Cabernet From Australia, Something Special From Down Under
by John Dunham
Cabernet From Australia are unique. Recently I attended a wine tasting at Saxon + Parole. a restaurant in New York City that features grilled meats and sea foods, and is named after two turn of the 20th century racehorses. The event, organized by Wine Australia, brought together 26 wine brands from over 14 Australian wine regions on the way to the United States in 2016, but not selling here just yet. The intimate tasting allowed editors, importers and retailers to sample about 80 different wines.
When we think of Australian wines, we often think of their very popular Shiraz. Interestingly, in this walk-around tasting, just 26 of these wines were Shiraz varietals (what the Australians call the Syrah grape). Australia is particularly well known as a exporter of this Rhone grape varietal, but as this tasting shows, the country’s wineries produce a wide range of wines from Tempranillo to Pinot Noir to Gruner Veltnier.
For this feature, I’m focusing on the Australian cabernet wines, which I thought were really quite cool.
We have friends who lived in Melbourne for a few years, and they brought back some of the country’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon varietals that Australia has to offer. While we were able to enjoy these wines, unfortunately, the export market has not welcomed Australian Cabernet in the same way that is has Shiraz or Chardonnay. This is a shame. Australia produces some excellent New World style Cabernets, and with the recent drought in California, and the lack of excitement about the 2013 releases from Bordeaux, these wines should be able to fill some gaps in the market. This will give more people the opportunity to try the Cabernet Sauvignon wines being produced in southern Australia, and hopefully launch them into the market in a larger way.
Australian Cabernet is produced in a number of regions in the southern part of the country. The most famous region is Coonawarra which is known for wines minty notes. Other important regions are the Margaret River, Barossa Valley, the Clare Valley and the Yarra Valley. Australian Cabernets are generally New World style wines which are fruit forward, lighter food friendly blends. This is exactly what we found in the tasting.
Starting with the Coonawarra region we tried two wines from Parker Connawarra Estate. The firs, Terra Rossa Cabernet Sauvignon (2013). Coonawarra Terra Rossa soil is the oldest and most fertile of the ‘Limestone Coast’ soils, and is composed largely of fine silica particles, aolian clay and organic matter. It is known to produce some of Australia’s greatest and longest living wines. The Cabernet ws dark ret in color with a nutty, spicy nose. The palate featured light tannins though a good structure. It was a fruit forward wine with blackberry and raspberry notes.
The Connawara Series Cabernet Sauvignon (2013) was a dark garnet color with almost exactly the opposite notes as the Terra Rossa. In this case, the nose was extremely fruity, while the palate was more dominated by spicy notes with a berry finish. Both of these wines are excellent choices for drinking right now, with the standard selection of Cabernet friendly foods like beef, lamb, steak, bar-b-que, etc.
Another Coonawarra winery looking to enter the US market is Whistle Post wines. Named after a sign on the old Connawarra railroad, the winery is a newish operation by a family that has been growing grapes on the property since 1987. We sampled the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (2012), a bright red wine with a nose featuring a ton of raspberry and blueberry notes. The wine was bright and fruit forward, ready to drink today, but with enough structure to age well.
Rymill Coonawarra is an established vineyard with a long heritage in the region. In fact, the current owner’s great-grandfather founded the region in the 1890s. We sampled a range of Cabernet’s from Rymill each of which showed in a unique way. The Yearling (2013) was red in color with a spicy nose featuring the mint or eucalyptus that the region is famous for. It has a definite Rhone feel to the palate that one gets from the Shiraz varietal. The Dark Horse Cabernet (2013) is dark red, with a nose featuring red berries and spice. The palate on the other hand was somewhat peppery and vegetal, similar to what one may find in a Cabernet Franc. Meanwhile, the Estate Cabernet (2013) which comes from older vines, was darker red in color with a nose featuring white floral notes. The palate of this wine was spicy, and seemed to be almost a blend of the other two wines.
From Coonawarra we move north to the Adelaide Hills of South Australia where we tried the Devil’s Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon from Longview Vineyard (2012). This was one of the winners of the day in our book, with a dark red to violet color, and a spicy, floral nose. The wine was a fruit bomb, with well balanced tannins and a long finish, suggesting that the wine will age quite well, even though it is an excellent drinking and pairing Cabernet today.
From the Yarra Valley in New South Wales we tried the Alena Cabernet Sauvignon (2013) from Helen & Joey Estate. This single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was a ruby red in color with a distinctive strawberry nose. The wine had light tannins and featured raspberry and plum on the palate. It is a fruit forward wine and is ready to drink today and to pair with a range of red meats, and rich food choices.
These examples of Cabernet Sauvignon varietals from Australia demonstrate the range and complexity of an excellent selection of fine wines that should be featured in every cellar. Cabernet is a complex wine produced in many regions around the world. Having a range of wines from different regions allows consumers to take advantage of different climate and weather effects to ensure that they have a well-rounded collection.
Wine Australia, supports the Australian grape and wine community by investing in research and development, building the international and domestic markets, disseminating knowledge, encouraging adoption and protecting the reputation of Australian wine. Tastings like this bring the wines of a range of Australian producers to the attention of the importers and distributors that can bring them to markets in North America and other markets that may not be as familiar as they should be with some of the excellent examples of the different varietals produced Down Under.
Atze’s Corner Wines Barossa, South Australia
Bremerton Vintners Langhorne Creek, South Australia
Brown Brothers King Valley, Victoria
Castelli Estate Great Southern, Western Australia
Handpicked Wines Victoria and South Australia
Helen & Joey Estate McLaren Vale, South Australia
Helen’s Hill Estate Yarra Valley, Victoria
Hither & Yon McLaren Vale, South Australia
Hollick Wines Coonawarra, South Australia
Limestone Coast Wines Limestone Coast, South Australia
Longview Vineyard Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Maxwell Wines McLaren Vale, South Australia
Michel et Marie New South Wales
Nova Vita Wines Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Parker Coonawarra Estate Coonawarra, South Australia
Quarisa Wines New South Wales
Rymill Coonawarra Coonawarra, South Australia
The Pawn Wine Co. Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Trifon Estate Wines Victoria
Vickery Wines Barossa Valley, South Australia
Whistle Post Wines Coonawarra, South Australia
For more information on Wine Australia or on Australian wines in general visit: https://www.wineaustralia.com/