Tag: Margaret River

Devil’s Lair Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Devil’s Lair is a brand owned by Treasury Wine Estates and this is the 2014 vintage of their cabernet sauvignon from the Margaret River.  It opens to aromatics of clove and eucalyptus, the latter a character that I notice in a lot of Margaret River cabernets.  The palate is dry and somewhat stern in bearing, overly so for me.  Rating: Good. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $40. Website: www.devils-lair.com.au

Langtons Classification VII – trends, promotions and demotions

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:

Grape varieties
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.

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Cabernet 1995

This is an outstanding Heytesbury cabernet blend from Vasse Felix from the highly regarded 1995 Margaret River vintage.  Nearing the end of its prime drinking window, this is cabernet at its best and I mean that in an international comparative context.  This wine would rival most left bank Bordeaux and is compulsory tasting for those lacking belief in Australian wine.  It has long length, mature characters of earth and blackcurrant and that ethereal character that distinguishes the finest of wines.  I am woefully underweight in Margaret River cabernet and a glance at Vasse Felix’s website suggests that this label is no longer made and notes on older vintages are seemingly not published.  A pity on all three counts. (Alc: 14%, Region: Margaret River, Rating: Outstanding, Drink: now, Price: $70+, Tasted: October, 2017)

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Other vintages reviewed: 

Vintage Rating Review
Not rated.  Notes only.
Very Good

Fraser Gallop Parterre Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

The Fraser Gallop cabernets I’ve tried to date have all been very good: classically profiled and well proportioned.  The “Parterre” seems to be the wine pitched at the middle of the range, the estate wine a rung lower and the “limited release” above.  The 2012 vintage in the Margaret River is yet another good vintage in this region.  In the glass, there are aromas of vanilla, clove and blackcurrant.  The palate has long length on the finish and its components are in harmony.  A short decant is suggested.  (Region: Margaret River, Western Australia, Rating: Very Good, Would I buy it based on this tasting? Yes, Drink: 2019 to 2029, Tasted: July, 2017)

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Other vintages reviewed:

Atticus Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

A hitherto unsighted label.  It presents quite similarly, in my view, to the better producers of the Margaret River region.  In the glass, this is quite a mature wine, and has a very typical and lovely medium bodied blackcurrant expression.  Bordeaux like, and at or near its peak, I wouldn’t suggest giving this wine further time in bottle.  (Region: Margaret River, Rating: Good to Very Good, Would I buy it based on this tasting? Yes, Drink: now, Tasted: June 2017)

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Other vintages reviewed:

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Vasse Felix’s cabernet sauvignon has crept into the deep $30s on retail shelves.  The 2013 is a good wine, with determined licorice and cassis aromas.  The palate has mid range length, enough tannins to suggest a life ahead and a some balance.  A little monolithic now, it would benefit from a decade in the cellar.  (Alc: 14.5%, Region: Margaret River, Rating: Good to Very Good, Would I buy it based on this tasting? At $25 yes, Drink: 2020+, Tasted: May, 2017)

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Other vintages reviewed:

Vintage Rating Review
Good to Very Good
Good to Very Good
Very Good

Two cabernets; Ring.Bolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and Hollick The Bard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Since attending a magnificent Margaret River v Coonawarra tasting a few weeks ago (you can read about it here), the contrasts of these two regions are front of mind.

Hollick The Bard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Coonawarra
This wine is more open than many Coonawarras, but its young firm tannins suggest it will close down soon.  Blackcurrant and medium bodied in a classic style.  Rating: Good

Ring.Bolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Margaret River
This is a lovely left-bank Bordeaux style Margaret River cabernet sauvignon.  Aromatics of earth and spice.  The palate is full bodied with generous length.  Rating: Good

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An outstanding Margaret River v Coonawarra cabernet tasting

I attended recently a wonderful benchmarking exercise of Margaret River and Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends.  A number outstanding wines were presented.  Tasted blind, there were more similarities between the regions than differences.  Nonetheless, to draw out the tasting distinctions, the Coonawarra wines tended to have a slightly fresher acidity profile, and in the aged examples, more prominent tannins.  The Coonawarra wines also, at the margins, tended to present more in the black olive descriptive territory than the blackcurrant and violet characters of Margaret River.  For those who might be inclined to doubt the quality of Australian cabernet, this tasting is a complete and emphatic response that this has little basis in fact.  Notes follow.

The Margaret River wines

Pierro Chardonnay 2009, Margaret River 
This is a classic expression of the new Australian style of chardonnay.  Its aromas remind of chicken salt, sulphides, stones, lemon and a bit of cashew.  The palate is full bodied with a saline core and between medium and long length.  The acidity falls a way a little on the finish.

Rating: Good to Very Good

Cullen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 1995, Margaret River
Wow!  This is the best Cullen I have tasted by some margin, and an outstanding wine.  It has aromatics of blackcurrant, earth, cedar, clove, menthol, spearmint and a little licorice.  The palate has long length and is in wonderful balance.  Cloves, ripe tannins and blackcurrant complete the picture.  I understand that this is a “pre-biodynamic” Cullen and I can’t recall more recent vintages of this quality.  Biodynamics may not suit all producers?

Rating: Outstanding

Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2001, Margaret River
Deeply coloured, the 2001 Cullen Diana Madeline has aromatics of black olives, cloves, french oak and menthol.  The palate is full bodied, with long length and a powerful expression of blackcurrant.  Still youthful, and a first rate cabernet blend, this wine surprised with its heft and power.

Rating: Very Good to Outstanding

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 1985, Margaret River
A second wow!  Cloudy in the glass.  A few swirls, and gentle and alluring aromatics of left bank Bordeaux like blackcurrant, cedar and pencil lead emerge.  The palate is exquisitely poised and balanced, with long length and a full bodied mature expression of cabernet.  This is the sort of wine that can single handedly either build or justify a reputation.  The best Moss Wood vintage I have tasted and in marvellous condition.

Rating: Outstanding

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Margaret River
I think there is general agreement that Moss Wood’s old label (see the ’85 above) looks better than its new one (immediately above).  The 2007 is youthful in expression with aromatics of blackcurrant (with a hint of plumpness from a ripe year), cedar, violet and cloves.  The palate is an exercise in blackcurrants and cedar, with fresh acidity and structured tannins.  This needs another decade.

Rating: Very Good

Cape Naturaliste Torpedo Rocks, Cabernet Merlot 2010, Margaret River
I first time encounter with this producer, and I thought it showed very well.  Cedar, blackcurrant and gorgeous pencil lead characters on the nose.  The palate continues the theme, with long length.  Not dissimilar in style to the Moss Wood.

Rating: Very Good

Houghton Gladstones Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Margaret River
An impressive wine.  Cassis, cedar and blackcurrant, each with considerable intensity.  The palate has long length and reminders of cedar, pencil lead and blackcurrant, tied together by firmish tannins.  A long future ahead of it.

Rating: Very Good

The Coonawarra wines

Bowen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
Cloudy in the glass with aromatics of menthol, mint, dark olives, spearmint and cedar.  Blackcurrants emerge with time.  Fresh acidity, menthol, clove and licorice on the finish.

Rating: Good to Very Good

Katnook Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
The oak plays a significant role in this wine.  It has aromatics of cedar, cloves, butter, spearmint and caramel.  The fruit is ultra-ripe, with powerful currant and prune like aromatics complemented by licorice overtones.  The palate has long length, fresh acidity, complemented by butter, cola and blackcurrant expressions.  Unquestionably this is a very good wine, but it needs another decade to integrate.  Stylistically it will bring joy or despair depending on your personal preferences.

Rating: Good to Very Good

Long term buyers of Wynns’ wines need not look away now.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, Coonawarra
Cedar, dark olive and blackcurrant aromatics with a licorice core.  The palate is finely balanced, with fresh acidity and a gorgeous earthy character.  The tannins are still there and quite prominent, suggesting this wine could last at least another decade. An outstanding wine.

Rating: Outstanding

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 1990, Coonawarra
Black olive and blackcurrant aromatics.  The palate is fully mature, with olive characters supported by fresh acidity, long length and structured tannins.  Some dried tea leaf character at the very finish.

Rating: Very Good

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 1986, Coonawarra
Still a vigorous and powerful wine.  Black olive and licorice aromatics.  The palate has good length and mature dried tea leaf characters are more prominent than the 1990.  Frankly I should rate this wine as outstanding simply for tasting this good at 30 years of age and for being a wonderful example of aged Coonawarra.  But equally, I suspect it is now reaching towards the other end of its drinking window and so I have split the difference.

Rating: Good to Very Good

And a ring in…

Best’s Cabernet Sauvignon 1995, Great Western
Great Western and the Grampians are not particularly known for cabernet sauvignon.  This wine presented however much like an aged Yarra Valley example (uncannily reminding of the Wantirna Estate 1994 reviewed here).  Gently declining, this has mature and savoury expressions of tea leaves, tinned tomatoes and cassis.  The acidity is prominent on the palate, as is the dried tea leaf character.

Rating: Good

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