It was the middle of winter, and Brown and some other good friends were over at our place for dinner, so it was time to pull out some big guns. Aged Cabernet/Bordeaux blends that is.
The four wines that Brown and I pulled from their cool places in the cellar were -
2001 Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra, $30)
2001 Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon (Tasmania, $90)
2001 Chateau Franc Mayne (St Emilion, Bordeaux, $75)
2002 Houghton Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon (Great Southern, $105)
At a decade or so old, we thought it would be a great time to see how these 4 wines were travelling. Initially we tasted blind. Tasting through the four wines the Wynns was my favourite in the blind line up showing beautiful fruit and nice tannins, while the Domaine A was also impressive in a more savoury manor. The Chateau Franc Mayne came across as a bit dilute in comparison, while the Jack Mann was initially quite subdued.
We then consumed the wines over dinner, during which time the Jack Mann and Franc Mayne opened up and fleshed out a touch, however, by the end of the dinner the Wynns and Domaine A were still the stand outs. Then a funny thing happened . . . the dinner finished and there was still plenty of wine left in each bottle! Admittedly only 3 of the 6 people were really drinking any great amount (and Champagne and Port bookended the dinner), but in any case I think it must be a sign of us slowing down. The upside was I was then able to taste the 4 wines at my leisure over the next few days, which ended up being a very good thing. While the tasting on the night would have had me writing about at least two very good wines, the chance to taste over a few days has me proclaiming 3 great wines. Below are my notes from this extended tasting -
2001 Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon – This is a wine that I buy every year regardless of the vintage and critic reviews. Factoring in history, cellarability and importantly price, could this be Australia’s greatest wine? A lovely ripe, long Cabernet. Beautiful blackcurrant fruit, mint, and earthiness. It’s still nice and tannic, and over the course of 4 nights lengthened through the finish and became increasingly savoury. Super wine and with careful cellaring and cork permitting I see no reason why this won’t be even better in 5-10 years. 4.5 Stars
2001 Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon – An identifiably more savoury wine than the Wynns and indeed very Bordeaux-like. The nose is quite seductive, smelling like an old chesterfield complimented by lovely blackcurrant. Beautiful ripe fruit on the front palate is soon joined by leafiness, earthiness, spice and sea salt, all providing a wonderful sense of texture through a long savoury finish. Genuine complexity. Fine, yet persistent tannins frame the wine beautifully. Once again this wine drunk well and improved over 4 nights. 4.5 Stars
2001 Chateau Franc Mayne – As a wine that is 90% Merlot and 10% Cab Franc, it would obviously seem a bit like the odd one out in this line up, but it nevertheless had quite a lot in common with the Domaine A. While this wine fleshed out with more air, it remained the lightest of the 4 wines. There’s some nice blackberry fruit but the wine is predominantly savoury, with some Cab Franc grassiness and sea salt coming through on the palate. Throw in some drying tannin and this is a wine that definitely needs food to be seen at its best. Nice wine. 3.5 Stars
2002 Houghton Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon – If this tasting over 4 nights was a horse race, then the Jack Mann would have been very slow out of the gates and looking rather disinterested initially. Mid race it would have picked up the pace to be in contention, before storming home in the final straight to just pip the Domaine A and Wynns at the post. This is superb Cabernet, and very much reminds me of other Jack Mann’s that I have had. It has a dusty, leafy nose of berries, black olive and lovely oak. The palate is tannic, powerful and just beginning to demonstrate more secondary, savoury characters. Plush fruit gives way to some nice leafiness and earthiness, before delivering a long, drying tannic finish. Needs another 10 years and who knows how long it will go after that. 4.5 Stars
This tasting provided a fantastic vignette into age-worthy Australian Cabernet. All three Australians are wines of character and terroir. The Domain A and Jack Mann are expensive, but given both the complexity and ageability on offer they can more than justify their price tags. On the other hand if budget is a consideration then on any value for money basis the Wynns Black Label is as good a Cabernet as this country has.