St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
This year, for the first time, I was on the judging panel for the Australian Wine List of the Year Awards, sifting through 50 odd wine lists from all over the country to find glory.
It was one of the more interesting judging gigs I’ve had in ages.
Crafting a well-rounded wine list is an art form, and especially when trying to deliver a small list (50 wines or less). So often I saw an engaging entrant derailed by a by-the-glass list that seemed like an afterthought. Or when a restauranteur clearly let a wine rep write their list, and it ended up reading like a Treasury Wine Estates catalogue.
On the flipside, a shout out to some of the 3 glass winners (the highest rating) for small to medium lists that went beyond wine and realised that drinks need to be interesting across the spectrum. That included house-made juices, teas and alcohol-free cocktails, all of which add colour to what is a beverage list, not just a wine inventory.
Further, life is pretty boring if you have involving wines, yet the beers are just faux-craft local lager and pale ale (or worse, a locally brewed version of an international beer passed off as an import). Come on team, beer is just as diverse as wine in 2019.
Now, how does this all fit in with the St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2016?
I tasted it by chance at a consumer event as part of the Wine List of the Year Awards festivities. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Now with its own dedicated winery in the Barossa, the St Hugo label has expanded in size and footprint in recent years at apace. But the wine styles haven’t evolved to match. It’s like the gear knob has been stuck in third, with mega ripe wines and heavy-handed acid additions.
Yet this ’16 Cabernet is different.
What I like about this classic Coonawarra red is the extra layer of polish. The tannins are less raw, the oak folded in, the acid better integrated too. It’s almost a modern Wynns Black Label-like in its extra restraint. Still blackberried, ripe, and coated on all sides with tannins, but I can’t remember a more accessible – yet traditionally structured – St Hugo Cabernet release in the last ten years.
I’m a fan. I’m a fan of what it is now and given the known history, of the future ahead.
(P.S. A few more of my highlights from the tasting are up on the Wine List of the Year website, Have a squizz here).
Best drinking: Now to fifteen years easy. Likely more. 18.5/20, 94/100. $50. Would I buy it? I would certainly think about it.