Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cape Mentelle 2004 Cabernet tasting - you hear it here first

One of my reasons to have been at Margaret River is to attend the International Cabernet tasting organised by Cape Mentelle. They have done this for more than 20 years. This year was a comparison of 20 of the 2004 Cabernets. 2004 was a strong vintage in Australia and quite good in France, Italy and the US.

The event took place at their winery and was very well organised. The tasting was blind and included 7 wines from WA, 4 from Coonawarra, 5 Bordeaux, 2 Napa Valley and 1 each from Italy and New Zealand.

The overall conclusions were:
- the standard of wines was very high
- good Cabernet should not be drunk this young (ok for tasting)
- most wines showed incredible vibrancy and strong acidity and as such were a real difference to Australian Shiraz

The clichés were also proven right: the French wines had very good structure and elegance, but were lacking in the fruit department, the Australian had good depth of fruit, but the structure was often not as sound and some were a bit herbaceous, the Americans were quite ripe and sweet.

The eleven Australian wines were selected out of tasting 60 Cabernets, the overseas ones were based on reputation and, I guess, availability. In this way, the Australian wines maybe had a bit of an advantage. Notable absentees: Barossa (Cyril Henschke and Penfolds 707) and Yarra Valley (Mount Mary and Yarra Yering).

The top performers for me were Majella, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Moss Wood, Cape Mentelle, Spottswoode (USA), Houghton Jack Mann and Suckfizzle. This shows my Australian palate bias, but the best Australian producers are world class, in my view. I was surprised to find Suckfizzle in this group. Apparently the wine did well in the taste off. It had good purity of redcurrant fruit, elegance and a fine tannin finish. I thought it might have been the Cullen. The host did very well with generous and vibrant fruit, good length and acidity and an elegant finish.

The second group included Latour, Houghton Gladstone, Cos d'Estournel, Ornellaia and Penley.

The final tier was Leeuwin, Craggy Range The Quarry, Calon-Segur, Chateau Montelena, Balnarves The Tally, Margaux, Parker and Cullen.

The Cullen was disappointing. A usually quite acclaimed wine, it showed by comparison lean fruit, with a bit of leafiness and a thin finish. Even more controversial was the Margaux. In my neighbourhood, everybody rated it quite poorly, probably as a result of brettanomyces character we detected in the wine. It seemed to be present in some other French wines as well, but was really unpleasant in the Margaux. Underneath, the wine had good structure, but if this is the problem, they better clean this up!

Overall, very educational and a great event to attend.


Andrew Graham said...

Sounds like a great tasting - where your results simlar to most others?

Mat Janes said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the tasting. I think this year saw one of the most consistent line ups of recent years. We look forward to seeing you back at Cape Mentelle in 2010 for the next one, if not before.

Baz said...

Sounds like a great event! How do I get a ticket to the next one??? I have a few 01 and 04 MR Cabernet's in my cellar so cannot wait to try when suitably aged!

Alontin said...

In response to your comments:

Andrew,there were 130 people, so it was a bit difficult to get a feel in general. Most people had trouble with the Margaux, the Australians did well and everybody liked the Cape Mentelle.

Baz, it would be best to contact Cape Mentelle via the website. I think they take bookings in earnest only three months or so before. The tasting alternates between Margaret River and the East Coast. Next year should be Melbourne or Sydney. A chance to taste the great French 2005s.