Tag Archives: Great Southern

Western Australian Cabernet Sauvignon

Barry Weinman: 10th September 2015

Western Australian Cabernet Sauvignon

Western Australia and Margaret River in particular, has had a string of excellent vintages stretching back to 2007. Whilst there have been some year-to-year variations, the consistency has been remarkable. The question is whether there is one year in particular that is even better than the others?

A number of wineries believe that 2012 was a particularly Singlefile Cabernet Sauvignon 2013strong year. Others have suggested that their 2013s are even stronger.

In an effort to find out, the panel sat down to try a mix of wines from Western Australia to see if there were any obvious trends.

As to the outcome of the tasting, one thing is clear. There were a number of great wines from both 2012 and 2013. Remarkably, 9 of the 20 wines tasted made it to this review. Pick a good producer and you are sure to do well.


Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstones – 2013 (18.7). This is a lovely wine showing ripe, yet refined redcurrant and mint fruit notes. Gentle, balanced and with poise, the very fine fruit is perfectly matched to the winemaking inputs. The tannins are initially silky, but develop fine grippy notes to close. Good now, though this youthful wine will benefit from many years in the cellar. (RRP $85).

Vasse Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon – Heytesbury – 2012 (18.7). Dense, powerful fruit here on both the nose and palate. There is mint and gentle herbs over red berry fruit. The palate is chewy and textured, with quality oak highlights. Really builds in the glass. Very long and powerful, this needs years to be at its best. A great wine. (RRP $90).

Flametree – Cabernet Sauvignon – S.R.S. – Wilyabrup – 2013 (18.5+). The fruit on the nose is both supple and subtle. On the palate this really shines. Plush, perfectly ripe fruit is paired with supple oak and fine tannins. There is intrinsic power to the fruit, but this is refined and very approachable. Lovely mouth-feel combines with excellent length on this remarkable wine. (RRP $58).

Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 2012 (18.5+). Menthol and eucalypt, with a slight herbal tinge reflective of the relatively southern location of the vineyards. The palate shows fresh, bright fruit, with a savoury edge. The fine tannins, oak and acidity combine with the shutdown the fruit on the finish. Long, refined and age-worthy, with latent power. Give it at least 5 – 10 years, but will live for 20. (RRP $75).

Fraser Gallop – Cabernet Sauvignon – Parterre – 2012 (18.5) Menthol and red fruits, over spice highlights from the oak. The palate is fine, though quite closed initially. Silky and supple, with texturing oak and tannins. A wine of the highest quality that needs a few years to express itself fully. (RRP $45).

Woodlands – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Malbec – Margaret – Reserve – 2012 (18.5). Lovely fruit here. Gentle red and black berry characters over mint and spice. The palate is fruit forward, but the souring acidity keeps the whole package in check. Cooler region fruit that needs a few years to hit its straps. The fruit really builds on the palate and there is great length of flavours. A silky wine with the potential to age, there are similarities here to the fine wines of Bordeaux. (RRP $46).

Singlefile – Cabernet Sauvignon – Frankland River – 2013. (18 – 18.5). Less overt berry characters on the nose initially. The fruit on the palate is almost thick, with layers of generous black fruits over cedar and a hint of licorice/tar. The tannins are remarkably fine, dusting the finish and adding texture and depth. Almost seamless, this is very fine indeed and decent value. Now – 10 years. (RRP $37).Arivina Cabernet Ssauvignon 2012

Aravina Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 (18.2). Menthol is the defining character on the nose. This is rich and luxurious, with no rough edges. The palate transition is near seamless. With air, the blackcurrant (almost cassis) fruit starts to shine. The length is noteworthy. A generous wine that can be drunk anytime over the next 10 years.

Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Prelude Vineyards – 2012 (17.9). Bright fruit on the nose, in the red berry spectrum. The palate is fresh and lively, with the fruit the main attraction. Fine tannins, gentle oak and well judged acidity add to the drinking pleasure. With air, this gains more depth and structure, but is great drinking now. ($27.50 from the winery).

Ferngrove – Orchid Range – 2012 Reds

Ferngrove – Orchid Range – 2012 Reds

Reviewed by Barry Weinman

12th August 2015

In my article last year on Ferngrove, I commented that the quality of the wines continued to be very good under the new Chinese owners: https://finewineclub.com.au/2014/06/12/ferngrove-june-2014/

Fast-forward 12 months, and it’s now time to review the latest (2012) reds released under the Orchid range. I am pleased to say that the wines are as good (if not better) than 2011, with the Cabernet, in particular, showing very strongly.

Stylistically, it is important to note that Kim Horton and the team have made serious wines here. They are approachable now, but will be at their best with 5 – 10 years in the cellar. For wines of this quality, the $32 RRP seems very reasonable.

ReviewedFerngrove Majestic 2012

Ferngrove – Cabernet Sauvignon – Majestic – 2012 (18 – 18.5). Very deep smelling, with menthol, blackcurrant and lovely spice-like aromas. Dark fruits feature on the palate, complemented by texturing tannins and oak on a finish that is quite chewy. This is really closed and tight, though the length of flavours is commendable. The fruit quality is excellent, but this needs years to reach its peak. The fruit really opened up with a couple of days in the bottle. (RRP $32).

Ferngrove – Malbec – King – 2012 (17.5+). Plump, succulent fruit with licorice, spice and cedar notes. The palate is fresh, with the refined fruit giving way to tar, chocolate and spice flavours. The savoury tannins and oak add to the finish. Refined and a touch linear now, this will flesh out with a few years in the bottle. (RRP $32).

Ferngrove – Shiraz – Dragon – 2012 (18). Beautiful, elegant and almost delicate fruit on both the nose and palate. Very long, the finish is fine and near seamless. With an almost Burgundian structure, this will fill out and build across the palate with time in the bottle. With plenty of air, this develops red fruits and licorice, with savoury plum notes. Will soften in time. (RRP $32).


Chardonnay – New Release – May 2015

My love affair with Western Australian Chardonnay shows no sign of ending any time soon. Whether the fruit comes from Margaret River, Porongurup, Denmark or Mount Barker does not seem to impact on the quality. In fact, some, like Howard Park, blend fruit from several of these areas.

Interestingly, despite the climatic differences between these districts, this does not seem to directly translate into the wine style produced. Picking time and winemakers’ inputs also play a big role, along with clonal selection for the vineyards.

To keep the locals honest, I put a bottle of the Coldstream Hills Chardonnay into the tasting (Yarra Valley). This is a cracking wine and, at $25 on special from Vintage Cellars, represents very good value.

It was the wines of Howard Park and Singlefile that flew the flag admirably for the locals. This is the first time that I have seen both wineries’ new flagships


Howard Park – Chardonnay – Allingham – 2013 (18.5+). Cashew nut, lemon zest, grapefruit and spice, with complexity and structure from the fine-grained high quality oak. Fine acidity adds to the mouth-feel. The underlying power of the wine becomes apparent with air. This is a lovely, refined wine, with great depth of fruit and supple texture. A superb drink now or in 5+ years. (RRP $89).

Singlefile – Chardonnay – Family Reserve – 2014 (18/18.5). Complex, though subtle worked characters here. Minerals/curry leaf, partial malo, lees contact and quality oak all add to the package. The flavour profile matches the nose, with stonefruit, pineapple and citrus notes. Long and quite restrained, with nutty characters and apricot kernel astringency to close. An excellent wine that will be even better in 5 years. (RRP $50).

Singlefile – Chardonnay – The Vivienne – 2012 (18/18.5). A leaner, more restrained style that appears somewhat immature at this stage. Full of potential, the taut grapefruit and melon notes are the main flavours now. With air, the texture and lovely mouth-feel really shine, aided by deftly handled oak leading on to a very long, drying palate. Give it 5 years to see it at its best. (RRP $80).

Howard Park – Chardonnay – 2014 (18.3). Restrained and fine, though the high quality fruit and winemaking is evident. Pineapple like acidity carries the finish. Modern and lively, this is another wine that needs a few years to come into its own. That said, the balance and structure are exemplary. A complex, mouth-watering wine that needs time. (RRP $54).

Coldstream Hills – Chardonnay – 2013 (18). Youthful, almost zesty fruit gives way to complex fruit characters. The high quality oak adds depth and texture, yet is in no-way overt. Long and taut, this has excellent presence and mouth-feel, with drying acidity to close. A fine wine that will be best in 2 – 3 years, or with food now.

Marchand and Burch – Chardonnay – Porongurup – 2014 (18 – 18.5). This is a richly textured wine with great depth of fruit. Opens with lovely pineapple and stonefruit characters. The palate is very long, with savoury complexity and minerals becoming apparent on the finish. This is a very powerful wine that will be at its best in 3 – 5 years. (RRP $73).

Reviewed by Barry Weinman

Western Australian Cabernet Sauvignon

Reviewed: 27th March 2014

The dream run of vintages continues in the south west of Western Australia and the wines reviewed below deliver on the potential.

Of particular note was the Cullen Diana Madelaine.  Given the reputation of this producer, it is not surprising that it received gold medal points.  What was interesting however, was the way the wine presented.  Whilst recent vintages have been very austere, the 2012 is full of vibrant fruit.

Part of the story is told by the alcohol content.  At 13.5%, it is still at the lower end of Australian red wine, but it is at least a percent higher than the previous vintage.  Given the biodynamic nature of the vineyard, I assume that lunar cycle allowed for later picking dates than the year before.  Either way, the wine is a standout and can be enjoyed now or in 20 years.


Cullen – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc – Diana Madelaine – 2012 (18.5+).  Excellent depth here, with dark blackcurrant fruit that is rich, but not heavy.  The palate is silky and supple, with very fine tannins coating the tongue, but not interfering with the texture.  Excellent length and refinement on the finish.  A subtle wine, where the fruit is allowed to shine above the supple oak.  A lovely wine and the most accessible from Diana Madelaine for some years (13.5% alc).

Juniper Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (17.8).  More peppermint here, with ripe, cool fruit characters.  There are also hints of eucalypt.  This is a leaner example that is more akin to Bordeaux in style.  Good length, but needs some time to add flesh to the bones.  The finish is elegant and supple, with ripe tannins. (RRP $60).

Xabregas – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2011 (17.5 – 18).  Dense, dark fruits here.  Powerful and textured, with firm, yet fine tannins.  Prodigious length to the palate with blackberry and blueberry over savoury fruit.  The finish is incredibly long, the tannins drawing the palate to a close.  An intense wine that needs many years to show its best.  Worth a punt at around $30.

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2011 (17.5 – 18).  Lovely wine!  Combines ripe fruit with restraint and lovely texture.  A really complete wine that has sweet fruit, ripe tannins and supple texture on the finish.  Now or in 5 – 10 years. (RRP $30).

Flowstone – Cabernet Sauvignon/Touriga – 2009 (17.5).  An interesting blend that combines the minty cabernet with plump touriga fruit characters.  The nose has attractive, generous fruit that is ripe and rich, with some mocha notes.  Cedar, spice, camphor, mint, eucalypt and gentle, dried herbs evolve in the mouth.  A big style that will appeal to lovers of big, juicy reds.

West Cape Howe – Cabernet Sauvignon – Book Ends – 2011 (17.5).  Blackcurrant, plum and cherry fruit on the nose.  The palate is savoury and tight, with the acid and fine tannins effectively shutting down the fruit initially.  Opens to show nicely ripe fruit characters with decent depth. (RRP $28).

Willoughby Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2011 (17 – 17.5).  What this wine lacks in initial generosity, it makes up for in restrained elegance.  Classic cool-climate cabernet that has mint and eucalyptus over blackcurrant and plum fruit, with chocolate and cedary oak highlights.  Not overly dense, but an attractive wine that offers value. (RRP $22).

Chardonnay – New Release

Reviewed: 8th November 2013

This was a fascinating tasting that highlighted the quality and diversity of chardonnays being made in Australia.  From the taut austerity of the Devils Lair, the balance of the Frankland Estate, to the richness and depth of the Singlefile, they are all quality wines.

Interestingly, there were a couple of wines from 2013 in the tasting.  These have not been reviewed, as they were just too young to properly assess them at this point.


Devils Lair – Chardonnay – 2012 (18).  A very fine wine made in a lighter style.  The fruit has been picked early to retain freshness and vitality, though this comes at the cost of immediate drinkability.  There is no denying the quality of the  fruit, and this has been very well handled.  The key feature here is the excellent length and persistence.  This wine took four days to really open up and shine, so cellaring is recommended.

Singlefile – Chardonnay – Reserve – 2012 (18).  Wow, superb nose that has powerful fruit combined with complex winemaker’s inputs that adds a struck match character to the minerals and quality oak.  The palate is rich, dense and very long.  The oak sits well with the fruit, though a year or two should see this settle back a little and allow the fruit to really shine.  The finish is very long and complex, with curry leaf and spice to close.  Expensively made.

Frankland Estate – Chardonnay – Isolation Ridge – 2012 (17.9).  This wine takes the middle ground between the Devils Lair and Singlefile.  The fruit is attractive and well matched to the subtle winemaking notes.  Aroma wise, there is lemon, stonefruit, melon and a hint of tropical fruit.  The palate is supple, creamy and quite savoury.  The finish is very balanced and near seamless, though the acid cuts a swath through the creamy texture.  A smart wine that will be even better in 2 – 3 years.

Xanadu – Chardonnay – DJL – 2012 (17.4).  Fresh, vibrant and very smart.  A modern style that has a portion of earlier picked fruit to retain freshness.  Good quality fruit is matched by lovely, citrus-like acidity, with the oak adding texture to the palate.  Well made.

Willow Bridge – Chardonnay – G1-10 – 2012 (17.5).  Lovely wine this, in a subtly worked style.  There is excellent fruit and winemaking and quite a seamless finish.  The oak sits nicely with the fruit and adds texturally.  Good mouth-feel and length to close.


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.

Cabernet – New Release

Western Australia

Reviewed 6 July 2012

The standout wine from this tasting was the Pedestal cabernet sauvignon. Made by Larry Cherubino, this is an excellent wine that also represents great value with a RRP of $25. The Yard wines, also by Mr Cherubino, are also excellent, though they are not as approachable as the Pedestal right now.

Finally, the Stella Bella is a fantastic example of cool climate cabernet. The style will not appeal to everyone, but I love it.


Cherubino – Cabernet Sauvignon – The Yard – Pusey Rd Vineyard – 2010 (18). Lovely fruit on the nose and palate, though the fruit is somewhat subdued at present. The palate is very precise, with excellent line and length. There is a silky mouth-feel, with fine fruit (and oak) tannins that build in the mouth. Cedary oak rounds out the finish to what is an impressive wine. Will age well in the medium term. From Margaret River.

Cherubino – Cabernet Sauvignon – The Yard – Riversdale Vineyard – 2010 (18). Remarkably different fruit expression compared to the Pusey Rd Vineyard. The wine is lean and angular as the very fine fruit is very elegant, but not expressive now. This wine is in no way green, it is just not rewarding right now. . A finer style that will improve with years in the bottle. A complex wine that will reward extended cellaring. From Frankland River.

Pedestal – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2010 (18). I like this for its medium-bodied fruit and elegance. The nose is complex and evolving, with savoury accents to add interest. The palate is supple, long, elegant and balanced. This is quite restrained at present but is layered with complexity. Made by Larry Cherubino, this is an excellent wine and by far the best buy of the tasting at around $25.

Stella Bella – Cabernet Sauvignon – Serie Luminosa – 2009 (18). I like this. There is coffee and bitter chocolate over dark brooding fruit. There is obviously cooler climate fruit here as there are tomato leaf and eucalypt hints on the nose. Importantly, the fruit is perfectly ripe, albeit in a much cooler style. Cinnamon and spice from the high quality oak adds complexity to the finish. Age worthy.

Windows Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Basket Pressed – 2010 (17.8). A very complex nose! Licorice, cinnamon, spice and dark fruits all meld together to make a real impact. The palate is firm and a touch angular, but this promises a lot. The dark fruits build in the mouth, making this quite approachable now. I would like, however to give this 5 to 10 years to allow the multiple facets to come together into a great drink.

Fraser Gallop – Cabernet Sauvignon – Parterre – 2010 (17.5+). Enchanting nose that is full of red fruits, with complex forest floor characters over the top. The fruit on the palate starts off shy, but becomes quite juicy and mouth-watering with air. Fine tannins come through on the finish, though this suppresses the fruit now. Another good wine from this producer.

Xanadu – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Next of Kin – 2010 (17.3). Vibrant, lifted fruit on the nose. The palate has forward fruit, with souring acidity that adds freshness and life. This is a wine that really calls for food to bring out its best. Supple oak adds to the close. Fruit forward and good drinking.

Fraser Gallop – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2011 (17). I like this wine for its purity of fruit. The palate is medium-bodied, nicely textured and just a touch linear, but a few years should see it flesh out and develop more complexity. Points for potential and drinkability.

West Cape Howe – Cabernet Sauvignon – Book Ends – 2010 (17). This possesses a solid core of ripe fruit that tends towards plum with spice hints. The palate is supple and fine with tannins that add grip and help carry the finish. Good length, the plump fruit suggests a riper year for the region.

Houghton 175th Anniversary

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.

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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