Tag Archives: Cabernet Sauvignon

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.

Cracking Cabernets

Last Sunday Tasting Group

Reviewed: 27th May 2012

As many of you know, this is my favourite wine-related activity each month. Good wine, good food and great friends!

This month was my turn to host the event and with winter on its way, I thought it time to move to more structured red wines i.e. Cracking Cabernets! As is often the case with tasting older wines, cork related problems ruined several of the wines. Once again, I say a prayer of thanks for the humble screw cap.

The highlight of the tasting was the 2003 Gladstone by Houghton. A spectacularly good wine that will put many Bordeauxs costing hundreds of dollars a bottle to shame. Also worthy of mention are the wines from Vasse Felix, Leeuwin Estate, Moss Wood, Katnook and Leasingham.


Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstone – 2003 (18.6). Undoubtedly the star of the tasting. This wine was so good that my tasting notes were reduced to a series of descriptors! Silky, ripe, supple and fine, this is high quality, yet still youthful. Very long and fine, this is all about elegance. Excellent fruit quality that has been superbly handled. Seamless and silky, with succulent fruit to close.

Moss Wood – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2008 (18.5). Delicious nose, delicious palate! Textured, long and very persistent, with mint and eucalypt fruit notes with hints of vanillin oak. This is youthful, fresh and destined for a very long life.

Katnook – Cabernet Sauvignon – 1998 (18.4). Gorgeous nose that speaks of quality Coonawara fruit. Lovely menthol over chocolate fruit, with silky tannins that hold the palate together perfectly. Fully mature but will drink for years.

Leasingham – Cabernet Sauvignon – Classic Clare – 1996 (18.3). Mint and eucalypt fruit that is perfectly ripe. This is a very intense wine with inky, almost chocolate fruit. Very intense wine with mouth-watering acidity. Youthful and taut, this will live for years, so have it with food if you must drink it now.

Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 1995 (18.2). Menthol and chocolate on what is a very complex wine with excellent length of flavours. Textured and delicious, the tannins are a mere memory on the round and developed palate.

Vasse Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2001 (18.2). Cool fruit characters. Firm, but the developed notes are very attractive. Polished tannins are fine and silky. Quite linear in the mouth and a touch angular but really opens up in the glass. Decant to serve.

Clos du Marquis – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2008 (18). Serious fruit on the nose and palate. The intensity is a standout. Very long and textured, with no rough edges. More developed than the Moss Wood.

Penfolds – Cabernet Sauvignon – 707 (18). A very convincing wine. Real depth to the fruit and excellent length. This is fully developed, round and generous with textured chocolate fruit. Delicious.

Piaggia de’Colli – Cabernet Franc – Toscana – 2006 (18). Complex wine reminiscent of fine Bordeaux. The palate is bigger and richer than I expected. Chocolate oak, powerful fruit and firm tannins make for a meal in itself. Chewy finish to a superb wine.

Grosset – Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc – 2008 (17.5). A Lovely wine that is just entering its drinking window. Rightly considered one of Australia’s best examples of the blend, though noticeable different to the Western Australian style.

Orlando – Cabernet Sauvignon – St Hugo – 1996 (17). I was not as enthusiastic as some, but a very good wine.

Matanzas Creek – Cabernet Sauvignon – Sonoma County – 2001 (16). Coffee, toffee and chocolate. A very interesting wine that provides drinking pleasure, but has a quite medicinal nose.

Chateau Gloria – Bordeaux – 1995 (NR). Another stuffed cork.

Chateau D’angudet – Cabernet Sauvignon – Margeaux – 1982 (N.R.).

Virgin Hills – Red Blend – 1999 (N.R.). Two bottles and two bad corks.

Wendoorie – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – 1998 (NR). Shame about the cork!

Cabernet Sauvignon – New Release

Reviewed: 25th May 2012.

A real mix here, though some very worthwhile wines. The picks for me came from Juniper Estate and Higher Plane, though the Ringbolt may turn out to be the best value down the track.


Juniper Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (18.1). Serious fruit on the nose that is intense, focused and balanced. Cedary oak makes the palate muted at present, but this should evolve. Very structured and tight, with quality fruit, wine-making and oak but be very patient.

Higher Plane – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (18). Interesting nose showing hints of plum and spice. The palate has excellent acidity and fine tannins making the finish quite lively. Not much primary fruit at this point in its development, so an excellent food wine in a European style. Will get better in time.

Frankland Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Isolation Ridge – 2010 (17.7+). Attractive, elegant and refined, with lovely red fruits and a hint of cherry. The fruit has been expertly handled in the winery so that the delicate fruit has not been swamped by winemaking inputs. Easy to drink now, but will be even better in 5 -10 years.

Ringbolt – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (17.5+). Plenty of minty fruit here. On the palate there is slightly chewy fruit though the oak and fruit tannins totally shut down the palate. I need to see this again as it is no doubt high quality, it just does not show well today.

Angove – Cabernet Sauvignon – Vineyard Select – 2010 (17+). Cassis, intense fruit and menthol on the nose. Textured, ripe and complex, with a very long palate. Excellent oak use adds depth to the palate. A touch of eucalypt to close, but no green flavours. Lovely mouth-feel and texture to a quality wine.

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon – Next of Kin – 2009 (16.9). A pretty wine, with vanilla bean over redcurrent. The flavour profile matches the nose and the texture is first-rate.

Chalk Board – Cabernet Sauvignon – Coonawara – 2010 (16.8). Well rounded wine with no rough edges. Blackcurrant fruit with hints of cedar and spice. The palate is mouth-filling and the succulent fruit builds intensity over time. Excellent tannin structure makes for a lovely wine. (Made by Penley Estate).

Drakesbrook – Malbec – Wild Bird – 2011 (16.8+). Pristine and bright fruit, with a degree of focus. The palate has real depth to the fruit and the winemaking (oak) is sympathetic. Popular with the entire panel, this took a couple of days to really open up and will be better in a few years.

De Bortoli– Merlot – La Bossa – 2010 (16.2). Fleshy fruit on the nose, with plum aromas. Juicy and plump palate with reasonable length and no oak to speak of. Easy drinking and good value.

Haut Bardin – Bordeaux – 2010 (16). Nothing wrong here, it is just that I do not get anything specific.

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.

Cabernet Sauvignon

New Release Wine Reviews

Reviewed: 27 December 2011

The highlight for me of this tasting was the O”Leary Walker cabernet. An excellent wine that should be widely available for around $20.


Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 2007 (18.2). Cooler region fruit on a restrained and taut nose. On the palate, this really starts to sing. There are layers of fruit combined with excellent winemaker’s inputs. This is very complex and very long, with the density of fruit a standout. The palate is refined and relatively understated now, with cedary textural notes dominating the finish. Give it ten years to see it blossom. The excellent fruit quality and winemaking provide superb length.

Deep Woods – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 2009 (18). Nice wine this. Silky, ripe and perfumed fruit on the nose combine with red fruits/berries and a seamless, silky, textured and evolving finish. This has high class fruit and oak combined with excellent winemaking. This is a classy wine that, whilst very easy to drink, is very complex and age-worthy.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Abercrombie – 2009 (18). Closed. This has refined fruit, combined with excellent winemaking. Great length and a superb finish. The wine really persists in the mouth. Very refined, this needs 10 – 20 years to hit its peak.

O’Leary Walker – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (18). Excellent Clare Valley fruit on display here. A combination of cooler, minty fruit characters combined with lovely ripe fruit and tannins. This is a very classy wine. Powerful fruit dominates a multifaceted and evolving palate. There are plenty of fine tannins, but these frame the fruit beautifully. A mouth-filling, succulent wine that is a relative bargain.

Stella Bella – Cabernet Sauvignon – Suckfizzle – 2008 (18). Much cooler region fruit here, with eucalypt, tomato leaf and herbal aromas over silky fruit. The palate has fine/refined fruit of real quality. The feature for me was the refined tannins. There is no hint of greenness and they are very silky, conferring a near seamless finish. This is a very elegant wine that is typical of the style. If you like bordeaux…

Ferngrove – Malbec – 2009 (17.8). Savoury fruit with overtones of spice and earth. Follows on the palate with dense chocolate and tar flavours that coat the mouth. There are also classic insecticide notes on the finish too (trust me, this is an appealing minty character). This is quite a serious wine, with solid fruit and excellent winemaking. A silky finish courtesy of fine tannins makes this easy to enjoy now, but give it 5+ years to see it at its best.

Vasse Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (17.5+). This is a wine in two parts. A straightforward, though appealing wine up front, with juicy fruit and refreshing acidity, making this a good early drink. With time and air though, the quality shone through. Quality fruit and winemaking with the structure in place to age gracefully for many years. A refined wine of some class.

Kingston Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Echelon – 2005 (17.4). A touch of development on show, making this more approachable. Dense, ripe fruit that is very textured and layered. Whilst the wine has started to soften, this is a big wine that is multifaceted. Mint and blackcurrant flood the palate, combined with ample fine tannins. Whilst not classical cabernet, this will make a great winter red over the next five years. Should be good value.

Faber Vineyard – Petit Verdot – 2010 (17). Real depth to the fruit, showing mulberry and blackcurrant. Finishes quite savory and the length is good. A well made wine of some charm and reasonable complexity. Drink now to five years.

Ferngrove – Cabernet Sauvignon – Symbols – 2009 (17). Another lovely nose, with mint and eucalypt up front. Attractive fruit on the palate with fresh acidity dominating the finish at present. May improve in the short term and represents excellent value.

Laurance – Merlot – 2007 (16.7). A well made wine with juicy, plum like fruit. Not overblown, this straddles the boundary between fleshy and structured, making for a good drink now.

Shingleback – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009 (NS). Very appealing nose with vibrant fruit on display. Cedary oak and firm tannins dominate the palate now, but these are not overly aggressive. I would like to try this again in a year to see how it is developing so I have not pointed it yet.

Deep Woods – Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz – Ebony – 2010 (17). Plum, mulberry and mocha fruit characters combine with fine tannins and well judged oak to make this an enjoyable and appealing wine. Not as complex as the best wines here, this is, none the less, an excellent drink.

Cabernet (and Rose)

Cabernet (and Rose)

New Release

Reviewed: 20 November 2011

I have been lucky enough to drink some superb wines of late which has had me questioning the scores I give. To that end, I have adjusted my points for the lower end of the range.

So what does the change mean?

For a wine to score 15.5 and thus gain a bronze medal, the wine must be better than drinkable. It must have a degree of typicality and be well made using good quality fruit. At the top end, a gold medal (18.5) has not changed, whilst wines in between will be more spaced out.

As always, if you are reading about it in these pages, then I thought the wines were either good value or of good quality. In effect, I would be happy to have a glass of these wines.


Cape Mentelle – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc – Wilyabrup – 2009 (17.8). In a different league to everything else in the tasting. Tight and refined, with excellent fruit quality coming through. Really fine, the oak handling is spot on. This is very well made, though it needs time to open up. Has cedar, spice and hints of blackcurrant to the palate. Has great appeal, though another year or two in bottle would serve it well.

Stella Bella – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2007 (17.3). Lovely wine in a cooler climate package. Supple, elegant, refined and classy. Again, dark fruits, but this is a very subtle wine that needs time. Opens to show rich and quite dense fruit.

Frankland Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Isolation Ridge – 2009 (17). The fruit starts off very closed, but opens with lots of air. Lovely ripe redcurrant and hints of fresh plum. I like the finish on this wine, with cedary oak and very fine tannins. The length is impressive and the fruit really builds.

Capel Vale – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Debut – 2009 (16.8). Quite deep smelling and a touch masculine. Smart wine here, with hints of chocolate over dark fruits. Excellent structure for a relatively cheap wine and the tannins have been nicely managed. A good drink.

Angove – Rose – Nine Vines – 2011 (16.4). Outrageous colour. Deeper pink and more wine like than a lot of roses. Nice combination of fruit and acid, with nice structure. This is a dry style that would be great served chilled with a plate of antipasto.

West Cape Howe – Rose – 2011 (16). Actually has some structure, body and character. Not overly sweet, with a mouth-watering finish. Good wine that will take food.

Tyrell’s – Rose – Old Winery – 2011 (15.8). Sweet fresh fruit on the nose and palate. Not a bad drink as there is enough fruit to flesh out the palate.

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.


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