Reviewed – 7 October 2011
To celebrate their 175th birthday, the team at Houghton, led by Ross Pamment put on a tasting to showcase the quality of the wines. This involved a mini vertical tastings of the White Classic, followed by verticals of the Wisdom chardonnay, Gladstone cabernet and finally, every vintage of Jack Mann ever produced, including barrel samples of the 2010 and 2011.
The White Classic is probably the most amazing wine made in Western Australia. Its ability to age belies its humble origins. Here is a wine that often sells for less than $8.00 that benefits from 5 to 8 years in the cellar. Even on release, this is a wine that is very easy to like. For the record, it is a blend of chenin blanc/chardonnay/verdelho/semillon/muscadelle/riesling, the muscadelle coming from an old block at Moondah Brook.
The Wisdom (formerly Regional Collection) chardonnay comes from the Sterling Road vineyard in Pemberton.
The Gladstones comes from the Batley vineyard which is a mature, dry grown vineyard in Wilyabrup, planted in 1988. The exception is the 2002, the fruit for which came from the Woodlands vineyard.
The Jack Mann, like the man it is named after, is an icon. This wine is the flag bearer for all of the Frankland region. The fruit is sourced from the Justin vineyard, and the first vintage was 1994. Apparently, the vineyard was planted from cuttings from Houghton’s vineyards in the Swan Valley. The blend varies from year to year, though cabernet sauvignon is always the main grape, with small amounts of malbec +/- shiraz to fill out the wine.
We had the privilege of tasting every Jack Mann produced to date including barrel samples of the 2010 and 2011. There is no doubt in my mind, that Jack Mann is in the top five red wines produced in Western Australia.
A special thanks must go to Houghton for generously hosting this tasting.
Houghton – Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay/Verdelho/Semillon/Muscadelle/Riesling – White Classic – 2004 (18.2). Floral notes to start then lanolin, developed caramel and spice. Has some similarity to chablis. Developed on the palate. This is quite rich and spicy. Long and textured, there is musk, pear and incense to close. More chardonnay here than is usual.
Houghton – Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay/Verdelho/Semillon/Muscadelle/Riesling – White Classic – 2005 (17.8). Tighter and more linear on the nose, it is the palate where this shines. Generous, round and complex. This will be the last of the museum releases.
Houghton – Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay/Verdelho/Semillon/Muscadelle/Riesling – White Classic – 2006 (17.7). Really fresh, with lovely perfume. This has crunchy pear on the palate, but is very youthful and tight.
Houghton – Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay/Verdelho/Semillon/Muscadelle/Riesling – White Classic – 2011 (17.2). This is much more in the style of an SSB. Floral, citrus, zesty, delicious. Good length and balance. Smart wine. Some of the passionfruit/tropical characters will settle down in the bottle. Unbelievably good wine for the price.
Houghton – Chardonnay – Regional Collection – 2002 (17). Lovely developed nose, with rich, complex aromas. Plenty of lees and oak, but the butterscotch fruit still shows through. Nearing the end of its life, this is a nice drink. Oak is a defining feature. The chardonnay for Wisdom comes from the Sterling Road Vineyard.
Houghton – Chardonnay – Regional Collection – 2005 (17.7). Much more restraint and poise here. This is balanced and tight, with complex worked characters developing in the mouth. Really builds intensity with time. Lovely citrus notes to close. Deliciously delicate.
Houghton – Chardonnay – Wisdom – 2007 (18). The style keeps evolving and improving. This remains restrained, but the ripe fruit is more apparent. Subtle pineapple flavours combine with lanolin, struck match and flint. It is the mineral notes that leave a lasting impression on the finish. Drinking a treat!
Houghton – Chardonnay – Wisdom – 2009 (18.3). More fragrant and spicy on the nose. Seamless palate, with really fine fruit. This is superb. Complex and tight. Taut and linear at the moment, this has a long future. This saw nine months lees contact and the percentage of new oak has been wound back.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstones – 2002 (18). Wow. Spectacular nose. Developed leather and earth over mint and eucalypt. Yes, there are some red fruit flavours, but this has so much more. The palate has black fruits, though the chalky tannins still hold back the fruit. The fruit for this wine came from the Woodlands vineyard.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstones – 2003 (18). Reserved and tight. This has cedary oak and plenty of very fine tannins. Lovely red fruits here, but not as complex as the 2002. These wines are remarkably restrained and tight. They will live a long time.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstones – 2004 (18.3). A great effort for the year. Gorgeous nose that suggests a cooler vintage. Think menthol, eucalypt and spice. The palate is very spicy, with more of the menthol characters. There are hints of tobacco, tea leaf and silky tannins. Develops great texture. A joy to drink.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstones – 2005 (18.4). Reserved. A very tight and restrained wine that is seamless. Everything is in place, but it is oh so youthful. This has great similarity to top Bordeaux and less to do with “sunshine” wines. Hints of menthol, blackcurrant and cedar. The oak is very fine grained and adds a silky texture. The mouth-feel is spot on. Elegant!
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstones – 2007 (18.3). Much more fragrant fruit, reflecting the warmer year perhaps. Still shows restraint on the palate, but with much more fruit on show. The finish is still silky and tight, so I would like to see it again in a few years, but will not live as long as the 2008.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstones – 2008 (18.5). My favourite wine of the bracket. Gorgeous nose and palate. There is a degree of brightness here that is really appealing – there is almost a juiciness to the fruit. The length and mouth-feel are spot on as are the textural components. Chewy finish, but nothing is disjointed. The oak merely caresses the fruit. (Has a screw cap).
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 1994 (18.5). Leather, spice, menthol and licorice all in evidence on both the nose and palate. The wine is ripe, powerful, long and intense. Amazing length, in fact, an amazing wine that is at its peak.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 1995 (18.4). More of the leathery notes and some forest floor and spice. Supple and succulent, this finishes with lovely leather, nutmeg and almost a touch of mocha. Super fine and elegant.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 1996 (18.5). More restrained, with some mint and earthy notes. The palate is flooded with ripe fruit that is elegant and also shows supple cedary spice. Again, the length is a standout, and the slightly chalky tannins and (still) fresh acidity proved a counterpoint to the fruit. Bravo (15% shiraz).
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 1998 (NR). A lovely wine, but perhaps not the best bottle.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 1999 (17.5). What a contrast. This is remarkably floral and fragrant. Sweet, almost candied fruit floods the palate. The acidity and tannins shut down the finish, so ultimately, the balance is probably not where I would like it to be (given the company). 30% malbec and a different style.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 2000 (18.2). Super wine. This is more restrained than any of the previous wines to this point. Silky and supple, the velvety tannins and oak still dampen fruit expression. Elegant and beautifully weighted, this is on its way to being a star.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 2001 (18.4). Dumb, with menthol to the fore. Menthol and spice dominate the initial palate, though the extra-ordinarily fine tannins completely shut down the finish. Again, a great wine, but it needs another decade to show its best.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 2002 (18.5). More perfumed fruit. In fact, this is quite pretty. Touches of leather and spice on the palate are set against extra-ordinarily fine tannins. A special wine that is only part way through its life.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 2004 (18). More menthol and earthy notes here. Leathery fruit, with a touch of dried herbs and prune. Long and textured, the mouth-feel is excellent, though the finish is drying. 2% malbec. Really savoury finish that opens up with time in the glass. Is this your style?
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 2007 (18.2). Closed and tight. Classic cabernet fruit on the palate. This is just a baby, but it has great potential and some immediate appeal. Very silky tannins on the finish make this a great drink now, but that would be a shame. (Closed with a cork).
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 2007 (18.6). Remarkable contrast, with vibrant, youthful, red berries on the nose. Spectacularly good palate that has fresh red fruits and silky tannins. The oak is a mere hint in the background. Lovely texture and length. Super! (Closed with a screw cap).
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 2008 (18.7). More restrained and taut. Spectacular palate. This has coffee and tar, but there is a core of red fruits and the finish just goes on and on. I gave this 18.7 recently, and will not disagree this time.
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 2010 (18.5). Wow. One of the best Jack Mann to date? Amazing fruit on the nose. The palate is so complete, but very youthful. Again, the oak balance is superb. It is the length that is the stand-out. This was a barrel sample that did polarise, though I loved it!
Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec – Jack Mann – 2011 (18.5+). Hard to assess so young. Again, there is amazing fruit quality, though the textural components are still developing. Possesses a remarkable drinkability. Another great wine, but it will take a couple of years to know how great. Bench blend, so the final wine may be slightly different.