Sunday, October 31, 2010

Margaret River - Cabernet and Blends

A number of newer wineries were showing their Cabernets, some of which collected a fair bit of acclaim for their 2007 wines, including the Jimmy Watson winner Flametree Cabernet Merlot. Three such wineries are Juniper Estate, Flametree and Fraser Gallop. One interesting aspect here is that their Cabernets cost half or even less than those from the leading wineries. So how good are they?

The 2007 Juniper Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has good depth, ripeness and concentration, but I found the eucalypt flavours a bit too strong (90 points). The 2007 Higher Plane Cabernet, from young wines, was quite pleasant, but did not have the same depth (88 points). The 2008 Fraser Gallop Cabernet shows pretty varietal flavours, but the vines are quite young, and the wine lacks some mouthfeel (91 points). This could be very good once the grapes are more mature. The 2009 Cabernet Merlot is lighter, but with interesting earthy flavours (89 points).

The 2008 Flametree Reserve Cabernet is similar to the Fraser Gallop (90 points). The 2009 Cabernet Merlot shows shades of greenness (87 points).

I thought the 2008 Lenton Brae Willyabrup Cabernet was a shocker. It tasted sugary and sweet (82 points). The 2008 Redgate Cabernet was better, but the palate not well rounded (87 points).

The most interesting Cabernets came from Woodlands, Brookland Valley and Cape Mentelle. I always find the Woodlands brand hierarchy and prize points puzzling, and so it was again. The 2007 Woodlands Margaret Reserve Cabernet Merlot was quite polished, a well made wine, although lacking the depth of the best wines of that year (92 points). The flagship 2007 Woodlands Cabernet Sauvignon was dark, mainly tasting of blackcurrant. It had earthy flavours, too (92 points). I scored it the same as the Margaret, but at more than twice the price ($100/bottle), it is simply too expensive.

Cape Mentelle showed the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was the best wine I tasted, by a whisker. It displayed typical red- and blackcurrant flavours, and had good fruit concentration. The mouthfeel lacked a little on the mid-palate, and while the finish was long, it lacked complexity or lift (93 points). The 2004 Brookland Valley Reserve Cabernet was an interesting contrast because of bottle age. The fruit was concentrated, with mulberry and minty flavours and a dry, still quite stringent finish (90 points).

I do not feel compelled to add any of these wines to my cellar. A second label Moss Wood or Cullen would have given these wines a run for their money.


Anonymous said...


You are a tough one to please ;o)
I did attend a similar show in Perth and tasted many of the wines you mentioned, both Red and White and thought more highly of them than you. I mean 91pts for the Voayager Chardy?, you got something
against West Australin wines ;o)

...but i suppose that's what wine
is all about....

Cheers S

Alontin said...

Thank you, Anonymous. Good to hear some criticism from time to time.

I will be a bit defensive, though.

I have nothing against West Australian wines. On the contrary: In the last 12 months, I scored Leeuwin Chardonnay 95 - 97 pts., Moss Wood Cabernet 94/95, and Cullen Cab/Merlot 95. You may say these are elitist wines. Well, top scores often (not always) go to wines with a lofty reputation.

Another issue here is that some leading wine reviewers have incredibly narrowed their scale. It seems to me, for example, that James Halliday's scores for good wines start at 94 pts. So all serious wines are between 94 and 96. I am not sure how valuable this is.

In relation to my score for the Voyager Chardonnay: to score exceptional, a Chardonnay has to either have incredible purity and length of flavour or intriguing complexity on the palate. I have given strong reviews of the Voyager Chardonnay in the past. 2007 was a hot year, and I find this Chardonnay a bit broader than in the years before, not so refined if you like. Having said this, I still liked it and gave it one of the highest scores on the night. But I do like to spread out the scores a bit more.

There is also an over-emphasis on point scores. Initially I did not point score wines, but just gave descriptions (they are very brief in summary reports such as the one you commented on), but finally I gave in. However, I suggest that the language used to describe a wine may give anybody a better hint of what he/she might enjoy than a point score.

Hopefully you will keep reading my blog and comment more in the future.