It’s always fun benchmarking wines against the classics. Always. Even when the comparison ‘contender’ wine is shit, the tasting at least can be a good quality calibration exercise. Thankfully, the host of this Cabernet extravaganza – Xavier Bizot – makes wines that are not shit. Rather, his Terre à Terre releases continue to look good, even when put up against some real contenders (even Mouton second labels).
The inspiration of what to pitch his wines against this year came while pressing off the 2013. Enthused by how good it was, he went on a mission to compare it not against wines from the old world, but the best established wines of the new world.
The old of the new.
Xavier picked a few absolute classics in this lineup too, covering off wines that I’d naturally consider classics – like the Yeringberg – right through to a few intriguing new agitators (like the Twinwoods), in one high quality tasting.
The only qualms here lie in the underperformance – and questionable oak maturation – of the Coonawarra wines. Heavy handed added acid and overt oak make for awkward drinks, no matter what the wine…Anyway, this bracket was tasted in a masterclass style in small brackets. Background info in italics and notes are as written on the day.
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc. Sourced primarily from Wallcliffe Vineyard established in 1972. Hand picked, spends 30 days on skins, matured in 50% new/50% 1 year old Bordeaux coopered oak for 18 months. 13.5% alc., pH 3.6, TA 6g/L. RRP $94.79
Dark blood red. Strong, distinctly S of Margs township nose of twigs, eucalypt and smudgy ripe fruit. It seems riper, heavier and a little more warm around the edges than the alcohol suggests, though the considerable density is a consequence. Excellent length, the finesse of those tannins clear class and gee it’s got impact and length. Perhaps a little too heavy? High class. 18.5/20, 94/100.
Twinwoods Optivus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. From a vineyard at Cowaramup planted in early 90s on ‘pea gravel’ and another cooler site planted in 1988/89 with Houghton clone on own roots. Machine harvested, yield 10t/ha. 3 weeks on skins, 80% new oak and 15-17 months in wood. 13.7% alc., pH 3.58, TA 6.04g/L. RRP $40.
Dark blood red, though brighter than the Mentelle. Fragrant and even quite pretty, this is linear, juicy and flavoursome. It’s a more juicy, less impactful wine than the Mentelle, but perhaps more vibrancy, none of that slight bitter dryness. Energy is good, purity is great. Just overtaken by the wines either side. Maybe a little herbal? Certainly promising. 17.8/20, 92/100+
Xanadu Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec. From Timber Creek Vineyard at Wilyabrup planted in 1998 on own roots. Houghton clone. Machine harvested 5t/ha. 28 days on skins, 50% new oak for 14 months. A ‘best barrels’ blend that is then combined and spends a further 2 months in barrel. 14.5% alc., pH 3.61, TA 6.3g/L. RRP $85.
Dark, bright red. There is an openness here which makes it immediately attractive. Red fruit, lovely dry tannins and there’s a glycerol roundness in the mouth which sets it apart. Maybe without quite the thundering tannins of the Mentelle. Gee it’s got appeal though – you could drink this with relish now, yet it’s utterly structured and savoury and long. Very good. 18.5/20, 94/100+<
Terre à Terre Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. From close planted vineyard at Joanna, Wrattonbully, planted in 2004 on terra rossa. hand picked 8t/ha. 25 days on skins, pressed into single 4,000L foudre, after 12 months racked into a 5 year old foudre. 14.3% alc., pH 3.53, TA 5.1g/L. RRP $40.
Dark ruby. Lovely cranberry fruit on the nose here – really clean and pure. I love the lucidity of that red fruit. The palate builds and builds with concentrated red fruit, a little anise and finishing with quite fine, lingering tannins. The alcohol is a little intrusive, but the grace of the package is top shelf. Builds and builds. It’s even quite mid weight. Needs years to show its best and that Bordeaux tannin profile is very good. 18.1/20, 93/100+
Balnaves The Tally Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. From Balnaves Dead Morris vineyard planted in 1990. Hand harvested. 33 days on skins and pressed into 50% new/50% one year old oak, matured for 18 months. 14.5% alc., pH 3.53, TA 6.2g/L. RRP $110.
Darkest wine of this bracket. Dark blood red, the nose a whallop of eucalypt, the style lavish and chunky, every bit the made wine and punctuated with very creamy oak. Creamy texture is admirable, the odd hints of jelly bean attractive. Gee it’s made though. I’m in two minds here. Right now this looks unbalanced, but in five? Will prob look great. Creamy oak so divisive. This will no doubt look great in time. Score is about where it’s at now, but on a different day it could either way. 18/20, 93/100+
Wynns Childs Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Childs vineyard planted in 1969 and rejuvenated in 2009. 12 months in new and seasoned French oak. 13.5% alc. pH 3.41, TA 6.9g/L. RRP $80
Dark red with some purple, the jelly bean fruit is quite pretty and probably closer to the Terre than the Balnaves. It’s mid weight, fleshy and even a little short, the finish carrying some nice red fruit but without quite the impact. Good purity, it’s just a little light on and tart. Over acidified? 17/20, 90/100.
Brands Laira One Seven One Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 96% 2012 and 4% 2013. From Block 1 planted in 1971. Hand harvested. 7 day ferment, MLF in barrel. 100% new oak. 14% alc., pH 3.41, 7g/L TA. RRP $100.
Dark ruby. Immediately the new oak jumps out at you, a hit of red fruit to kick things off. There’s some nice leafy fruit, but it also feels a little dead and gee the acid is high. I can’t say I enjoyed this at all, though clearly it has concentration and even some proper varietal leafiness. The (added) acid sticks out again here. It will live though. 16.8/20, 89/100+
Yarra Yering Carrodus 2013
85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot. From a block off the SW corner of No.1 Cabernet block planted in 1969. Own roots, clone unknown, hand picked. 3 week maceration time. 2 barrels made, 100% French oak for 13 months. No fining or filtration. 13% alc. pH 3.39, TA 7.2g/L. RRP $250.
Mid ruby. Spotless. There’s a reticent nose here that leaves you guessing what’s coming next. Rhubarb, gently bundling red fruit, long and very fine palate is just a sheet of silk, the balance near impeccable. There is something quite ageless Yarra about this. Oak is a backdrop, like a high quality suit – there’s loads of oak, but the shell is superior. Special. 18.7/20, 95/100
65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 6% Malbec. Silty loam over gravel. Vines planted from 1969 to 2002, average vine age 30 years. Field blend, handpicked on 11, 19 and 25th March 2013. Hand plunged every 8 hours for 7 days, post maceration for several days, blended in stainless and matured in 40% new oak for 18 months. Bottled unfined. The fortieth release of a Yerinberg 13.5% alc., pH 3.58, TA 5.8g/l. RRP $75
Dark ruby with a little purple. Cabernet nose! Love that this smells like its five varietal components. There’s a hint of zucchini or herbs, rose water, raspberry and red fruit? The beautiful balance here makes this very fresh, life affirming and with fine but punctuating tannins. A perfect companion to the Yarra Yering oak, the spice and herbs giving this authenticity. Really rather delicious. 18.7/20, 95/100.
Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc. 90% To Kalon vineyard, remaining 10% from Oakville. Hand picked. 40 days on skins. 100% new French oak for 19 months. 15% alc., Ph 3.64, TA 7.2g/L. 15% alc., pH 3.64, TA 7.2g/L. RRP $120 (US).
Deep red. Heavy formic oak and some very ripe, mushroomy and developed fruit nose. It tastes fresher than the nose but gee this is a bruiser, the alcohol a slap across your face, the tannins a molestation. everything overripe. A caricature of a wine, if hugely powerful. Admirable intensity but I’m not sure how you can drink this. Hard to score. This wine dominated me. 17/20, 90/100.
Ramey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvingon 2012
85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot. Napa Valley blend of 45% St Helena, 16% Napa Valley, 15% Oakville, 10% Mt Veeder, 6% Diamond Mountain, 4% Rutherford, 4% Oak Knoll. Wild fermented, 18 months in 55% new French and American oak. 14.5% alc. RRP $120.
Deep ruby. Really rather pretty, the nose a collage of mocha, capsicum and red/blackberry fruit. Mid weight and quite pretty for its alcohol, the oak a little mocha rich but quite attractive. Fine tannins, good purity. Nice wine. Maybe a little warm? 17.8/20, 92/100.
Ridge Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot. From the Monte Bello vineyard in Santa Cruz mountains. Wild fermented, short ferment time in 2012 due to rapid extraction. 19 months in American oak, 47% new, 40% one year old, the rest older barrels. 13.5% alc. RRP $100.
Volatile and a bit animal, this isn’t a great bottle, very meaty but lavish. Mooing. There’s some extravagant flavour here but it just looks on the wrong side of progression. Ordinary bottle. NR