But no point in stopping now is there?
This collection comes from a lineup last Saturday and a few super premium Cabs that have recently crossed the desk. Particularly interesting to try the Woodlands and Moss Wood in recent context too…
Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
In a very good place right now. Sweet coffee oak, but it’s not intrusive. Luscious and lavish. This has some of that classic Margaret River leafiness and it’s starting to integrate wonderfully. Has a great tannin integration, too. A wine to remind that Moss Wood can be delicious! Alluring in its generosity. The complete package. Best drinking: 2017-2026. 18.7/20, 95/100. 14.5%. Would I buy it? Yes.
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
This is the best Art Series in years. Yes the oak is prominent, but the depth is more than enough to follow it up. Much fresher than previously, and great tannins. Still just a little bulky and drying, yet this also packs a real depth of flavour. Will only improve with more time in bottle too. Best drinking: 2019-2033. 18/20, 93/100+. 13.5%, $80. Would I buy it? I’d go a glass or two.
Major by Mitchell Harris 2014
The new Mitchell Harris flagship red. A blend of Cabernet and Shiraz from the Peerick Vineyard in Moonambel, this definitely has some of the classic Taltarni feel to its makeup. It’s minty, mid-weight and savoury, the wine framed by tannins and acidity, with a cool, coiled and understated. No flashiness, but considerable depth and composure. It’s going to live forever, even if it’s a little shy and minty now, with the length alone worth the buying price. Best drinking: 2022-2040. 18/20, 93/100+. 13.5%, $60. Would I buy it? I’d like some in the cellar.
Woodlands Thomas Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Interesting to see this after other Woodlands reference points recently. This looked very oaky, but again, pure class. A dash of gumleaf in amongst the sweet caramel oak, the joy here is the lovely rich flavours underneath and perfect balance. But gee that oak is overt. It’s too much. Underneath though is absolute glory. Don’t drink it now as you’ll regret it – wait for the glory. Best drinking: 2021-2033. 18/20, 93/100+. 13.5%, $160. Would I buy it? I’d like some in the cellar too. Can’t afford it though.
Balgownie Estate Bendigo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
It’s a big black beast of a red, hints of bitumen accentuating the ripeness. Again, however, it’s pulled back from the edge of overripeness by the depth of fruit and grippy tannins. It’s just a fraction too warm this vintage, a little bit soupy on the edges. Impressive concentration can’t be sneezed at however – it goes on and on, and deserves plaudits on depth of flavour alone. Best drinking: 2019-2033. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass.
Passing Clouds The Angel Bendigo Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
16 months in seasoned oak. Compared to the Balgownie this has less sheer impact but might enjoy more drinkability as a result. Distinctly varietal style, but with plenty of eucalypt. Despite the mint, it’s actually very well balanced, the tannins here are fine and this has a presence through the back end. Slightly warm, but its not dead or heavy. My only criticism is the biting acidity. Great tannin shape redeems things quickly though. Best drinking: 2017-2028. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $53. Would I buy it? A glass.
Rockford Rifle Range Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Barossan fruit. This is a charming wine. Black fruited, with licorice and blackberry fruit in a soft, generous mode. More old oak judging by the savoury profile, and indeed there’s surprising acidity. More Barossa than Cabernet, but thats part of the appeal. Lots of soft, broad tannins to finish here too. Very Rockford. Pleasure here with that contrast between chocolate roundnesss and a rather savoury style. Best drinking: 2017-2030. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.8%, $60ish. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Terre à Terre Crayères Vineyard Reserve 2014
The new reserve release from Terre à Terre. A blend of 95% Wrattonbully Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Franc. Handpicked, fermented in open top fermenters. Matured for a year in 73% French oak for one year and then in 5 yr old foudre for 6 months. Bottled unfined and spends 18 months in bottle pre release. Lots of sweet coffee cream oak. The oak is the driving force for now. Has a dusty edge to the dry red mulberry fruit though, and the tannins are excellent. That palate has all sorts of delights waiting underneath really, and like all the Terre à Terre wines this is a wine in waiting. Great shape underneath – it just needs time to pull together. Best drinking: 2021-2038. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 14.1%, $55. Would I buy it? I’d wait for more time in bottle.
Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Nagambie Lakes Cabernet Sauvignon in the classic Tahbilk mode. It’s another wine in waiting, too. Dark maroon red. Blackberry, mulch and a hint of mint. Plenty of interest here, some sausagey meatiness and then vanilla oak. Dark and drying, even just a little hard on the finish. Warm. Still trying to come together. Drying! Ferrous tannins. A real savoury slow burner. Best drinking: 2020-2040. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 14%, $71.95. Would I buy it? No.
Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Is it from Margaret River or South Australia? Just a little indistinct again this year. Too ripe. It’s lost that distinct regional edge – especially in the context of the 04. Even the tannins are a bit light and soft. There’s an attractive flow of ripe fruit and super hedonistic, but it feels like its less recognisable as Margaret River Cabernet and there’s a hollowness to it. I was rather disappointed. That said, these Moss Wood Cabs have a habit of looking a bit samey and simple in their youth, so this is likely to worth a revisit in time. Best drinking: 2020-2035. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $120. Would I buy it? No.
Balnaves Tally 2006
In many ways this is a caricature wine. But also intriguing because of how intense it is too. A huge, unbelievably minty and monolithic wine with a huge onslaught of dark fruit, a raging war of tannins and then stinging alcohol and firm acidity. It’s a wine that attacks you, bowls you over, slaps you about the face. The tannins are incredible. Gee it has power. The acid is sappy and intrusive too – fighting in amongst all the other components. As a drink it’s rubbish – I couldn’t finish a few sips. But as a winemaking feat it’s remarkable in it’s intensity and conviction. How do you rate a wine like this? A challenge. Ultimately I don’t see the joy of this, but others could. The score I’m still not sure about. Best drinking: I just don’t know. It will still be alive in twenty years no doubt. 16.5/20, 88/100. 15%. Would I buy it No.
Plus a few more affordable Cabernet based reds to pass the desk lately:
Leeuwin Estate Prelude Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
This is the best Leeuwin Prelude I’ve had. Similar handling to Art Series, though not the same fruit source. It’s a different wine to the Art Series too, with a sense of vibrancy without quite the same hearty edge of the AS. An approachable wine really. Caramel oak a slight off-step on the nose, but lovely red fruit underneath though, and the tannins are excellent. Lovely shape to this – bright fruit but savoury and with freshness to the proper tannins. Lots of appeal and already drinking well. Best drinking: 2017-2029. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes.
Cape Mentelle Trinders Cabernet Merlot 2014
Like it’s bigger brother the straight Cabernet, this is definitely ripe this vintage, and a hint of dried fruit characters in the mix – though it retains its varietal profile. Dry palate is very correct too. Dusty blackberry flavours, the only grip is that the tannins have a slightly hard, astringent edge. Well balanced in the scheme of things though and definitely a solid drink. Best drinking: 2017-2024. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Great to see some varietal definition here too. Dark dusty berry, drying tannins and a great, if slightly rough and ready, hearty palate. Has great flavour and penetration for an inexpensive Cabernet, even though it’s a bit hard around the edges. Will live and live in the Tahbilk style too. Best drinking: 2019-2029. 17/20, 90/100+. 13.5%, $25.70. Would I buy it? If I saw this on special for circa $15 (which happens) then I’d say yes, jump.
Longview Devils Elbow Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Lots of flavour in these Longview reds but the ripeness balance is rarely perfect. Eucalypt and cassis. Just a little mixed ripeness on the palate, faintly astringent with berries and mint and raw oak. The balance isn’t quite there but plenty of fruit richness. Best drinking: 2018-2025. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14%, $29.50. Would I buy it? Not quite.
Bremerton Tamblyn Langhorne Creek Cabernet Shiraz Malbec Merlot 2014
This is $18? Bargain. Lots of oomph for the dollars. A minty, sweet caramel vanilla oaked and sweet fruited red with hearty, mid weight flavours and soft finish. It’s a raw wine, not sophisticated but generous. Not going to win trophies but impact all the way. Best drinking: 2017-2027. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 14.5%, $18. Would I buy it? I’d recommend even if it is a bit raw for me to love.
Redman The First Divide Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Sourced from Dan Redman’s father-in-law David Abbey’s 20 year old Coonawarra vineyard. Hand plumged twice daily then 18 months in French oak. When I first tasted this the tannins were overwhelming. Too firm. Too much extraction. By day two this dark purple, almost black red still has formidable tannins, the fruit difficult to find in there. Those tannins dominate everything and while impressive, tend to monster the palate. This will live forever but may never be a good drink, not helped by the warm finish either. It is very very long though. Hmm. Best drinking: I’m not sure. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.6%, $30. Would I buy it? No.