Two 21 year old Cabernet blends, courtesy of my aunty’s cellar.
The first, the Leoville Poyferre, is a Second Growth from the Saint-Julien commune in Bordeaux. Having been established in 1840, the estate has been through some peaks and troughs as might be expected, however, the past few decades have seen a resurgence in its reputation and the quality of wine produced. The second wine, the Petaluma Coonawarra has been one of Australia’s more highly regarded Cabernet blends over a few decades now. Production for this wine began in 1979.
When the Red and Brown clans got together recently, we decided to take these two wines of pedigree head to head. They are obviously worthy of enjoyment and contemplation without competition or reference to any other wine, but I still find comparative tastings like this highly enjoyable and revealing.
Both wines had excellent quality, long corks that happily had done their jobs, with both wines smelling great in the decanter from the get go. We then proceeded to drink both bottles over the course of a few hours, with some slow cooked lamb the accompaniment.
1994 Petaluma Coonawarra - At 21 years of age this has retained an impressive level of primary fruit that is present from the tip of the tongue through to the long finish. Blackcurrant mainly. Adding savoury complexity are notes of red earth and black olive. There’s a bit of regional mint/eucalypt but it’s in no way dominant and plays its part in a complex whole. What’s really impressive moreover, are the prominent tannins that really help shape and finish off the wine. There was a little bit left in the bottle on day 2 and it continued to drink impressively well. It’s in a real sweet spot now where it offers a great aged Cabernet drinking experience, but still has the stuffing to drink well over the next 5-10 years. 94 points
1994 Chateau Leoville Poyferre – What enthrals me with this wine is the tightrope it walks between power and elegance. The entry onto the palate is supple and subtle before building to great mid palate intensity, which then tapers into a focused and savoury finish. It's the kind of structure that marks it out as a great wine. Classic cassis and cigar box flavours. Gravel is also a signature, both in terms of the bouquet as well gravelly minerality through the long finish. Fantastic to drink and wonderful to see it weigh in at only 12.5% alcohol. It's a wine that ultimately could only be Bordeaux and would never be confused as anything else. As with the Petaluma, it gives great enjoyment now but will age over the next decade without a second thought. 96 points
In the end the Bordeaux was the preferred wine on the night, showing a class that is rare in the world of wine. That being said the Petaluma is a great wine in its own right and is testament to the ageworthiness and quality of the marque and Coonawarra Cabernet more generally.