This is an excellent wine from Covert Farms in the Okanagan Valley in Canada. A blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot and from the 2016 vintage, its style is reminiscent of a left bank cru bourgeois Bordeaux from a ripe vintage. In the glass, there are earthy, blackcurrant aromatics. The palate has very fine tannin that builds with time. Approachable now, it will suit cellaring for 5 years or more. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 14.3%. Price: $45. Website: covertfarms.ca. Reviewed: January 2020.
Coleraine Te Mata Estate from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand is regarded as a leading cabernet blend from this part of the world. The 2007 vintage here fell somewhat short of (high) expectations. Its aroma reminds of tomato bush and dried herbs and its palate is fully mature. It retains a quiet elegance and has a persistent if subtle length which is appealing. This vintage most closely resembles an aged Yarra Valley cabernet in style, which are generally available for far less. Ready to drink now, this bottle has entered a gentle decline. Rating: Good. Abv: Not recorded. Price: $90+. Website: https://www.temata.co.nz.
Last weekend, the annual Institute of Masters of Wine Bordeaux tasting in bottle of the 2014 vintage took place in Sydney. I expected this to be a much more popular event than the previous year’s tasting of the 2013s (you can read my reviews of that tasting here) which was a poor vintage. But in fact, I would say there were substantially fewer people at the 2014 tasting. It is hard to imagine that an equivalent event, with say most of the leading estates assembled of Burgundy or Piemonte, would be so quiet.
The good news is that I tasted through nearly all of the wines, and was able to do so at some leisure. My short notes and observations follow. In short, I would describe the 2014s as a classic Bordeaux vintage, with many very good wines. I have put an asterisks next to the best wine of each appellation, on this tasting.
Château Bouscat. Merlot dominant (55%). Iron earth, capsicum aromas. Herbal, oak. Good
Château de Fieuzal. 48% cabernet sauvignon and 45% merlot. Aromas of tomato stalk, red fruits. Firm tannins and acidity on the palate. Good to Very Good
Château Malartic-Lagraviere. 52% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot. Deep colour, attractive pencil lead aroma. Saturated fruit, good intensity and structured palate. Very Good
*Château Smith Haut Lafitte. 62% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 6% cabernet franc and 2% petit verdot. This was the highlight of the Pessac-Léognan group. Velvety, blackcurrant aroma, with pencil lead notes. Crisp acidity coupled with long length on the palate. Outstanding
Domaine de Chevalier. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot. Somewhat muted aroma of pencil lead and blackcurrants. The palate has firm tannins, acid and structure. Good to Very Good
Château Belgrave. 66% cabernet sauvignon and 32% merlot. Aromas of capsicum and cardamum. The palate has very firm acidity and a greenness. Good
Château Cantemerle. 47% cabernet sauvignon and 38% merlot. Capsicum aromas. Palate has firm acidity and presents as very young. Good
*Château Boyd-Cantenac. 70% cabernet sauvignon and 21% merlot. Floral, blackcurrant, pencil lead and quite opulent aromas. Structured tannins and firm palate. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Brane-Cantenac. 77% cabernet sauvignon and 21% merlot. Floral, blackcurrant and brooding aroma. The palate has very high acid and somewhat angular tannins. Good to Very Good
Château d’Issan. 77% cabernet sauvignon and 23% merlot. Earthy, leathery aroma. Firm acidity and gentle balance on the palate. Good to Very Good
Château du Tertre. 58% cabernet sauvignon and 20% cabernet franc (possibly a typo). Pencil lead, refined blackcurrant aromas. High acidity on the palate, almost piquant. Good
Château Giscours. 70% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot. Herbal, capsicum aroma. Firm acidity, green palate. Good to Very Good
Château Kirwan. 58% cabernet sauvignon and 36% merlot. Pencil lead, chocolate aroma. The palate is firm, structured with some bitter tannins. Good to Very Good
Château Lascombes. 50% merlot and 45% cabernet sauvignon. Earthy, ripe fruit aromas. Ripe, structured fruit on the palate, with good length. Very Good
Château Pouget. 58% cabernet sauvignon and 31% merlot. Floral and quite aromatic. Firm acidity, good length. Good to Very Good
Château Rauzan-Gassies. 70% cabernet sauvignon and 26% merlot. Restrained, neutral aroma. Structured, classic palate with good length. Very Good
Château Rauzan-Ségla. 56% cabernet sauvignon and 42% merlot. Glossy, oak aroma. Intense palate. Very Good
**Château Angélus. 50% merlot and 50% cabernet franc. This was the wine of the tasting. A seamless expression of blackcurrant and cedar. On the palate, lovely balance and phenomenal length. Outstanding
*Château Cheval Blanc. 55% merlot and 45% cabernet franc. Another outstanding wine, not surprisingly. More tobacco and red fruited aroma. Lovely balance and long length. Outstanding
Château Balestard La Tonnelle. 70% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Tomato, red fruit aromas. Pleasant red fruit on the palate. Good
Château Bellevue. 100% merlot. Plums and soy aroma. Medium-firm tannins and plummy palate. Good to Very Good
Château Cap de Mourlin. 65% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Red fruit and cedar aroma. Very firm tannins and red fruits on the palate. Very Good
Château Corbin. 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc. Redcurrant, plum and spice aroma. Medium-firm tannins and red fruited palate. Good to Very Good
Château Grand Corbin. 70% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Restrained aroma of earth and attractive red fruits. Firm acidity and good length on the palate. Very Good
Château La Tour Figeac. 75% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Earthy, blackcurrant generous aroma. Soy, red fruit, medium-long length and medium-firm tannins. Very Good
Château Laroze. 66% merlot and 29% cabernet franc. Pencil lead, red fruit aroma. Plush palate with great length. Very Good
*Château Troplong Mondot. 91% merlot and 7% cabernet sauvignon. Spiced blackberry aroma. The palate has saturated fruit, full flavour, great intensity and structure, cedar and long length. Outstanding
Château Trottevieille. 58% cabernet franc and 40% merlot. Aroma of smoke and leaf. Firm structure, leafy, good length. Good to Very Good
*Château Clinet. 90% merlot and 9% cabernet sauvignon. Aroma of soy, plum. Deep colour. Medium-firm tannins and structured palate. Very Good to Outstanding
*Château Gazin. 95% merlot and 5% cabernet franc. Velvety aroma, tomato and red fruits too. Firm tannins, structured and good length. Very Good to Outstanding
*Château Nenin. 68% merlot and 32% cabernet franc. Plums, restrained yet rich aroma. The palate has pencil lead characters and is both opulent and regal, with good length on the finish. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Petit-Village. 72% merlot and 16% cabernet franc. Blackberry and spice aroma. Capsicum, structure and good length on the palate. Good to Very Good
Château Calon Ségur. 66% cabernet sauvignon and 13% cabernet franc. Ripe, blackcurrant, restrained aroma. High acid, structured palate with medium length. Good to Very Good
*Château Cos d’Estournel. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 33% merlot. Ripe, delicious aroma of blackcurrants and blackberry. Full tannins. Outstanding
*Château Montrose. 61% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot. Ripe, cedar and blackcurrant aroma. Structured palate, full tannins and long length. Built to last. Outstanding
Château Beychevelle. 51% merlot and 39% cabernet sauvignon. Lovely aroma, pencil lead, blackcurrant, classic. Firm tannins, good balance and good length on the palate. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Lagrange. 76% cabernet sauvignon and 18% merlot. Capsicum and black fruit aroma. High acid, capsicum character but classic. Good
Château Langoa Barton. 54% cabernet sauvignon and 34% merlot. Muted aroma and palate. Seemed out of condition. Not rated
Château Leoville Barton. 83% cabernet sauvignon and 15% merlot. Pencil lead, gorgeous blackcurrant aroma. Firm tannins, good length. Very Good
*Château Léoville Marquis de Las Cases. 79% cabernet sauvignon and 11% cabernet franc. Blackcurrant, classic aroma. Palate has ripe, saturated fruit and great length and balance. Outstanding
Château Leoville Poyferre. 60% cabernet sauvignon and 35% merlot. Capsicum, blackcurrant, austere aroma. Palate with firm, structured tannins. Very Good
Château Talbot. 62% cabernet sauvignon and 32% merlot. Blackcurrant and gloss aroma. Firm tannins, somewhat acidic but classic. Good to Very Good
Château Batailley. 82% cabernet sauvignon and 15% merlot. Earthy aroma, brettanomyces? Capsicum, blackcurrant and acidity on the palate. Good for now
Château Croizet-Bages. 61% cabernet sauvignon and 37% merlot. Blackcurrant and capsicum aroma. Firm tannins and classic palate. Good to Very Good
Château Lynch Bages. 69% cabernet sauvignon and 26% merlot. Deep colour, blackcurrant aroma. Saturated fruit and great length on the palate. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Lynch-Moussas. 79% cabernet sauvignon and 21% merlot. Blackcurrant, earth and smoke aroma. Medium tannins and pleasant finish. Good
Château Pichon Baron. 80% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot. Blackcurrant and refined fruit aroma. Great length, balance, plushness and firm tannins. A favourite, but slightly shaded by a couple of Pauillac wines this year. Very Good nonetheless
*Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 22% merlot. Blackcurrant, refined aroma, pencil lead aroma. Long length and lovely balance on the palate. Outstanding
*Château Pontet-Canet. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot. Blackcurrant, refined earthy aroma. Great length, structure, blackcurrant and tannins on the palate. Outstanding
Château Doisy Daëne. 85% sémillon and 14.5% sauvignon blanc. Spice, marmalade aroma. Not particularly viscous. Fresh. Good to Very Good
Château Suduiraut. 95% sémillon and 5% sauvignon blanc. Vanilla, marmalade aroma. Long length, full body but grace and balance on the palate. Very Good
*Château d’Yquem. Last, but not least. 80% sémillon and 20% sauvignon blanc. Marmalade, spice, complex aroma. Viscous, full length, full body and ultra unctuous palate. Outstanding
From the very good 2000 vintage in Bordeaux, La Demoiselle is the second wine of Sociando-Mallet. The wine is initially shy in bearing with aromas of coffee grinds and old cedar. A restrained expression of blackcurrants emerges with aeration. The palate is savoury and earthy, with resolved tannins and smoke and coffee characters prominent. These latter characters affect the balance of the wine and overwhelm the fruit, a slightly disappointing outcome given the good vintage. I would suggest this wine is ready to drink now, and has nudged past its best drinking window. Rating: Good. Abv: 12.5%. Price: +$50. Website: NA.
Mission Hill have fashioned an outstanding cabernet blend here from the Okanagan Valley in Canada. It’s a classic Bordeaux style blend of 45% cabernet sauvignon, 37% merlot, 16% cabernet franc and 2% petit verdot. Perhaps more than any other wine I have tried to date, this wine showcases the region’s considerable potential and puts Canadian red wine on the map. The colour is deep and the aromas remind of blackcurrants and tobacco leaf. The contribution from 15 months in French oak is well judged. The palate is medium bodied, with savoury and firm tannins, bright fruit and the length on the finish long. 36 barrels produced. Rating: Outstanding. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $80+. Website: www.missionhillwinery.com.
This is a lovely and classical expression of Médoc. Lightly coloured (for cabernet), it has aromatics that are restrained and savoury, and remind of red currants, cherry and cedar. The palate has firm tannins and an earthy, savoury finish. This is an enjoyable wine that can be approached now, but will also benefit from short cellaring. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $30. Website: www.medoc-chandelliere.com.
This is a sound wine at less than $10 from the Okanagan Valley. A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, it has a simple fruity aroma of red berries. The palate is dry, with some soft tannins, gentle fruit and the finish in balance. A safe choice at this price. Rating: Acceptable. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $9. Website: n/a.
This is a high quality merlot blend (76% merlot, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 8% cabernet franc and 2% malbec) from Craggy Range in Hawkes Bay in New Zealand. It has blackcurrant, clove and earth aromatics that are Bordeaux like, although more left bank than right. The palate has great length and ripe tannins. Ready to drink now, this is an excellent wine that impresses beyond its price. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 13.9%. Price: $35. Website: www.craggyrange.com.
The new Langtons classification (classification VII) of Australian wine was released last week. It is stated to measure the performance of wines in an open market, with the condition of entry being 10 vintages and a track record in the secondary market. The list has been prepared for many years now, and is prepared by Langtons, a company that forms part of an Australian supermarket conglomerate. You can read it here.
It’s actually a pretty interesting list, even though it is easy to cynical about lists and since it’s wine, everyone has a view. The facts are it captures many, perhaps almost all, of Australia’s great wines and helps provide an easy reference point to quality Australian wine for expert and new comer alike. I think it therefore is of use.
In this post, I wanted to sift through the list to see what has changed, as that is potentially of interest in spotting trends. So, I am going to look at the promotions, demotions and departures. The latter two have seemingly, and perhaps unsurprisingly at least from producers, attracted little comment that I have seen. Here’s what I found.
Promotions at the top level (exceptional)
At the top level, there is only one move, a new entrant. The new wine is Best’s Thomson Family Great Western Shiraz. I have tasted this wine on few occasions, but it is a very good wine. There are many outstanding wines at this level. I do think though that Grange and Hill of Grace remain above most of them.
Promotions at second level (outstanding)
At the next level, twelve wines were promoted:
1 Best’s Bin 0 Great Western Shiraz
2 By Farr Sangreal Pinot Noir, Geelong
3 Charles Melton Nine Popes Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre, Barossa Valley
4 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz, McLaren Vale
5 Henschke Euphonium Shiraz Cabernet Merlot, Barossa Valley
6 Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet, Great Southern
7 Langmeil 1843 Shiraz, Barossa Valley
8 Leeuwin Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
9 Seppeltsfield Para Liqueur Port, Barossa Valley
10 Yalumba Signature Cabernet Shiraz, Barossa
11 Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1 Cabernet, Yarra Valley
12 Yeringberg Cabernet, Yarra Valley
These promotions are from quite a mix of regions and styles, with five wines from the Barossa and three wines from around Melbourne, namely the Yarra Valley and Geelong. But it is a strong list. I haven’t encountered a couple – Howard Park’s wine and the Seppeltsfield fortified specifically. Leeuwin’s cabernet sauvignon has improved over the years.
Promotions at the third level (excellent)
At the next level, twelve wines also have been promoted:
1 Cullen Wines Kevin John Chardonnay, Margaret River
2 Deep Woods Estate Reserve Cabernet, Margaret River
3 Hentley Farm Clos Otto Shiraz, Barossa Valley
4 Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley
5 Kooyong Haven Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula
6 Oakridge 864 Chardonnay, Yarra Valley
7 Oliver’s Taranga Reserve Shiraz, McLaren Vale
8 Vass Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay, Margaret River
9 Wine by Farr Tout Pres Pinot Noir, Geelong
10 Xanadu Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
11 Yabby Lake Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula
12 Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 2 Shiraz, Yarra Valley
I have tasted most, but not all, of these wines. Of the twelve, interestingly ten are from the Margaret River and the wine regions around Melbourne. A couple of wines here will be on a higher trajectory, with Oakridge’s 864 chardonnay the most obvious example.
Now, my spreadsheet was tested by trying to track the various movements, so if there is an error here or anywhere else in this post let me know. These are the wines that have been moved down a level:
1 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River
2 Chambers Muscat, Rutherglen
3 Chambers Topaque, Rutherglen
4 Crawford River Riesling, Western Victoria
5 Dalwhinnie Eagle Shiraz, Pyrenees
6 De Bortoli Noble One, New South Wales
7 Glaetzer Amon Ra Shiraz, Barossa Valley
8 Grosset Springvale Riesling, Clare Valley
9 Majella Malleea Cabernet, Coonawarra
10 McWilliams Lovedale Semillon, Hunter Valley
11 Noon Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale
12 Paringa Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula
13 Seppelt St Peters Shiraz, Western Victoria
14 Wynns Michael Shiraz, Coonawarra
15 Yalumba Octavius Shiraz, Barossa
This group is a bit of a mixed bag, but they all remain in the classification, so really, it is not that the wines have all suddenly undergone some misfortune. I will return to this shortly, as first I want to mention the wines left out of this classification. They are:
1 Bannockburn Serre Pinot Noir, Geelong
2 Greenock Creek RR Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley
3 Wolf Blass Platinum Shiraz, South Australia
4 Coldstream Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley
5 Katnook Prodigy Shiraz, Coonawarra
6 Lake’s Folly Chardonnay, Hunter Valley
7 Lindemans Shiraz Cabernet, Coonawarra
8 Paringa Shiraz, Mornington Peninsula
9 Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling, Clare Valley
10 Primo Estate Joseph, South Australia
11 Rolf Binder Shiraz, Barossa Valley
12 Sally’s Paddock Cabernet, Pyrenees
13 Savaterre Chardonnay, Beechworth
14 Wantirna Amelia Cabernet blend, Yarra Valley
15 Wild Duck Creek Estate Springflat Shiraz, Heathcote
This is a very interesting list. It would appear to reflect changing styles (rich and bold styles to more elegant), some declining fortunes and perhaps declining interest in a couple of cases.
You can slice and dice these a number of ways to work out trends, but it is interesting to look at which grape varieties and regions had the most net promotions and demotions. Here’s what I found, using a very simple method of promotions minus demotions for grape varieties and regions:
Pinot Noir, net +2
Cabernet sauvignon & cabernet first blends, net +1
Chardonnay, net +1
Shiraz & shiraz first blends, net -2
Riesling, net -3
Margaret River, net +4
Yarra Valley, net +3
Barossa Valley, net +2
Coonawarra, net -4
This is just one means of looking at this information, and wine is notoriously diverse. However, in terms of grape varieties, this may very tentatively suggest that pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet blends are grape varieties on the up, and riesling and perhaps shiraz is not. There is a lot of movement in shiraz both up and down and a lot of shiraz on the list, so I am slow to draw strong conclusions on shiraz, but it is net down.
The funny thing is that this more or less accords with what I anticipated might be seen, except for the cabernet blends. The pinot noir charge is led by the established wine regions around Melbourne – the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Geelong. Tasmania has not yet seen its day, although I think it is coming.
In terms of movements in regions, the Margaret River, the Yarra Valley and the Barossa lead the pack for net promotions. Coonawarra has seen the most demotions. Again, these are not particular surprises. If tentative observations may be made, and there seems no reason not to make them, perhaps it is that the Yarra Valley appears to be rising with more serious producers than ever and the Margaret River has become Australia’s benchmark region for cabernet sauvignon. And Coonawarra, well, I think it could be so much more than it is. Perhaps that is a post for another day.
This is a good Château Citran from the 2006 vintage that has entered its window of best drinking. It has some tannic grip and mature black currant characters. The wine dries out a little with air but overall, its length, finish and balance make for pleasant and typical left bank Bordeaux drinking. The cork was in great condition. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 13%. Price: $50+.