This is a pleasant and approachable Margaret River cabernet sauvignon from the 2018 vintage. It has an aroma of ripe cassis and its palate reminds of blackcurrant and clove. Ready to drink now. Rating: Good. Abv: 14%. Price: NA. Website: http://willsdomain.com.au. Source: Sample. Reviewed: September 2019.
This was a wonderful tasting of a selection of Wynns Black Label and John Riddoch Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon wines from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, with some quite interesting conclusions.
Those conclusions were that the Black Label, for most vintages, served blind and side-by-side with the John Riddoch, provided the more compelling current drinking. This might be put down to the charm of youth, but it does not, for example, explain the same conclusion being reached for the 1982, 1986 and 1988 vintages. Plausibly, wine storage conditions will have played a part. It would be interesting to comment on the contribution of the vineyard and winemaking operations to these vintages, but since this information is not readily available, I am limited to commenting on what was in the glass.
The second conclusion of the tasting was that Wynns is a style of Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon that requires an uncommonly long period to show its best. The wines from 1999, for example, appeared positively youthful at 20 years’ of age. The wines from the 1980s were mostly just coming on song, and the wines from the 1970s ready to drink. Of course, there were exceptions in each bracket, but the trend line was quite clear.
Overall, this tasting showed Coonawarra at its best: soaring quality, ageworthy and an internationally distinctive, unique expression of cabernet sauvignon. The converse thought also emerged: Coonawarra could be so much more than it is. But it’s a pretty good reason to buy some Wynns Black Label.
One quibble. For such a popular, collectible and ageworthy wine, it is unexpected that its producer does not provide a historical tasting notes archive. Now part of Treasury Wine Estate’s portfolio, the Wynns website only has accessible tasting notes going back to 2010 for the Black Label and 2009 for the John Riddoch. I had wished to learn more about these vintages and, as a reference point, the producer’s website did not help.
Notes follow from this amazing tasting.
From the 1960s
1965. This wine has aromas of black fruit, smoke and cedar, somewhat charming length and a leafy character. Most certainly ready to drink, and in gentle decline. Rating: Very Good.
1968. This wine had a dusty, blackcurrant and earthy aroma, which with air, seemed a little stripped and woody. Low level TCA suspected. Brownish too in colour. Enough doubt not to rate. Rating: Not Rated.
From the 1970s
1970. Aromas of red fruits, herbs and leafs. Smokey, and a bit muted. But with a subtle long length. I enjoyed this. Rating: Very Good.
1972. This is an unusual wine. Oddly rich aromas of raisins, the palate is also dominated by raisins. The length is pleasant enough. Rating: Good.
1976. A Jimmy Watson winner. Somewhat austere at first (blind) impression. Evolved in the glass revealing leaf, earth, soft tannins and good length. This is a subtle wine that proved compelling with time in the glass. Rating: Outstanding.
From the 1980s
1982 Black Label. Aromas of smoke, opulent blackcurrant fruit, mint and a dusty character. Prodigious length on the palate. Clearly Coonawarra. This is an outstanding wine that was comfortably wine of the bracket. Rating: Outstanding*. Abv: 12%.
1982 John Riddoch. This is quite a complex wine, with its expression of earth and fruit. The palate has great length and considerable complexity. This too is plainly an outstanding expression of Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon, although quite different, and slightly shaded by the black label wine from the same year. Rating: Outstanding. Abv: 13%.
1986 Black Label. Cedar and blackcurrant aromas. Great length and firm tannins for a wine 33 years’ old. Another highlight. Rating: Outstanding. Abv: 12.9%.
1986 John Riddoch. An aroma of earth, herbs, oak, spice and smoke. An almost youthful expression, with some raisin overtones. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 13.6%.
1988 Black Label. Aromas of leaf, red fruits. The palate has long length, with blackcurrant characters. Another outstanding Black Label. Rating: Outstanding. Abv: 12.7%.
1988 John Riddoch. Classic blackcurrant aromas, coupled with spice. Somewhat harder tannins with a licorice overlay. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 12.3%.
From the 1990s
1990 Black Label. This black label has restrained aromas of red fruits, licorice and proved quite complex with some iodine characters and brooding expression on the palate. Rating: Very Good.
1990 John Riddoch. This proved an outstanding John Riddoch. It has aromas of blackcurrant, cloves and mint. The length is long with cassis undertones. Quite a youthful expression that will continue to improve. Rating: Outstanding.
1991 Centenary Shiraz Cabernet. This was a surprise for principal reason that the shiraz was not at all obvious. Aromas of clove and mint, with dusty tannins, a leafy character and good length. Plainly a good wine. Rating: Very Good.
1991 Black Label. A lesser black label on this tasting. A dusty aroma, and somewhat acidic palate. Rating: Good.
1991 John Riddoch. This proved a rich wine, with an aroma of saturated plums and good length. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 13.5%.
1994 Black Label. Very tannic, but with good length. Still young. Rating; Very Good. Abv: 13.5%.
1994 John Riddoch. This wine presented awkwardly, with oak, cedar and quite hard tannins. TCA suspected. But also 25 wines putting some wear on the palate. Rating: Not Rated.
1996. Both the Black Label and the John Riddoch showed flashes of character of mint and blackcurrant, but seemed faulty due to a hardness of tannin and stripped nature. Both suspected for TCA and withdrawn. Rating: Not Rated.
1998 Black Label. Aromas of blackcurrant, with great length and fresh acidity. In its drinking window. Rating: Very Good.
1998 John Riddoch. A slightly disappointing wine. Firm tannins, good length, but a little hard and the oak seemed awkward. Rating: Good.
1999 Black Label. The acidity on this wine presents quite firmly. Blackcurrants, good length and youthful in expression on the palate. It surprises to say this, but much too early to drink at 20 years of age. Rating: Very Good.
1999 John Riddoch. Aromas of blackcurrant and smoke. Restrained in bearing with good length. Rating: Good to Very Good.
2003 was a drought vintage in Bordeaux, and despite many of these wines being dismissed as a consequence, the vintage continues to provide very enjoyable drinking 16 years later. So some are wrong. Certainly, I would be a buyer of 2003s for current drinking. The 2003 Cos Labory has brooding aromatics of earth and cedar. The palate has reminders of licorice and earth, with good length and balance on the finish. Ready to drink now, this wine is in its best drinking window. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $70+. Website: http://www.cos-labory.com.
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.
A slight mouthful of name, places and grape varieties, this wine is deep in colour with an inky nose reminding of tar and liquorice. The palate is expressive of dark plums, tannins and leaf and has a bitter finish. This wine is approachable now with decanting, but will benefit from a further 2-3 years cellaring. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $29. Website: darenberg.com.au. Source: Sample.
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
The 2015 vintage of the “Pig in the House” organic cabernet sauvignon has an Australian bearing, with aromas of mint, eucalyptus, very ripe sweet plums and cedar. The palate is sweet fruited and viscous and somewhat warming. Ready to drink now, this wine will suit current drinking. Rating: Acceptable. Abv: 14.8%. Price: $25. Website: www.piginthehouse.com.au. Source: Sample.
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 well priced and typical expression of Californian cabernet sauvignon from Sterling Vineyards. It has a fruity aroma of ripe red berries. The palate has plump tannins, reminders of ripe blackcurrants and pleasant length on the finish. Rating: Good. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $18. Website: www.sterlingvineyards.com.