It’s been a rough week or so at Graham HQ, as a sniffly 5 month old meant little sleep and not enough wine…
So let’s keep this tight. As the name suggests, these are 14 of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet-based reds to pass the bench in recent weeks.
Some delicious wines in the mix too.
I opened the three 2014 Margaret River wines together for consistency and they reminded, again, that it’s a glorious ripe vintage.
Go long on ’14 Margs Cabernet.
Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
There’s no doubting the charm of Balgownie Cabernet in a good vintage. You get boldness, weight and impact, but it never feels overwhelming, and they live forever. This is a classic Balgownie Cab, showing that trademark Bendigo generosity of flavour, delivered at 13.6% alcohol. Cedar, lead pencil character is classically, welcomingly varietal and backed by a core of rich and dense blackberry. It’s all tipped off with surprisingly fine, not burly, tannins. Bold flavours – we’re still in full-bodied red territory, but with an ageless balance to it, and not overripe in the slightest. Yes.
Best drinking: Now to twenty years easy. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.6%, $45. Would I buy it? Yes.
Juniper Estate Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Juniper is a name rarely mentioned in the roundups of Margaret River’s top producers (usurped by names like Vasse Felix, Moss Wood, Cullen, Xanadu, Voyager and Leeuwin) but the wines are up in the very top tier. This red is prime evidence. A blend of 88% Cabernet, 5.5% Petit Verdot, 3.5% Malbec, 3% Merlot that spends 18 months in 50% new oak. Quality Margaret River Cabernet it is too. Expensive oak on the nose is a bit blunt, but the palate is both full and velvety all at once, the finish long dry, long and classic. It’s on the denser, oakier side of the spectrum – particularly through the middle – but no disguising the pure class. Premium Margaret River Cabernet that deserves to get more attention.
Best drinking: Now to twenty plus years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $70. Would I buy it? More than fair price for this quality. I don’t need more Cabernet in my cellar but I’d have a bottle of this.
Levantine Hill Samantha’s Paddock 2015
Another winner for Levantine Hill (alongside the Pinot), this is Yarra in claret mode. A blend of the full 5 Bordeaux varietals, and spends 18 months in French oak. Every bit the Yarra classic style too. Cedar, dark berries and beef, the palate pitching with flavour ripeness you don’t typically see at 12.5%, with both a whiff of capsicum and more riper berry fruit. Yarra Yering cues here, and classy as hell (particularly the oak handling). The price is way up there, but again, fine wine.
Best drinking: Now to twenty plus years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12.5%, $200. Would I buy it? I can’t justify the dollars. If it was Yarra Yering priced I might be more tempted.
Oates Ends Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Fascinating to taste this in context of both the Voyager and the Juniper Estate. Quality-wise they’re difficult to separate, just different (and delicious). 3 great Margaret River reds from a strong vintage. This wine screams classic Margs flavour too. Bay leaf, cedar, dusty cassis and a whisper of eucalypt. The palate is sculpted by the tannins, the mode lightly herbal (in a good way), finely honed, but ripe too. It’s almost southern Margs with its hint of leafiness. But that ripeness is perfect. Classy mid-weight Cabernet that is the definition of shapely.
Best drinking: Now to twenty years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $40. Would I buy it? A bargain. Buy buy!
Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Voyager Estate bringing the A-game once again. Dusty berry fruit, the mode firm and tannin driven, the palate dense and brooding. More dark fruit than light. More power than elegance. Of the three 2014 Margaret River reds this had the biggest impact but least approachability (for now). But those tannins and the whole shape of this thing is classic ripe year Margaret River. Quality.
Best drinking: Hold for a year or so and then twenty years plus. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $84. Would I buy it? A bottle easily.
Huntington Estate Bin 24 Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
The latest Huntington estate releases are the best in years. Brighter, with more energy and yet never losing sight of that brashness. This Cabernet is lavishly oaked, with layers of milk chocolate and blackberry that flows from nose through the super smooth palate. Crucially, the oak makes this feel more savoury than sweet, and at just 13.5% it feels balanced and well built. Big, old school, Mudgee red that is well-handled, tannic and built to last.
Best drinking: Now to twenty years easy. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $32. Would I buy it? Well worth a bottle at this price.
Oates Ends Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Another strong Margaret River Cabernet from Cath Oates (a little more about her story here). Maybe not as well defined as the ’14, but it’s a lovely medium-bodied red. Leafy and classical Margaret River, though for all the mediumness it’s just a little pinched thanks to the alcohol. There’s still a sense of evenness, the classy edges, the sense of high-quality fruit and oak at every point. The best years are ahead.
Best drinking: Wait for 3 and then twenty years easy. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? A few glasses at least.
Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2015
Normally I prefer the Merlot Cabernet Franc from Tapanappa, but in ’15 it’s the Cabernet Shiraz that wins you over. As ever, it’s a serious red, the blend spending 20 months in 50% new oak. There’s just 15% Shiraz this vintage, which comes from the Crayères vineyard across the road. From a very dry vintage, this is powerful stuff. Hedonistic, even, this vintage, with ultra-smooth red fruit, Malteser oak, and a real late lusciousness. It’s a bit overt, and the alcohol is too warming, but classy at every turn, especially the shapely tannins. High quality, powerful red that is more right bank Bordeaux red (especially the tannins profile) than Coonawarra/Wrattonbully.
Best drinking: Now to fifteen years. I do wonder if the alcohol will stick out in time. Tannins will ensure it lives. 18/20, 93/100. 14.9%, $90. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
McGuigan The Philosophy Cab Shiraz 2014
McGuigan’s Grange play and it’s nothing if not ambitious. Even has that hint of formic acid. From what I can gather it’s a multi-regional South Australian blend, but not specified which region. Baked earth, brick dust, currants. It’s a dusty Aussie dry red, with more secondary character the primary fruit, the distant cassis well back in the flavour field, in a palate that is long, tannic and hearty. The shape here tastes like premium Aussie red, a throwback to when oak was king and fruit was just part of the mix. And that length, that heartiness is going to win over many, even if it’s not quite my bag.
Best drinking: Now to fifteen plus years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $200. Would I buy it? No.
Raidis Estate The Trip 2014
Raidis Estate’s super-premium Cabernet, and it just sings with varietal character – capsicum, dark berry and mint. It’s a thudding big minty red, vanillan oak bouncing off the minty berries, the finish starkly dry and a fraction raw, but appreciably long and serious. I prefer the Billy at this stage, but the future is promising.
Best drinking: I’d wait five years, then at least fifteen years. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 14%, $80. Would I buy it? No, I’d rather have Billy.
Raidis Estate Billy Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Well priced, well-pitched Coonawarra Cabernet. Dark berry, mint dark choc, the style moderate, the oak the only flashiness. Why have more ripeness and alcohol when you can have a tasty moderate red with nice tannins like this?
Best drinking: Now to fifteen plus years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $32. Would I buy it? I’d drink a bottle easy.
Balgownie Estate Black Label Cabernet Franc & Syrah 2017
The first release of this red, the ‘Syrah’ label a nod to the style change compared to other Balgownie Shiraz. It’s glossy and purple fruited, medium weight but with tannins. Less bony Chinon, and more riper Bordeaux. There’s a plushness here that is true Balgownie, but with some of that leafy Francness. I didn’t think this would be as easy as it is.
Best drinking: Now to ten years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $29. Would I buy it? Worth sharing a bottle.
d’Arenberg The Galvo Garage 2014
You can always spot a d’Arenberg red by the tannin profile – plenty of grainy grip to the tannins. Mostly I like, though it can be too dominant. Would err on more tannin than less, however in the scheme of things – tannins are life. Meanwhile, this Galvo Garage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot definitely hits with a thud. Deep colours. Maroon red, it’s drying, a little rustic, varietal but just a bit up and down – the taste of a style that seems not quite right for McLaren Vale, with substantial flavour but a bit dour (and warm). I can appreciate the tannins and the varietal oomph here though – for $29 it’s a lot of wine, and that’s what tips it over the line.
Best drinking: I’d wait a few more years and drink over 15. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $29. Would I buy it? A glass.
Rymill Maturation Release Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Ripe Coonawarra Cabernet maturing nicely. The nose is fudgier than expected, as is the style – smudgey Coona red where oak and ripe fruit have softened the character. Has residual Cab tannins, but otherwise, just a softening Coonawarra red in a generous but tannic mode.
Best drinking: Now to maybe ten years. Can’t see it getting much better. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass.