lovely backdrop to the whites.

Bonneau du Martray – Corton Charlemagne – Grand Cru – 2004. A very complex wine, the minerals and honey on the nose combined well with the toasty, developed characters on the palate. Powerful, intense and very long, this has developed very nicely. (From Magnum).

Bonneau du Martray – Corton Charlemagne – Grand Cru – 2008. Sublime drinking here. Grapefruit and lemony acid lead onto complex mineral characters, spice and a hint of curry leaf. Outstanding drive and length to a wine that is great now, but will also develop well for a few years. (From Magnum).

Bonneau du Martray – Corton Charlemagne – Grand Cru – 2010.  Precise, focused and tight, this is a restrained and silky wine that flows seamlessly to a very long finish. A stunning wine and one of my favourites for the day. (From Magnum).

Domaine Francois RaveneauChapelot – Chablis – 1er Cru – 2009. Very tight, lean and racy, with lemon, nectarine and citrus rind notes. Outstanding length to a wine that needs 5 years to really start to hit its straps. (From Magnum).

Domaine Baron Thenard – Le Montrachet – Grand Cru – 2007. Opens with really tangy citrus notes. A very powerful wine that has subtle minerals and a very fine texture. Creamy and very long, this is a superb wine of power and restraint. Will age for years, but this is sublime!

Blain Gagnard – Batard Montrachet – Grand Cru – 2006. This is a very powerful wine, though the nose is remarkably tight at present. A big wine that still needs a few years for the powerful fruit to fully integrate with the oak and show its best. (From Magnum).

Red Burgundy

The Burgundies were accompanied by a complex and artistically prepared dish of braised lamb. A delicious dish, with the natural acidity of the wines complementing the richness of the food.

Pousse d’Or  – Volnay – 1er Cru – Caillerets – 1990. This bottle had, perhaps, seen better days as it was very earthy and old fashioned. (From Magnum).

Armand Rousseau – Ruchottes-Chambertin – Grand Cru – Clos des Ruchottes – 2007. Silky, sweet fruit with pepper and lovely spice highlights. The texture, balance and power have all the hallmarks of a great wine! Despite the powerful fruit, this is elegant, refined and very long. A great wine!

Mommessin – Clos de Tart – Grand Cru – 2008. Pepper, spice and cinnamon come to the fore here. Superb length and balance combine with a silky texture to make this a stunning wine. (From Magnum).

Mongeard Mugneret – Clos de Vougeot – Grand Cru – 2005. Leaner and more structured than the Clos de Tart, this is still youthful, long, fine and powerful. There are cherry fruit notes, while the finish fans out like the proverbial peacocks tail. A superb wine that is immensely long. (From Magnum).

Bordeaux and Dry Reds

From a food perspective, the roast pork that accompanied the bigger reds was spectacular. The crispy skin combined beautifully with the succulent meat. There were Asian cues to the preparation with galangal being an integral part of the seasoning.

In many respects, this dish stole the show!

Chateau Léoville Las Cases – St Julien – 2001. A brilliant wine, though the fruit is wrapped up in a very structured cloak. The tannins are firm, though very fine, while the supple oak complements the fruit perfectly. A powerful wine that will last for years, yet is a joy to drink now. (From Magnum).

Chateau Cos d’Estournel – St Julien – 2000. This is a great wine. The fruit is sweeter than the Las Cases (perhaps reflecting the year), though the wine is still very powerful. Wonderful length and texture, the fruit framed by very fine tannins. A complete wine. (From Magnum).

Chateau Leoville Barton – St Julien – 2000. Another stunning effort. This wine is silky and supple, with wonderful tannin and oak management. The most structured of the three St Juliens, this is masculine and very youthful. (From Magnum).

Joseph Phelps Eisele Vineyard  – Cabernet Sauvignon – 1986. Perhaps more than any wine here, the Phelps polarised the group. Spectacular fruit quality and power, but the wine initially appeared a little rustic and old fashioned courtesy of a touch of Brettanomyces. Certainly evolved in the glass and improved significantly as it opened up. (From Magnum).

J L Chave – Hermitage – 1983. This wine is totally, seductive, elegant and fully mature. The palate is defined by its finesse and length, the acidity providing drive right through to the close. From a drinking point of view, this wine was my favourite of the reds! (From Magnum).


At the end of such a spectacular lunch and with plenty of red wine still on the table, we finished with a selection of cheeses. An excellent way to end a memorable day.

Franck Bonville – Champagne – Blanc de Blanc – 2006. A superb way to end the meal, the freshness, balance and power left the palate refreshed (although it did not really refresh my mind at this point!)


Margaret River v Coonawarra

Reviewed: 18th May 2013

Margaret River or Coonawarra? I often ask myself that question when I am purchasing or opening cabernet based wines. Ten years ago, I would also have included Bordeaux in the equation, but the tremendous prices being charged for decent Claret makes Bordeaux an unrealistic option for me.

Fortunately the quality of Australian cabernet has continued to improve and the best local wines are equivalent in quality, if not style, to the best imports. The added benefit of shopping locally is that they are invariably sealed with a screw cap, removing the inherent risks associated with cork.

Whilst the current tasting was an opportunity to look at a selection of aged cabernet-based wines, it also gave me the chance to think about the regions.

One of the biggest differences between the two has been vintage conditions. Margaret River has been blessed with an amazing run of vintages starting with 2007 and continuing right through to 2012. (Early indications are that 2013 will also be very good). Coonawarra, on the other hand, has been on somewhat of a roller coaster ride with the highs being followed by lows. Improved viticulture has helped offset some of the lows, but I think it is a good idea to keep an eye on vintage variations.

Call me a fence sitter, but at the end of the tasting, I decided that I needed to keep space in the cellar for both region’s wines. Margaret River will always be the backbone of my cellar due to a combination of familiarity, availability, quality and consistency. In the great years however, I will always make space for Coonawarra. The wines are distinctive, age-worthy and totally delicious.

Wines tasted: 20

Wines reviewed: 10


Raveneau – Chardonnay – Chablis – 2010 (17.8). This is a complex, serious wine on the nose. There is creamy oak, textural barrel ferment characters and fine, pristine fruit. The finish is very long, with lemony acid the backbone that is fleshed out by a hint of sweetness that further enhances the balance. (The warm-up wine)

Cape Mentelle – Cabernet Sauvignon – 1991 (18.2). Dense, sweet ripe fruit leaps from the glass. Think mint, eucalypt, cassis and red berries. There are hints of earth and leather courtesy of the bottle age adding to the great length and lovely texture. There is new-world density to the fruit, but old-world complexity and structure. Lovely drinking.

Wynns – Cabernet Sauvignon – John Riddoch – 1991 (17.8). Remarkable contrast to the Cape Mentelle, as this is fresh and vibrant, yet tight and restrained. There are hints of blueberry, mint, cherry, cinnamon and supple, cedary oak. A powerful wine, yet one that is balanced and restrained. Very long and near seamless, the ever-so-fine tannins providing a sprinkling of dust across the finish.

Sandalford – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2003 (18). This wine really impresses for its sweet, ripe fruit. At ten years of age, there are plenty of dark fruit characters with a touch of mint and eucalyptus. The palate is dense, structured and tannic, needing another 5 – 10 years to really unwind. There is structured oak to close. This is a powerful wine.

Wise – Cabernet Sauvignon – The Bramley – 2003 (18). This is a much softer interpretation on Margaret River cabernet compared to the Sandalford, with red fruits the primary character. There are hints of oak in the background and the very fine tannins build at the very end of the palate. The tannins are actually quite firm suggesting that this wine will still evolve, but it is in its drinking window now.

Coriole – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Mary Kathleen – 1999 (18). This wine has really intense fruit with complex savoury highlights. Think coffee, cinnamon and spice. The palate is textured and long finishing with very fine tannins and supple oak. In the mouth, this is supple, savoury, spicy, fragrant and long. Delicious now, this is an elegant wine from McLaren Vale showing excellent cabernet typicity, yet also some clear regional characters.

Wynns – Cabernet Sauvignon – John Riddoch – 1999 (17.8). Opens with mint over red fruits. This is elegant and drinking very well. There are hints of blackcurrant over cedar and spice on the palate. The finish is fine and long, with the acid cutting through the silky structure. The tannins are amazingly soft and add to the texture. This wine will be a great foil to food.

Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstone  – 1999 (18.5). Compared to the Wynns, this has much more obvious ripe fruit characters. Blackcurrant, cinnamon, spice, mint, eucalypt and subtle, textural oak all meld into a fantastic package on the palate. Whilst refined and elegant, there is tremendous power and length to the fruit. Superb!

Parker Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc – First Growth – 1998 (18.2). This wine approaches drinking perfection. There are fragrant red fruits, supple spice and silky tannins which combine to make this oh-so-easy to drink. The excellent length of flavours is a highlight and the fruit is very persistent. The tannins build on the finish providing the texture to accompany fine food.

Petaluma – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc – 1998 (18.3). Reserved and shy compared to the Parker, this is a superb wine of the highest quality. The palate is dense, ripe, textured and powerful. There are hints of fresh herbs and wonderful fruit. Very structured, yet almost seamless.


Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay

Art Series Chardonnay – Pre-Release Tasting

Reviewed: 10th May 2013

Leeuwin Estate rightly has a reputation for producing one of Australia’s top few Chardonnays. When you combine the inherent quality with an unrivalled ability to age, I rate it as the country’s best.

As with almost all Leeuwin Estate wines, the chardonnay is held back in the cellar to allow it to come together before being released. This means that at a time when many wineries are selling their 2012 whites, we gathered to try Leeuwin Estate’s 2010 Chardonnay that is about to be released.

Given the quality, it is not surprising that the chardonnay gets the Rolls Royce treatment. The wine typically sees 100% new oak and great pains are taken to ensure that the oak is of the highest quality. Currently, the winery is using over 20 different types of oak barrels, supplied by a variety of coopers.

Each year, the composition of oak changes subtly as the winery adjusts the makeup to take advantage of the best coopers. In most years, there is no malo-lactic fermentation, the acidity is controlled in the vineyard via canopy management and astute grape harvesting. The vines that produce fruit for the Art Series Chardonnay are now 40 years old and are really in their prime.

Paul Atwood (Senior Winemaker) and Simone Horgan (Joint CEO) took the opportunity to show a mini-vertical of the Art Series Chardonnay, as well as a cross-section of current and upcoming releases from their stable of red wines. It has been an overriding aim of the winery to bring the quality of the reds up to that of the Chardonnay. The quality of the reds tasted suggests that they have succeeded admirably.

Finally, Paul gave me an overview of the 2013 vintage. The growing season started off with a burst of hot weather, giving wine-makers some concerns as to how balanced the fruit would be as it ripened. Later in the growing season however, the weather cooled considerably, allowing the fruit to finish ripening at a much slower pace. This meant that the grapes were able to develop excellent flavour profiles, without getting too high in sugar. It also allowed the grapes to retain excellent natural acidity.

The 2013 Riesling has just been blended and, apparently, the results are very good. The fruit was able to be taken off the vine quite early, with very balanced juice. Paul’s view is that 2013 will be a great year for their reds. The cool finish to the season allowed the fruit to develop excellent depth of flavours. The last cabernet was only picked in mid-April. Importantly, the chardonnay had excellent levels of acidity at harvest.

And the verdict?

The 2010 Art Series Chardonnay is the greatest Australian chardonnay I have ever tasted and is the equal of the greatest White Burgundies. The 2005 is another stunning wine that is just starting to hit its peak. The Prelude chardonnay is worth a mention given the excellent quality. Many wineries would be pleased have this as their premium wine!

Leeuwin Estate can quite rightly claim to be one of the finest wineries in Australia. It is the quality across the entire range that sets it apart from most.


Leeuwin Estate  – Riesling – Art Series – 2005 (18). This is remarkably fresh, with lime juice, minerals and gentle floral aromas. It has started to develop some toasty characters and just a touch of oiliness. The palate is quite rich and textured, with a touch of phenolic richness adding to the tasting. There is also a touch of nutty fruit to close. This is drinking superbly now, but will hold for a number of years. Paul suggests that the location of the vineyard, which sits in a valley, results in a cooler micro-climate compared to some of the other wineries in the region, allowing the riesling to flourish.

Leeuwin Estate  – Riesling – Art Series – 2012 (17.5- 18). Fragrant talc, minerals and subtle citrus characters on the nose. Like most Leeuwin rieslings that I have tried, this is quite closed and tight now, guaranteeing mid-term aging. The palate is true to the house style, with quite rich, powerful fruit complemented by a touch of phenolic richness. Quite different in style to those from the Great Southern, this needs a little time to settle and express itself.

Leeuwin Estate  – Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – Art Series – 2010 (18+). This leads off with wine-making influences resulting from barrel fermentation and regular lees stirring. The wine is complex, savoury, dense and textured. The grassy fruit characters really make their presence felt on the palate. There is bright, lemony acid and creamy, subtle oak on a palate that is very long and refined. The semillon adds depth to the palate with lovely citrus fruit. This makes many White Bordeaux’s look quite ordinary.

Leeuwin Estate  – Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – Art Series – 2011 (17.5-18). Very fresh compared to the 2010. The palate is much more linear and quite lean at first, suggesting that an extra year or two in bottle will really help. Opens to show lovely floral fruit on both the nose and palate in a pretty package. The oak influence on the palate is very subtle and fine, and the lemony acid carries the finish. The wine sees 11 months in barrel with weekly lees stirring. 20% of the oak is new. Given the development of the 2010, this is likely to improve for 5 years and may hold for much longer.

Leeuwin Estate  – Chardonnay – Prelude – 2012 (18). Very pretty fruit that is quite forward and floral on the nose. The palate is surprisingly powerful and intense, balancing peach like fruit characters with minerals, flint, match-strike and creamy oak. There is excellent length and mouth-feel and the fruit flavours linger. This is drinking remarkably well now, but should age for several years if you can resist. Sees 40% new oak, the remainder being second use.

Leeuwin Estate  – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2002 (N.R.). Developing, but still fresh. This was quite subdued on the nose, but opened with air. The palate is very powerful, with grapefruit followed by lovely stone-fruit and powerful minerality.  This gives way to a rich buttery finish. Delicious now.

Leeuwin Estate  – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2005 (18.7). Wow! This is lovely. An absolutely superb wine of great power and intensity, yet this has elegance and finesse. Superb length of flavours on a palate that is seamless and complete. There is still vibrant acidity that will ensure a very long life and the palate evolves for some time. A great wine from a perfect vintage.

Leeuwin Estate  – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2006 (17.9). This is quite different to the 2005, with a leaner fruit profile. The oak is just a little bit toastier than the 2005 and the palate more developed. A lovely wine that has excellent length and powerful fruit. For me, I would drink the 2006 now while waiting for the 05.

Leeuwin Estate  – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2009 (18/18.5). Restrained fruit that is subtle and refined showing hints of minerals, citrus and stone-fruit. There is still the tremendous power to the fruit that I have come to expect, but this is still quite tightly coiled and shy. With time though, this will unwind and develop into a superb wine. The creamy, tight, fine oak provides a seamless backdrop to the pristine fruit. The potential is evident. A sleeper.

Leeuwin Estate  – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2010 (18.9). This wine screams class right from the outset. So where to begin? The nose is tight, fine, reserved, elegant and creamy, with stone-fruit (nectarine) and citrus highlights. The palate is incredibly long, supple and refined, with the fruit characters evident, but not obvious. There is a subtly to this wine that is disarming, given the amazing length and intensity of the fruit. This is a truly great wine that needs 5 years to open up and will last for 15 years.

Leeuwin Estate  – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Prelude – 2010 (18). Vibrant red fruits on the nose. The palate has blackcurrant, spice, tobacco leaf and subtle, cedary oak. There are even hints of licorice and the texture is excellent. This really builds in the glass and shows excellent structure, with the tannins providing a textural backdrop to the quality fruit. Delicious now, but will age for 5 – 10 years.

Leeuwin Estate  – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 2008 (18.3).  Opens with aromas of mint, gentle eucalypt, spice and a touch of cedary oak. The palate has red and blackcurrant fruit of tremendous depth and intensity. The power is evident, but like the chardonnay, this is tight and restrained, needing time to really show its best. There is almost a touch of cassis, but this complements the berry characters rather than dominates them. The cabernet comes from unirrigated, 40 year old vines. Significant attention is given to canopy management to ensure ripeness without losing elegance.

Leeuwin Estate  – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 2009 (18.5). This is an interesting contrast to the 2010. This is all about structure and texture, rather than overt fruit flavours. The balance is excellent, with the fruit flavours hidden in the structure. Nothing out of place, but this is a reserved wine built for the long hall. In many ways, this is very much like fine Bordeaux. Superb.

Leeuwin Estate  – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 2010 (18/18.5). Beautiful ripe fruit on the nose. The palate is deliciously juicy, with remarkably concentrated fruit sitting under the youthful exuberance. The balance is spot on, but at this early stage of its life, the acid sits on top of the fruit on the finish. The oak is very fine and supple providing excellent texture without adding obvious flavour. Will be superb.

Leeuwin Estate  – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 2011 (18 – 18.5). The nose on this is amazing. It is an absolutely complete package. There is ripe fruit, but you can almost smell the textural components that add complexity. The palate is balanced, fine, refined and delicious. This is remarkably approachable now, so many will not get to see how this will develop. Start saving, as this will not be released for a year or two.

Leeuwin Estate  – Shiraz – Art Series – 2010 (18+). Closed and tight, reflecting the power and balance that the 2010 wines from Leeuwin are all showing. Pepper and spice on a palate that is tight and structured, with clever oak use. The finish is almost chewy but still supple and very long. A wine of power but in a cooler climate package. Not to be underestimated. (The vines for this were planted in 1997).



Penfolds: 2013 Bin Release

Perth: 18 February 2013

The Trustee Bar & Bistro

The title of this event is a little confusing, as there was no wines from 2013 on show. The releases were from 2010 – 2012 and represent the latest installment of these iconic Penfolds red wines.

It was with some excitement that I approached this event, as several of the wines being shown were from the 2010 vintage. This has proven to be a superb vintage in all the main wine-growing regions in South Australia. Andrew Baldwin, red winemaker at Penfolds was in Perth for the event, to talk us through the wines.

Firstly, as you would expect, the wines from 2010 were outstanding. Whilst still trademark Penfolds in style, the finesse and balance of the wines were a highlight. Secondly, the tasting highlighted to me how important it is to serve wine at an appropriate temperature.

Summer in Perth is a challenging time to serve red wines as room temperature is often too warm to really appreciate fine red wine. It is often quoted that 18 – 20 degrees is the ideal temperature to serve red wines which is a lot cooler than my house for example.

I leave my red wines in the cellar for as long as possible and will pop them in to the fridge from time to time during dinner, just to drop the temperature a few degrees. When a red gets a bit warm, it loses its finesse and balance, and the alcohol tends to become a bit obvious.

And so it was with the wines at this tasting. Transporting wines on a hot Perth afternoon is a challenge. When the wines were served they were a little warm which flattened their perfume and elegance. Fortunately the air conditioner in the restaurant was working a treat, which dropped the temperature quite quickly. It was however, my good friend John Jens, who chilled a few bottles in ice-buckets to give me wines to taste at an optimal temperature.

This tasting comes with a few caveats. The usual one applies about this not being a blind tasting, so my points are best used as a guide. Secondly, this was a dinner, so my note-taking was a little impaired. Finally, Andrew was an excellent host, making it difficult to disagree with what he was saying 🙂

Seriously though, the wines and food were excellent and I am grateful to Penfolds and The Trustee for hosting the event.


Penfolds — Riesling – Bin 51 – 2012 (18). From a superb year in the Eden Valley, this is lovely wine. Lime juice and lemon zest are the dominant fruit characters, with a steely minerality providing the structure and cut-through. Seamless, delicious and very age-worthy.

Penfolds – Pinot Noir – Bin 23 – 2012 (17.5). This wine probably suffered the most from being a touch warm. On the nose, this was earthy and dense, with almost chocolate like aromas of strawberry fruit. On the palate this is quite earthy, with forest floor and dark cherry characters. From the Adelaide Hills, the wine gets deluxe treatment (Hand picked, refrigerated transit, cold soaking with extended maturation and 9 months on lees). Hand made by Peter Gago, this is more Central Otago in style than Burgundy for example.

Penfolds – Shiraz/Grenache/Mataro – Bin 138 – 2011 (17.5 – 18). Fresh, succulent fruit with red berries over plum and fragrant spice.The fruit is leaner than the 2010’s but there is lovely structure and excellent length. There is a higher percentage of shiraz (65%) this year due to the difficulty of fully ripening the Grenache and Mataro. This is an elegant expression of Barossa fruit, and is a lovely wine. (Drink now – 2020).

Penfolds – Shiraz – Bin 128 – 2011 (17). Trademark Penfolds nose combining succulent fruit and sweet (though subtle) oak. The palate is also trademark Penfolds, but in a lighter, more elegant style. With air, this develops lovely spicy notes that carry through to the palate. Whilst this will probably age well for a few years, my preference would be to drink it over the next 2- 3 years. (Coonawara).

Penfolds – Shiraz – Bin 28 – 2010 (18). Fragrant sweet fruit over complex tobacco aromas and hints of coconut from the oak. The palate is dense, tight, structured and long. The fruit here is initially bright and fresh, with red berries, plum, cinnamon, spice and chocolate highlights. The polished tannins are a real highlight. (Drink: Now to 2030).

Penfolds – Cabernet Sauvignon – Bin 407 – 2011 (18). Excellent quality fruit on display that is quite dense and opulent. There is obvious blackcurrant aromas over chocolate and cedar. Whist the length is excellent the fine tannins are plentiful and shut the fruit down somewhat on the finish. Primarily from Coonawara, Wrattonbully, Robe, McLaren Vale and Padthway, this sees some new French and American oak as well as first and second use barrels. A riper style, yet beautifully balanced.(Drink to 2030+).

Penfolds – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz – Bin 389 – 2010 (18.5). This is a superb wine! Lovely sweet fruit that shows fragrant perfume from the cabernet, over rich red fruit from the shiraz. The palate is long, supple and savoury, with the oak seamlessly integrating into the fruit. Textured and structured, the tannins are very fine and add depth to the finish. A delicious wine that is beautiful now, but will age superbly. (Drink 2025 – 2035).

Penfolds – Shiraz – Bin 150 – 2010 (18.5). From a single sub-region in the Barossa, this is another superb wine. A big, bold shiraz that is structured and has excellent texture. Still, this retains a degree of elegance and the balance is a highlight. This was served with a smoky beef rib and the flavour match was inspired. This is probably the best wine in the range and with time, I am sure that the fruit characters will more fully express themselves. One for the patient! (Drink 2025 – 2035).

Xavier Bizot’s Selection

3 August 2011

Xavier Bizot has an illustrious pedigree when it comes to wine. His family owns Bollinger, and his father-in-law is Brian Croser of Petaluma fame.

Xavier was at Lamont’s in Cottesloe to showcase a cross-section of the wines that he distributes in Australia. The range consists of imported wines and the wines made by Brian Croser under the Tapanappa label. This is an idiosyncratic range, but there is an obvious focus on producing stylish, refined wines from carefully selected sites.

Please note that the majority (I think all) of the wines were sealed with a cork. Also, this was not a blind tasting, so my points are only preliminary.

A special thanks to John Jens and the team at Lamont’s. Not only was the function superbly run, it delivered extraordinary value!


Domaine Marcel Deiss – Pinot Blanc – 2009 (17.5). Dry and austere on the nose, though there are obvious varietal and regional characters. Think slate and a touch of mineral. There are floral hints on the palate, but this is all about texture. Rich, round, viscous and even a touch oily. The length is a standout, aided by a touch of residual sugar to flesh out the palate. Sat well alongside some scallops.

Domaine Marcel Deiss – Premier Cru – Burg – Single Vineyard – 2003 (17-18). Aromatic, even Sauternes like aromas. Powerful fruit notes with lychees, tropical fruits and a touch of rose. The palate is very textured and viscous, without the oiliness of the pinot blanc. This is a high impact, turbocharged wine of some charm. The botrytis component turns the dial up to 11! A wine to taste on its own perhaps. The wines from Deiss focus on the vineyard perhaps more than the grapevine. They are using numerous clones of the various grapes, but also blending different varieties (13 in this case) when producing their single vineyard wines.

Tapanappa – Chardonnay – Tiers Vineyard – 2008 (18+). Tight, austere and elegant. There is creamy fruit on the nose, with lees and very fine oak highlights. Excellent palate that is expansive yet full of nervous energy. This is modern and very tight. The palate has some pineapple, melon and lemon fruit characters. Fine and elegant, with a tangy finish courtesy of the lemony acid.

Tapanappa – Chardonnay – Tiers Vineyard – 2007 (17-18). Quite a different style to the 2008. The fruit was initially very subdued, with the medium toast oak providing the dominant flavours and aromas. This really opened up in the glass displaying powerful fruit that soaked up the oak. Very powerful and complex. Most people preferred this wine, though I would rather drink the 2008.

Chateau Pierre Bise – Cabernet Franc/Merlot – Anjou Villages – Sur Schistes – 2009 (17). Floral fruit, though the structural components are never far away. Savoury, sappy, long and juicy, this is an interesting wine that has seen no oak. From the Loire.

Ceretto – Barolo DOCG – Zonchera – 2007 (18+). This is a lovely wine. Cherry and savoury notes that are fine and balanced. The palate has plenty of tar, leather and spice. The mouth-feel is tight and restrained due to the (very fine and supple) tannins. The finish is somewhat grippy right now, but the balance is spot on. The length of the finish is a feature. Give it 5 – 10 years to open up a little.

Tapanappa – Merlot – Whalebone Vineyard – 2003 (17 – 17.5). Perfumed nose redolent of violets. The palate has cedar, plum and floral notes. The tannins are still remarkably firm, though they are supple enough to make this a good drink. Needs years more to show its best.

Tapanappa – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz – Whalebone Vineyard – 2006 (17 – 18). I struggled to understand this wine at first as it was very closed and tight. The sweet, ripe fruit really builds and the textured finish is fine and savoury, with a souring finish. Points awarded for potential.

Tapanappa – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz – Whalebone Vineyard – 2004 (18+). This wine had to compete with the aromas of a superb Wagyu steak. The fruit shows chocolate, leather and spice, with tight knit oak in support. This has lovely mouth-feel and excellent length. It is supple, textured and quite delicious. A quality wine!

Francois Lumpp – Givry AOC – Pied de Clou – 2009 (17). Quite shy, with delicate fruit. This has been well made. Sympathetic winemaking allows the fruit to shine, as the oak is only secondary and the tannins are nicely polished. Good short term drinking.

Domaine du Clos de Tart – Pinot Noir – 2008 (NR). How do you point a wine that is so unique. From a single monopole vineyard, Clos du Tart is the name of the winery, the vineyard AND the appellation. Created in the 12th century, the vineyard has only had three owners in its history. Destined to live for many years, this is hard to appraise now as the wine is very closed… Herbal, savoury and a touch stalky, this is tight, focused and very long. Spicy notes (clove and cinnamon) dominate the palate. The tannins impart a talcum powder like effect on the finish.

Chateau Pierre Bise – Chenin Blanc – Coteaux du Layon – Rouannieres – 2009 (17.7+). Fresh and vibrant nose with floral soap/talc aromas. The palate is intensely sweet and concentrated. The palate is viscous, rich and oily, with ground almond and cashew nut textural components. There is 220grams/litre of residual sugar, though the refreshing acidity prevents this from getting too cloying in the mouth. Delicious.

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.