Australian Cabernet Sauvignon was centre-stage at a global comparative tasting of 12 different Cabernets, including wines from Bordeaux, Chile, California, South Africa and Tuscany. And, although Wine Australia which was hosting the event, said that there would be no winners, one could clearly see the quality and diversification of regional Australian Cabernets, writes chef and wine expert Roger Jones, with each region showcasing its unique quality and style, and showcasing to the global audience the quality of Australian Cabernet.
“An inspiring tasting, especially for those people who were not used to the quality and value of Cabernets from Australia,” says Jones.
With Australian Winemakers unlikely to visit the UK until this time next year, Wine Australia had the hindsight to set up Connect. This dynamic, virtual encyclopaedia of everything you need to know about Australian Wine is a masterpiece, allowing everyone to experience the Australian Wine scene from afar, but bringing it as close to reality as possible; both educational and inspiring, it’s a classic platform to help everyone through these challenging times.
A recent highlight from Australia Wine Connect was a ‘Global Comparative Tasting’ of Cabernet Sauvignon. This comparative tasting and discussion included guests from the USA, Canada, Germany and, of course the UK with an equally international expert panel – Mary Gorman-McAdams MW (USA), John Szabo MS (Canada) and our very own super wine hero; Oz Clarke OBE. The event was hosted by Mark Davidson, head of wine education for Australia in North America.
Prior to being led through the Australian Cabernet stars, we were given a blind tasting of international Cabernets to give the participants an insight into the variances and styles of quality Cabernets. These were Vilafonte Series C 2018 from Stellenbosch, South Africa, Don Melchor 2017 from Chile, Chateau Montelena 2016, Napa, Isole e Olena ‘Collezione Privata” 2015, Tuscany and Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron Pauillac 2015 from Bordeaux.
These wines (with the exception of the more expensive Bordeaux) were selected for their price in comparison to the Australian samples. Of course all these wines, including the Australian wines, are relatively young so it was essential to have a decent Bordeaux glass for each of the samples and allow them to grow in the glass.
My two international favourites were:
The South African; Vilafonte Series C 2018 (a wine that I have know for many years, and still have the inaugural 2003 release in my cellar), ripe and opulent, polished with a dusty/savoury background, fresh acidity, quite stunning after being opened for an hour. 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 14% Malbec, 11% Cabernet Franc.
And the Italian; Isole e Olena “Collezione Privata” 2015, which I had recently tasted (2016 vintage) at a Liberty on-line tasting in April, savoury and spiced with a luscious fruit-forward midriff, hints of eucalyptus, minerals and vanilla freshness. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot/Merlot.
Both these wines really highlighted the quality of Cabernet that can be sourced outside Bordeaux.
Each panelist introduced their regional heroes, and gave an insight into the regional variances, and their own interpretation of each wine. As this was a comparative tasting we were advised that there would be no winners as such but, of course, Australia was clearly ‘the winner’ where one could clearly see the quality and diversification of regional Australian Cabernets, each region showcasing its unique quality and style, and showcasing to the global audience the quality of Australian Cabernet.
Here are my thoughts on each wine:
Wynns Coonawarra Estate ‘Black Label’ Coonawarra, 2015
By far the best value of all the wines tasted, the price defies the quality that oozes from this blackcurrant, plummy, minty, black olive and black pepper-focused wine selling at below £30 a bottle. A masterclass in quality and value, showcasing what Coonawarra excels in. 100 % Cabernet Sauvignon.
Balnaves of Coonawarra ‘The Tally’ Coonawarra, 2015
Gently perfumed, there is a savoury streak, balanced by the sour blackcurrant and sweet liquorice. The tannins need time to evolve to allow the wine to come out of hiding. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Yarra Yering ‘Dry Red Wine No. 1’ Yarra Valley, 2015
Perfumed, liquorice, violets, some greenness and saline, evolves on the palate with a ripe richness, lots of delicate tannins at work. 70 % Cabernet Sauvignon, the balance from Malbec, Merlot and a small amount of Petit Verdot.
Mount Mary ‘Quintet’ Yarra Valley, 2015
Wow what a wine, a classic Mount Mary, dark juicy fruit, luscious, brambles, savoury with a gentle herbaceous, stunning medley of precise berry fruit, pretty seamless. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot.
Cullen Wines ‘Diana Madeline’ Margaret River, 2015
Gentle aromatics, complex and layered, delicate and fine fruit, with perfect acidity. Fresh cassis with those sea breeze aromatics, hints of cedar spices – a wine to age, superb. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec.
Vasse Felix ‘Tom Cullity’ Margaret River, 2015
Bright red cassis, clean tobacco and spice, cedar, richly spiced, plums, tea and teak, still evolving. 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot.
Henschke ‘Cyril Henschke’ Eden Valley, 2015
Savoury, dark meat, ripe, toffee, coffee, blackcurrant, rich and lots of depth but has that perfect balance. A multi-berry infusion; mulberries, red and blackcurrants, with blueberries. Certainly one of the most popular wine of the tasting by the rest of the audience. 99% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc.
So in conclusion…
An inspiring tasting, especially for those people who were not used to the quality and value of Cabernets from Australia, the masterclass lasted over an hour and a half and had a global audience enjoying and lapping up not only Oz Clarke’s enthusiasm but the sheer elegance and finesse of these New World wines, a fabulous shop window for Australia’s new Connect platform.