Happy New Year! I’m celebrating the start of 2019 with a little tasting note house cleaning, how about you?
Actually I’m mainly at the beach. Before we crack out the towels for today, here are 15 Cabernet Sauvignon based reds that I’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks.
Hickinbotham The Peake Cabernet Shiraz 2016
The two Jackson family properties in McLaren Vale – Hickinbotham and Yangarra – are doing extremely good things. These are wines with an extra level of detail and balance, right down to the information on the neck tags that come with the sample. Please wine producers, give me every stat possible. This red, meanwhile, is the top dog for Hickinbotham and it’s superb. 57% Cab, 43% Shiraz from the 1971 plantings, with the mix incorporating best blocks and best barrels. Grand vin! Spends a grand 15 months in 80% new oak too. What a statement wine. Ultra tight, and cloaked in layer upon layer of super expensive oak. I wonder is this too oaky? Seamless underneath, a wine of texture and surprising moderation with fine tannins just adding to a mouthful of coiffed, enveloping richness. Magnificent texture that – unsurprisingly – reminds me of top Napa reds. Regal, deep and impressively luscious red built for the very long term. Best drinking: You could open it now but just a few years will make it even better. Then twenty years plus. 18.7/20, 95/100. 14%, $175. Would I buy it? It’s a lot of dollars. I’d like some in the cellar though.
Soumah Hexham Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Soumah’s roll continues. This Yarra Valley Cabernet is more masculine than the norm for the label, but it doesn’t look baked (like some ’16 Yarra Cabs). Apparently it was the earliest Cabernet pick ever at the Hexham Vineyard and the juice was matured in 40% new oak. Dark, purple maroon coloured, there’s pencil shavings and a dash of mint, but it’s swallowed up by vanilla bean oak. Luscious palate underneath is all full-throttle blackcurrant, again with the oak stamp, but not too much. An intense, warm year Yarra Cab with class. Best drinking: Decant now, drink for the next fifteen years easy. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $40. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Taylors St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
As is the norm with St Andrews, it’s a beastly wine. Plenty of regional mint, cedar, tobacco and then blackcurrant aplenty. It’s varietal, regional and typically Taylors. Maybe a little sour (unsurprising given the TA of 7.42!), but the intensity and length of this Cab are top tier. Long, deep, powerful if maybe a little minty red for the future. Best drinking: Wait five years. It will live for 20. 18/20, 93/100+. 14.8%, $80. Would I buy it? Probably not. But admirable.
Yalumba FDR1A Cabernet Shiraz 2013
Eden Valley Cab Shiraz in the ageless Yalumba mode. It’s often hard to see where the oak starts and the fruit stops with Yalumba red (quality oak mind you), and the extra bottle age just adds to the savouriness. Deeply coffeed, black licorice savoury fruit in a hearty, perfectly even, mid weight mode. It’s not going to win trophies with brash fruit, but satisfying, richly textured, somewhat old school Aussie red for drinking now and decades on. Best drinking: As above. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $50. Would I buy it? I’d be tempted for a bottle. Will always drink well.
Hickinbotham Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Interesting that this is quite a different shape to the Peake. Less flash, more grip. Indeed it’s a deep, drying and varietal Vale Cabernet. It’s perhaps on the too-dense side – cocoa powder, drying tannins, big boisterous flavours reined in by classy oak on nose, palate and finish. Unquestionably a long term, classy wine, but too much for enjoying now. Best drinking: I’d go as far as saying this needs a decade. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 14%, $75. Would I buy it? Not yet.
McGuigan The Philosophy 2013
McGuigan’s top dog red, in a huge top dog bottle, with a top dog price. McGuigan goes to Grange-town. Indeed there is no mention of region on the label, just South Australia. A blend of Cabernet and Shiraz, and I’m presuming sees some American oak, judging by the nose. Actually, there’s even a little VA and formic, in a nod to the Grange love. There’s brick dust, cocoa powder and some plums too, the Aussie Dry Red palate extractive and, well, massively proportioned. There’s a certain agelessness about this and the bottle age helps it along, even if oak is the dominant flavour. It’s not my sort of wine, but I can appreciate the heft, the grunt, the aim-for-the-stars weight of the thing. Best drinking: A twenty year wine, unquestionably. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $175. Would I buy it? No.
Punt Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Tim Shand does good (again). This is a Yarra Valley luncheon claret from old vines (30 years young), with lovely proportions. Pencil shavings, ferns and a little game on the nose, but with more blackberry underneath. It’s even, fragrant and and so easy, yet there’s this broadness through the middle too. It’s perhaps more likeable than really firm and serious, but in Yarra Cab mode it’s a really nice, enjoyable wine. Best drinking: Oh whenever. Nice now, nice in 10, nicer for yonks. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $32. Would I buy it? I’d be tempted, yes.
Yalumba The Cigar Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Well priced Coonawarra Cabernet from the Menzies Vineyard. It’s perhaps as much Yalumba as it is Coonawarra too. Spends 14 months in oak. Deep maroon red, the nose cedary and eucalyptus, leading to a palate that is is pure Coonawarra with a mid weight style – lightly minty, tannic, elegant, and built for the long haul. If anything, it’s too young and too tannic – but that’s also satisfying too. You know what you’re getting here and it feels real. Best drinking: Wait. Five years will be good, then drink over fifteen. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $32. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Chateau Tanunda The Chateau Single Vineyard Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
From a few rows in the Chateau’s Eden Valley Vineyard. Thick and rich, with dark purple fruit, minty and blueberry. A lavish dark berry richness, pumped up by oak sweetness (American?) bourbon and then soft tannins. Power and length. Width and chocolatey richness. The oak tannins are a bit sappy, and the alcohol high, but intensity will seduce many. Best drinking: Good to go, but four years in the cellar will help. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $38. Would I buy it? A glass.
Passing Clouds The Angel 2016
There has been a real shift in the style of the Passing Clouds wines in recent years, now to the point where they’re too modern and polished. This red notably so. 100% Cabernet this year, it’s the best barrels from the Bendigo vineyard and largely older oak. Pure blackberry fruit is the star here, with a really quite primal and pleasant juiciness. It’s not a heavy wine or profound, more red fruited than anything and with lots of fine tannins. I struggle with the acidity, but the fruit is unquestionably pleasant and there’s depth too. Best drinking: Ready to drink and for ten years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $53. Would I buy it? No.
Sweetwater Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Now here’s an oddity – Hunter Valley Cabernet from the Sweetwater Vineyard, made by Andrew Thomas, and now sold by Hungerford Hill. Amazing alcohol for a Hunter red, though not for the ripe, ‘lets-make-dry-reds’ 07 vintage. Deep colour looks almost unmoved for an 11 year old Hunter Cab. The nose is spearmint, leather handbag, grilled meat. The palate so ripe and full for the Hunter, though it even packs in some varietal mint and regional tilled earth. There’s a lot to surprise abut this – from the berry liqueur flavour to the oh-so-chunky palate. I don’t mind this at all, and the concentration is so intriguing. The price is pure madness though. Best drinking: Open now, and who knows how long it will age. Decades perhaps. 17.5/20, 91/100. 15%, $90. Would I buy it? No.
Hugh Hamilton Stunt Double 2016
Part of the Dark Arts Collection of frankenwines. A blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Sauvignon Blanc from McLaren Vale. Numbers: TA 6.74g/L, pH 3.68, RS 3.3g/L. More Cabernet Sauvignon than anything, the raw tannic material underneath ensuring that it’s just a grippy Vale red. Sauvignon is not evident, just adding more herbs. This is probably the best wine of all the Dark Arts range, but is it better with the Sauv addition? Probably not. Best drinking: Now, but hey it will age given the tannins. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $24.50. Would I buy it? No.
Petaluma White Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Easily the pick of the White Label range. Coonawarra Cabernet with minty fruit and black texta, black pastilles and licorice. Mid weight and minty but not without charm, it’s saved by late, cedary berry jubeyness and good tannins. Solid. Best drinking: Now to seven or eight years easy. 17/20, 90/100. 13.5%, $29.99. Would I buy it? If it was half price maybe. But not at the dollars.
Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Classic Tahbilk red. Leather and red dust meets rather juicy black jube fruit with a little eucalyptus and dry tannins. A proper, substantial Tahbilk Cabernet even though it’s juicier and early maturing than the old school styles. Plenty of wine here. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $25.70. Would I buy it? Someone cellar a dozen and bring it out in fifteen years. That’s a prime age and I’ll buy it then.
Two Hands Sexy Beast Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
McLaren Vale Cab from the Two Hands operation. Great name too.. Black olives, dill and cedar on the varietal nose. Varietal palate even has some light leafy edges. Quite a traditional McLaren Vale Cab! Maybe a little greenish tannins and a little sour. Solid, if not going to win trophies. 17/20, 90/100. 13.6%, $27. Would I buy it? No.
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