Brown and I attended the Langton’s Classification V Tasting in Sydney earlier in the week. It was a bit testing at times in terms of the crowds, but nevertheless a wonderful tasting. It afforded me the opportunity to try numerous wines that are considered genuine Australian benchmarks, many of which are either too expensive or too rare for me to typically get my hands on. While I certainly didn’t get to try every wine there, I did manage to try pretty much every wine I hadn’t tried previously, as well as a number of great wines that I had.
There was some amazing Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot, and Shiraz to be had on the night, but the highlight for me really was the Cabernet. As a Cabernet lover this is perhaps not surprising, but I genuinely thought the quality across the board was outstanding. I’ve had a few people who have drunk plenty of Bordeaux suggest to me that, with the exception of the very best bottles of Bordeaux, Australian Cabernet is the equal of any on the world stage. The Cabernet I drunk this night would certainly be supportive of this supposition.
Margaret River stood tall, with many 07s and a number of 08s on show, reinforcing my belief that it’s Australia’s greatest combination of region and grape variety. Coonawarra was also well represented with some wonderful wines. This of course is what you would expect from Australia’s two premier Cabernet regions. There were however, also, some wonderful examples from the Clare Valley, Tasmania, and the Yarra Valley. Below were my favourite Cabernets on the night
2008 Yarra Yering Dry Red No.1 (Yarra Valley, $75, cork) – This is one of those wines that had me with my first sniff of its fragrant, yet complex bouquet. On the palate it’s medium-bodied and elegant, and yet still intense with beautiful sweet and savoury flavours. Defined more by its natural acidity than its tannins. This is just going to get better and better. My wine of the night.
2001 Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon (Coal River, $91, cork) – I’d always been intrigued and bit sceptical of this wine (not having ever tried it) as a Cabernet from Tasmania. Tasmania being more or less the coldest part of Australia is more readily associated with Pinot Noir. Like any broad regions however, specific sub-regions and sites can make a huge difference and according to Peter Althaus, Domaine A’s winemaker, their site for Cabernet Sauvignon in the Coal River has less problems ripening grapes than Bordeaux does. Peter had brought along the museum release 2001 for people to taste so as to demonstrate how this wine ages. For me it stood out as different from the other Cabernets I tried on the night and yet also a quintessential Cabernet. Some lovely leafy and capsicum notes mingled with berry and blackcurrant fruit. Perfectly balanced and built to age. All scepticism has been wiped away.
2008 Wendouree Cab Malbec (Clare Valley, Cork) – Wendouree has been one of those wineries that has held a bit of a mythical status for me ever since I first read some of Halliday’s writings about them a number of years ago. As he wrote about them requiring 20 years minimum in the cellar and described them as an iron-fist in a velvet glove it immediately enamoured me to Wendouree and made me think that it was a winery that ought to be part of any cellar I was going to build. The fact that they have been so removed from the mainstream of websites, cellar doors, and sample sending only increased my interest in the winery. In the past couple of years as I have had both the means and the opportunity to purchase some Wendouree, however, I’ve just held off as I’ve heard and read quite a few dissenting voices who have questioned the quality of these wines. Having now tasted the wine I can cast these doubting voices aside and look to add Wendouree to my cellar shortlist. The 2008 is very much as Halliday has often described the Cab Malbec with a lush, fragrant nose followed up by a powerful, rich and mouth smackingly tannic palate. Love it! Happily these wines will apparently be under screwcap in future as well (the Cabernet that never dies?).
2007 Cape Mentelle (Margaret River, $85, Screwcap) – Prior to trying the Cape Mentelle I tried the 08 Cullen Diana Madeline, which I found to be an interesting, atypical Margaret River Cabernet. I doubt I would have picked it blind as being from Margaret River. It was in a medium-bodied, almost dilute style, that doesn’t deliver much in the way of enjoyment now, though the quality is there to suggest it could build with time in the cellar. Anyway, the reason for that little aside on Cullen, was that it contrasted so vividly with the Cape Mentelle which to me was just classic Margaret River. My beloved gravel was there on the bouquet, and it was a ripe, powerful yet nevertheless restrained Cabernet. Beautiful structure. Could drink this sought of wine with alarming regularity for my bank balance
2006 John Riddoch (Coonawarra, $75, Screwcap)- Rippling tannin. I love to see powerful tannins in young wines and the John Riddoch has this element in spades. Importantly, however, the tannins never overwhelm the wine and the fruit is more than up to the task through the long finish. This should age into something quite special over the next couple of decades.
I already have some of the John Riddoch in the cellar. Now to explain to the missus why the other four Cabernets are such must buys despite the price tags . . .