Tag Archives: Merlot

Cabernet and Friends

New Release

Reviewed: 6 January 2013

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cabernet and 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 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 Merlot

23 March 2010

What does a good merlot taste like?

This is a question that I have asked myself many times. In Australia, merlot is as much a descriptor of a style of wine as it is a reference to a grape variety. Merlots (and cabernet/merlot blends) have a reputation amongst wine drinkers as being softer and easier drinking than wines labelled Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wineries have realised that the consumer is looking for a particular style in these wines and have moved further towards these softer, easier to drink styles. In this week’s panel tasting, we looked at a cross section of cabernets and merlots. There were two pairs of wines that demonstrated the styles that I have been describing.

The Castelli merlot is an excellent example of the easy drinking style. The wine has high quality fruit and excellent winemaking. The Heggies merlot is made in completely different style. This is a very structured wine that will benefit from many years in the cellar. The wines are chalk and cheese in style, yet both are very good examples of the merlot. I still do not know what a merlot is supposed to taste like, but these are fine examples!

The two wines from Juniper Estate further illustrated these stylistic differences. The cabernet/merlot is forward and fruit driven, while the cabernet sauvignon is structured and quite tannic. Drink the blend while you wait for the straight varietal. Obviously, this style difference is a generalisation with wines like the Cullen’s cabernet/merlot not fitting the easy drinking style.

Finally, there were a few standout wines. The Houghton Gladstone 2004 is a superstar, a spectacular wine in anyone’s language. This wine is expensive, and it deserves to be so. At the other end of the price spectrum, the Houghton “Stripe Range” cabernet/merlot and the Wynns cabernet/shiraz/merlot are fantastic wines for the price. These wines will be discounted to $8 and $12 respectively. Neither wine tastes cheap and both significantly over deliver in quality.


Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstone – 2004 (18.5). More mint and a touch of eucalypt to what is a serious wine. Powerful fruit is balanced by fresh acidity and a fine tannin structure. Yes, there is some new oak, but it really only plays a support role. Chewy finish adds to the palate. Give it 5-10 years.

Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstone – 2005 (18+). Amazing nose on this with ripe fruit, chocolate and coffee. Well made wine with a silky mouth feel. The structure is tight and fine and this wine is at the start of its life. Not yet released and will need several years to come out of the shadows of the 2004.

Heggies – Merlot – 2007 (18). Dusty, dense and briary on the nose, this is a serious wine that demands attention. The palate is big, rich and brooding with layers of dense fruit complemented by cedary oak. The long finish has balance. This is a masculine wine that demands aging. One for the aficionados. (RRP $40).

Higher Plane – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2007 (18). Wow, lovely wine with some tobacco leaf over ripe, structured fruit. Dense and deep, this has great line. The palate is seamless and whilst not a huge wine, there is great structure that ensures a long future. Excellent fruit quality and high class oak need time to mesh completely.

Castelli – Merlot – 2008 (17.8). The nose is dense, sweet and ripe. The fresh red fruit characters come to the fore. The palate is flooded with red currant, spice and a touch of vanilla and cedar to close. This is really silky and supple with fine tannins on a long finish. There is enough structure to please the enthusiast and take some bottle age. I challenge anyone not to like this wine. (RRP $25).

Wynns – Cabernet/Shiraz/Merlot – Red Stripe – 2008 (17.7). Closed and dumb nose hint at potential. There is ripe fruit on the palate, with redcurrants and spice. Fine tannins complement the finish. Good mouth-feel with structure that builds in the glass. A pretty wine that will look good for many years. A bargain!

Juniper Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2007 (17.5). Dense, ripe fruit with dusty complexity. Some cedar and even cigar box over lovely blackcurrant fruit. The palate is structured, grippy and firm, with oak tannins overwhelming the fruit right now. Will open and improve with time, but drink the blend now.

Houghton – Cabernet/Merlot – Stripe Range – 2008 (17). Quite serious fruit here with minty eucalypt fruit that appears ripe. The silky mouth-feel defines a palate that shows blackcurrant and spice. There is a touch of chocolaty complexity on the finish of what is a balanced and well-made wine. A bargain!

Voyager – Cabernet/Merlot – Girt By Sea – 2008 (16.8). Some dusty cabernet characters with some capsicum and spice. Quite an herbal palate, with hints of red fruits. Dusty finish. Well made with varietal expression and should improve in the short term.

James Oatley – Cabernet Sauvignon – Tic Tok – 2008 (16.8). Much more forward and fruit driven style. Bright red fruits with a hint of ribena. Follows on the palate with fine fresh fruits and a touch of strawberry even. A commercial style that is easy to drink.

Juniper Estate – Cabernet/Merlot – Juniper’s Crossing – 2008 (16.7) Forward and fruity nose, with some raspberry characters. The palate initially pleases with forward red fruit, but there is enough structure to keep things interesting.