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testing the extent to which terroir shows through in the glass

COOnAWARRA AnD MARGARET RIvER CABERnET
How different are the Cabernets of Coonawarra and Margaret River? Andrew Jefford, fresh from a year down under, searches with Stephen Brook and Anthony Rose to find a print of terroir
Comparing the Cabernet-based wines of Coonawarra and Margaret River is one of the greatest tasting opportunities Australia can offer the rest of the world. Cabernet, of course, needs no introduction here. Every widely planted grape variety has its devotees, but if there is such a thing as a world benchmark for gastronomic red wine, one that offers the perfect combination of weight, structure, tannic mass, balance, and refreshment in combination with food, it will likely be (in whole or in part) from the improbably muscular offspring of juicy Cabernet Franc and perfumed Sauvignon Blanc: Cabernet Sauvignon. The variety is the third most-planted in Australia, with 27,309ha (11,052 acres) bearing fruit. In terms of tons crushed, neither Coonawarra nor Margaret River is a big hitter; in quality terms, by contrast, the two regions are dominant, with top producers in each making the country’s reference Cabernets—and those that achieve the highest prices both in retail and later at auction. Coonawarra is, by age, the senior partner. You can still down a beer in the Royal Oak Hotel in Penola, and it was probably beer that was drunk there on July 31, 1890, when the enterprising John Riddoch conducted the ballot for the first blocks of what was later to become the “Coonawarra fruit colony” (4ha [10 acres] each for £100, on easy terms). Riddoch himself always had wine in view. His own first vintage was 1895, which he described with proud partiality as “very palatable, with a fragrant bouquet, an excellent wine.” The fact that Coonawarra was actually ill suited to producing fortified wines meant that viticulture subsequently languished. Sheep vastly outnumbered vines throughout most of the first half of the 20th century. The arrival in 1951 of Samuel Wynn and his son David, though, galvanized the somnolent pastoralists, and the Wynns’ championing of the relatively new concept of an “estate wine” was perfectly timed for an Australia that, by the mid1960s, was drinking more unfortified wine than fortified. Margaret River is a newer discovery. Lupin researcher John Gladstones had sniffed out its potential by 1965 or so, marshaling climate data that suggested a number of parallels with Bordeaux. He also recalled the summer fruits of his childhood, grown in Karridale: “Their rich aromas seemed to far exceed anything produced in Perth.” The local medical community adopted his suggestions more enthusiastically than the dairy farmers and loggers. Perhaps that was no bad thing; they knew the taste of fine Bordeaux. Within a few years, Gladstones’s predicted “table wine of very high quality indeed” brimmed in local glasses. In terroir terms, the two regions contrast. Climatically, Coonawarra is cool, windy, and moderately maritime, with marked seasons. (Its heat degree day summation is 1,337, with 1,593 sunshine hours.) Margaret River is warmer and

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Original illustration by Charles Martin, L’Art de Boire, Etablissements Nicolas, Paris, 1920

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intensely maritime, with mild, wet winters and generous, though always tempered, summer heat (heat degree day summation of 1,596, with 1,626 sunshine hours). In soil terms, the famous red “cigar” of classical Coonawarra (a strip of imperceptibly raised land roughly 12 by 1.25 miles [19 by 2km], tapering to half that width at the

of the top ten wines and 13 of the top 20, despite a slightly higher number of entries from Margaret River. Why? My own view is that the fruit qualities of Coonawarra are simply so extraordinary that it would be very hard for any region in the world to beat it in any context (and blind tasting without food is just such a context) when fruit is one of the

g oÛt de te rroi r

The aim of our tasting was threefold: to gauge how good the wines were; to see if we could find a sense of terroir and of regionality in them; and to see if one region performed better than another
extremities) is a mineral sandwich: wind-blown red loess on top, basement limestone underneath, with hard calcrete between the two—a problem for the early fruit farmers, and still in need of ripping today. It’s one of Australia’s youngest vineyard soils; the maritime retreats that left this land high and dry occurred only around 600,000 years ago. Margaret River’s geology and soils are vastly older— some 30 million to 40 million years in their present form. It’s a bigger area (roughly 62 by 17 miles [100 by 27km]) and thus has more internal variation, but the classic soil type you see recurring throughout Margaret River, as indeed over a vast area of wine-growing Western Australia, is lateritic gravel: heavy, buckshot-like, iron-rich nodules over a clay base. The aim of our tasting was threefold: to gauge how good the wines were; to see if we could find a sense of terroir and of regionality in them; and to see if one region performed better than another. All three tasters felt that the potential of these regions was exceptionally good and their suitability for Cabernet beyond question. Both Anthony Rose and Stephen Brook felt that this potential was well realized, praising the wines’ consistency. I found the wines less consistent and feel that more fastidious viticulture and a softer, less forceful winemaking approach would improve the quality levels further. All three tasters hoped to find crisper and more memorable regional distinction than we did. There are two possible explanations. One is that we are insensitive or inadequately experienced tasters of these wines. A second is that the print of terroir in these wines is less pronounced than it is commonly assumed to be, for reasons either connected to natural conditions themselves or because winemaking approaches do not yet respect the inviolability of the raw materials as thoroughly as they might. The print of terroir emerges most clearly in unadjusted or minutely adjusted wines. We all expected the battle to be an even one. In the event, Coonawarra emerged clearly victorious, with seven principal poles of attraction. Margaret River must defer to Coonawarra in point of fruit. But when you are looking for breadth, depth, and texture behind the fruit, then Margaret River begins to look more compelling and complete, supposing that these qualities have been allowed to emerge via fastidious viticulture and harvesting, and over the course of long fermentations with minimum adjustment. When all is said and done, though, both regions produce resonant and memorable Cabernet, as the notes for our top wines indicate. The historical record for both regions, too, is unambiguous: Great Coonawarra and Margaret River Cabernet both age superbly, and the finest bottles can be cellared with confidence.
average and range of scores

Stephen brook andrew Jefford anthony rose all wines

Average 15.5 14 17 14.5

range 12–18 11.5–17.5 15–18 13–17.5

andrew Jefford’s top wines
rosemount Show reserve coonawarra cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (coonawarra) 17.5 balnaves the tally coonawarra reserve cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (coonawarra) 17 wynns coonawarra Estate cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (coonawarra) 16.5 wynns coonawarra Estate cabernet Sauvignon John riddoch 2003 (coonawarra) 16.5 Yalumba menzies the cigar 2006 (coonawarra) 16.5 clairvault Estate cabernet Sauvignon margaret river 2005 (margaret river) 15.5 bellwether coonawarra cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (coonawarra) 15 cullen diana madeline 2005 (margaret river) 15 cullen diana madeline margaret river 2007 (margaret river) 15 Leeuwin Estate art Series cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (margaret river) 15

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stephen brook’s verDict
I found this a fascinating tasting. I have visited both margaret river and coonawarra, though I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert on either. I have had more exposure to the latter, and have long admired the wines. wynns coonawarra cabernet has a nearpermanent place in my cellar, because it’s a wine I have bought and enjoyed over two decades. Perhaps it was foolish of me to try to identify the origin of each wine—I knew I was overreaching myself, but it’s fun to try. as was predictable, I made rather a fool of myself and misattributed many of the wines. but no matter. the discussion after the tasting did highlight why making a clear identification is very far from easy. I associate coonawarra with a hint of herbaceousness—not always, but often. I don’t mind a hint of it; I do mind when it becomes strident and veers into overt greenness. but as andrew and anthony reminded me, herbaceousness can also be characteristic of margaret river, and that is perfectly true. but the discussion also brought out the appealing textures of margaret river wines—and that, for me, was also an indicator of origin (even if many of my guesses were wrong). I was pleased to discover that coonawarra fared especially well in the tasting, because it’s a region that appeals to me. I hope my australian friends won’t feel slighted if I conceive of it as old world cabernet from a new world region. at its most refined, coonawarra is quite bordelais in its focused fruit, tannic structure, and ability to age. I have far less experience of mature or aged margaret river cabernets to say whether the same is true of that region. clearly both regions have a great deal to offer. as is often the case in australia, overripeness is a hazard that, for me, can seriously mar the pleasure of a wine. Even with cabernet, I would rather be refreshed than knocked to the ground. overripeness did feature in a few wines, and that troubled me more than occasional herbaceousness. but overall, these are wines that I can and do drink with great pleasure. margaret river may have more cachet and glamor these days, but I can’t help feeling that coonawarra is still underrated as one of the world’s great cabernet zones. drinking, with its wonderful fruit purity the main talking point. ample tannins; discreet earthy or mineral qualities. overall, a satisfactory, textured, and balanced wine of real generosity. wrattonbully? coonawarra? 17.5 AR: good, youthful ruby color; notes of coffee, mulberry, and blackcurrant on the nose; good concentration of cassis-like fruit quality, very nice freshness, supple, textured tannins, and juicy acidity. overall, very well balanced and approachable now. margaret river? 17 wynns coonawarra estate cabernet sauvignon 2006 (coonawarra) – 17.5 SB: very deep red. Firm dense black-cherry nose. voluptuous and fleshy, with ample concentration and density; the sumptuous fruit is supported by firm, ripe tannins that give it a certain solidity. this does have some depth and grip, combining opulence with structure and even severity. this is an imposing wine that still has a long way to go, and it seems entirely in balance. good length. margaret river? 17.5 AJ: Saturated black-purple. Initially rather a sweaty (screwcappy?), slap-happy cast to the nose, but underneath that (once you’ve given it a chance to clear) you find svelte, ermine-lined blackcurrant of real class. deep, almost truffley. Engaging. this is very deep, dark, and full of undercurrents (or undercurrants; perhaps both). not excessively acidified, and the fruit qualities are outstanding. Limpid, poised, and deep, and this fruit has a compelling quality to it— the kind of thing you want to keep sipping. Perhaps overslender and only shyly tannic, so the overall effect is pristine and noli me tangere; but within this tasting, this is an impressive wine. those dark, truffley blackcurrants are beautifully shaded with licorice. coonawarra. 16.5 AR: deep ruby hue; intriguing character of licorice spice, cedar, and cassis on the nose. richly concentrated cassis-fruit quality here, nicely tinged with cedary oak spice, with a textured quality of tannin and freshness of acidity that’s really just starting to come into its own. drinking nicely now but still vigorous and lively, and it should drink well for a good 5–10 years yet. Impressive and serious wine. margaret river? 18 leeuwin estate art series cabernet sauvignon 2004 (Margaret river) – 16.5 SB: very deep red. dense, brooding, cassis nose. rich, suave, juicy, but also has ample freshness and lift. the oak is well integrated, as are the tannins. not the most complex of cabernets, but it has some purity and drive. drinks well now, but no reason to suppose it won’t hold for some years to come. Quite good length. coonawarra? 16 AJ: Saturated black-purple. Intense, warm, savory blackcurranty scents. Lovely ripeness and fruit purity. vivid, lively, clean, deep, chunky, with the usual press of edgy acidity

top wines
Punters corner Sovereign coonawarra reserve cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (coonawarra) 18 gralyn Estate margaret river cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (margaret river) 17.5 rosemount Show reserve coonawarra cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (coonawarra) 17.5 Sandalford Prendiville reserve margaret river cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (margaret river) 17.5 wynns coonawarra Estate cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (coonawarra) 17.5 cape mentelle cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (margaret river) 17 malone wrattonbully cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (wrattonbully) 17 vasse Felix margaret river cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (margaret river) 17 Yalumba the menzies coonawarra cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (coonawarra) 17 watershed awakening margaret river cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (margaret river) 17 Lenton brae wilyabrup margaret river cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (margaret river) 16.5 the redman coonawarra 2002 (cS/ Shiraz/merlot) (coonawarra) 16.5

rosemount show reserve coonawarra cabernet sauvignon 2005 (coonawarra) – 17.5 SB: very deep red. opulent and toasty blackcurrant nose, stylish and hedonistic. Suave and rich, concentrated and dense, with a sweetness and intensity that are linked to some fine acidity. this is classy and vigorous, finely crafted, and well balanced. the oak is pronounced, but there is sufficient fruit to support it. Sheer pleasure. good length. margaret river? 17.5

AJ: Saturated black-red. Lots of blackcurrant, though in fact it’s the moist licorice that dominates the aromas. vibrant and arresting. vivid, deep, dark, leathery, full-bodied, warm, and welcoming, this is a generously and lushly crafted cabernet of real class. Structured, full, deep, with its acid component relatively high in the international context, yet not excessive for australia; this is one of the biggest-boned wines in the tasting. admirable wealth and stature, built on the continental scale, and providing enjoyable

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giving it its stark balance. this is nonetheless a wine of real fruit wealth and purity. Pristine, dark blackcurrant, cherry, and early-season plum; textured tannins; incipient fruit sweetness. with a more relaxed and sensual balance, this would merit an outstanding score. coonawarra. 15 AR: good, youthful color, shading to ruby/ garnet; fine, fresh, mulberry-fruity aromas; very vibrant and juicy mulberry and blackcurrant fruit on the palate. this wine has excellent concentration and flavor, with wellintegrated oak and a lovely, juicy, moreish quality, in both its texture and flavors. beautifully crafted, this has some of the elegance of, for example, margaux, with a touch more australian generosity and opulence—and yet, thanks to its elegant, (seemingly) natural acidity, it’s drinking beautifully and should do so for another five years. margaret river? 18 Yalumba Menzies the cigar 2006 (coonawarra) – 16.5 SB: opaque red. dense, inky, black-fruits nose, with an appealing chalkiness. ripe and rounded, medium-bodied, sweet and charming; quite a forward style, though there is sufficient tannin to give it some grip. but there’s little complexity here, and it’s far from layered, but it has finesse and persistence. not for the long haul, perhaps, but very appealing now. this also gained length of flavor with aeration. margaret river? 16 AJ: very dark black-red, with the emphasis on black. Lovely nose, with great generosity but great purity, too. Long, pencilly blackcurrant, attractively muddied by sweet dust and warm earth. I assume this is coonawarra/wrattonbully, and it seems to me to have all those SE of Sa virtues as presently defined. Something a little richer (mint chocolate?) as it lingers in the glass. very long, very pure, very poised, very classic. You simply can’t fault outstanding fruit qualities of this order, and the winemaker has managed to guard that purity right the way through the palate. I’d love, though, for the wine to have a softer, less insistently acid balance and for it to have more textured richness. It is a marble statue as it is, and not a living, breathing body ready to seduce or to engage with food. nonetheless, very good in this class. coonawarra. 16.5 AR: dense and deep-hued youthful ruby, this looks almost forbidding in the glass; there’s dark berry fruit, raisiny fruitcake and spice on the nose—almost Porty in other words, though, to be fair, not baked or jammy—while the palate shows good richness of cassis fruit, well-applied oak, quite firm, chunky tannins, and slightly mouth-puckering acidity. a wellcrafted style that should age well but needs food to show at its best. margaret river? 17 balnaves the tally coonawarra reserve cabernet sauvignon 2007 (coonawarra) – 16 SB: opaque red. muted, black-fruits nose,

inexpressive now. Soft, rounded, juicy, quite full-bodied, with ripe tannins in the background. there’s a slight earthiness that gives some grain to the texture. Quite forward and accessible for a young cabernet, and it lacks some drive and persistence. It has charm and ripeness but not as much complexity as I hoped. Quite long. margaret river? 14.5 AJ: deep, saturated, black-red. Interesting and unusual melange of mixed black fruits (blackcurrant, sloe, damson), with something almost marine and iodine-like. not a hugely articulate or focused aroma, but unusual and quietly and darkly intriguing. after a while, the iodine drifts toward high-mass incense: a little welcome exoticism. Excellent tannic mass here, integrated with splashy blackcurrant fruit in customary high-acid style, and with the well-chosen and wellhandled oak providing some exotic richness and depth. the impressive core of fruit continues to drive the palate, but in contrast to so many, the high acid doesn’t prove wearying, since it is integrated to generous tannins and backed by some intrinsic richness. I suspect (though this is only wine number 4) that this will prove to be one of the most food-friendly wines in the tasting, and it certainly has impressive aging potential. great wealth, depth, and impact. margaret river. 17 AR: dense and youthful in color, this wine is intense and packed with aromas of cedary oak and blackcurrant; a tad obvious, perhaps, but intense nonetheless, smelling very “australian” in that “big country” way. It’s chock-full of cassis-fruit flavors, very concentrated and powerful, with lots of oak, blackcurrant, with dry tannins and firm acidity on the back palate. a big, could-only-beaussie style that needs seven years. I would be surprised if it weren’t coonawarra, but life is full of surprises. 16 bellwether coonawarra cabernet sauvignon 2006 (coonawarra) – 16 SB: very deep red. muted, blackcurrant nose. Suave and rounded, but concentrated, too, with some grainy tannins and integrated oak. there’s a welcome intensity that makes up for what seems, at present, to be a lack of complexity and nuance. It’s drinking well now but will certainly hold for some time. the wine is at ease with itself—not great or deep, but satisfactory within its own terms, and highly enjoyable. good length. margaret river? 16 AJ: Saturated black-red. ripe black fruits, sweet spice, and more menthol than in any wine so far. It would be hard not to ascribe this to australia in an international cabernet tasting. and nothing wrong with that: I love that sticky-sweet tube-clearing gum-leaf note, though it may be slightly overdominant here. very vicks vaporub. cool, firm, mentholly as the nose is, some tannins but an absence of ripe fruit at the core. the wine is poised and fresh, with lots of cabernet character and a coal/charcoal style I

particularly like; good textural depth and length, too. So, there’s lots to praise—but I just wish it had a slightly more amply proportioned body to fill out the edgy contours. It’s just hard to warm to that finishing acid tang. I feel that this could potentially be a much better wine than it is; good vineyards behind it. margaret river. 15 AR: very dense, deep, youthful, ruby purple; this has an abundance of mint and eucalyptus on the nose, and yet it’s not green but evidently very ripe and powerful. the fruit is concentrated and rich in cassis and blackcherry flavors, while there’s a firm backbone of tannin and acidity, along with a fair whack of oak in the mix. while it’s a classic australian style that, though bordeaux-style, couldn’t be more different from bordeaux if it tried, I find the chewiness of the firm tannins and acidity a tad overt. coonawarra? 16.5 lenton brae wilyabrup Margaret river cabernet sauvignon 2007 (Margaret river) –16 SB: deep to very deep red. voluptuous nose, black fruit, with a hint of herbaceousness. opulent and rounded, with ample weight of fruit and plenty of bright acidity to refresh the palate. Perhaps it lacks a little density of texture, but in all other respects the wine seems balanced and succulent. good length. Probably coonawarra but by no means certain. 16.5 AJ: dark black-red, though less saturated in color than [Penfolds coonawarra 2008]. Some vegetal notes evident, though discreet, so the overall impression is of field-freshness rather than out-and-out capsicum. black fruits behind, and also a treacly earthiness, a savory quality, almost a little dirty (which I like… as long as it’s a little). touch balsamic, too. a complex and generally enjoyable aromatic profile of nascent complexity. Intense, good depth of blackcurrant and plum-skin fruit; plunging acidity tends to dominate the palate, leaving a rather chilly impression, but some palpable tannin and extract help balance this out. the fruits are spiced by the end; just a hint of earthiness, too. In context, a sound wine, with better complexity than many of its peers. margaret river. 14.5 AR: dense in color, this has lots of sweet, cedary oak and chocolate on the nose, a lovely dark-berry and blackcurrant fruit succulence of silky tannin and fresh acidity. very nice overall balance with, despite the opulence, an elegant margaux-like character. the oak is quite evident but not excessive in a young wine, and it should integrate with the tannins and acidity. margaret river? 17 penfolds coonawarra cabernet sauvignon 2008 (coonawarra) – 16 SB: very deep red. Lovely sweet cassis nose; shrieks cabernet, even though dosed with a fair amount of new oak. the distinct mintiness suggests coonawarra. Fairly rich, but the tannins are still quite hard, though balanced

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by pronounced acidity. this needs time but shows great promise, and there is some sweetness and charm on the finish, which is fairly long. 17 AJ: dark black-red. black fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry) overlain by a dusty sheen. Some spice; a meaty depth behind, too. rich, complex, and attractive, with impressive harmony for such a young wine. oak evident via that spice, but not exaggeratedly dominant. Sweet fruits, some (adjusted?) tannins of powdery style, the usual bright acidity, though this is happily not raw or excessive here. the overall effect is plush and pure, with lots of crowd-pleasing style: a chic, bright bottle. not much sense of terroir or latent complexity, though. chocolaty notes to finish. coonawarra. 14.5 AR: good, vivid, youthful color, notes of spice and mint on the nose, with an underlying cassis-like character; promising and inviting; sweetly opulent blackcurrant fruit, very nice richness and cassis character, and cedary integration. the tannins are initially supple, but then the backbone comes through with good balancing freshness and the structure to age. coonawarra? 16.5 punters corner sovereign coonawarra reserve cabernet sauvignon 2005 (coonawarra) – 16 SB: opaque red. Lush, heady opulent nose, with a lot of toasty oak. very concentrated, with powerful tannins, spicy and intense, with pronounced acidity. though this is a touch effortful, it has real force and power. there’s an imperious quality to the wine that is most impressive, and it makes no attempt to be charming or winsome. very long, grainy finish. margaret river? 18 AJ: Saturated black-red. meaty, subtle, full, earthy; ripe black fruits backed by chocolate. attractive and complex aromatic ensemble. concentrated, but rather hard on the palate, with excessive acids clamping everything in place. good tannins, however, and fine fruit definition and purity, with a kind of latent creamy sumptuousness behind. First-class raw materials, which cry out for a gentler, more attentive, but less forceful winemaking approach. a potentially outstanding wine of finely judged ripeness actually rendered overconcentrated, overly intense, and overly edgy in vinification. margaret river. 14.5 AR: very dense color, shading to garnet; intriguing savory/sweet nose, quite meaty in character, with some bovril stock lurking in there; some dark berry fruit on the palate; tense, bittersweet chocolate, a degree of chewiness of tannin, and an impression of dryness on the back palate. there is good fruit here, but it’s just a tad dry and charmless, with slightly tart acidity. coonawarra? 15 sandalford prendiville reserve Margaret river cabernet sauvignon 2005 (Margaret river) –16 SB: very deep red. Hefty oak nose, with considerable power and a swirl of black fruits and chocolate in the glass. Super-ripe and super-rich, yet not jammy or extracted. there’s surprising minerality alongside the concentrated fruit, and there’s no lack of acidity either. this does have complexity and grip, and it tastes younger than it probably is. Fine potential here. vigorous and long. margaret river? 17.5 AJ: Saturated black-red. a lovely cascade of black-fruit aromas: simple, pristine, focused, pure. all tinged by that lovely end-of-summer, late-evening burr; autumn fruits, with dusk drawing on. as so often, the palate fails to deliver on the relaxed, undulating richness promised by the aromas; this is quite tightly blackcurranty, the acid holding everything in a bit of a clench. good wine, but overcontrolled. Long, but all the length is acid-derived, whereas the aromatic profile suggests that the unadulterated fruit would have had plenty of length of its own to deliver. coonawarra. 14 AR: good, vivid, youthful color, overtones of mint and blackcurrant on the nose tinged with mint and spicy cinnamon and vanillin oak; very approachably juicy and moreish, intense cassis-fruit quality, attractively framed by vanillin oak spice and marked fresh juicy acidity. approachable now, but the substantial tannin and evident firm acidity suggest good aging potential for five years plus. coonawarra? 17 watershed awakening Margaret river cabernet sauvignon 2007 (Margaret river) – 16 SB: very deep red. Sweet, generous, oaky black-fruit nose, opulent and aromatic. rich, plump, and concentrated, with a good deal of oak, firm but ripe tannins, and good weight of fruit. though very ripe, there is no jamminess, and there’s a sturdy structure to support the sumptuous fruit. balanced and long, with some slight minerality and ample grip on the finish. margaret river? 17 AJ: Saturated black-purple—the darkest wine of the tasting so far? dark blackcurrant fruit, some leafiness, some sweatiness (screwcap?), but there is an impressive volume of aroma here, and you can really smell the cabernet charging out with vegetative as well as fruit force. the aromas imply a palate of energy and power. almost a link to young douro Port in terms of this vegetative/fruit force. a hint of sweet dust, too. after the overall thrust of the aromas, the palate is disappointing— there just isn’t the textural depth or intensity of fruit to make this a great cabernet. It has energy and poise, but high acidity combines with the vegetal spectrum to chilly effect, even though it drives a long palate. coonawarra. 14 AR: good, youthful ruby; a touch of herb and capsicum on the nose; good quality of cassis fruit on the palate. nice fruit opulence and concentration, with a stylish touch of oak and a natural feel to the acidity and balance. Flavors lengthening on the palate, with quite firm, ageworthy tannin and an underlying herbal note whose freshness, combined with the backbone of this wine, suggest good aging potential. margaret river? 17 wynns coonawarra estate cabernet sauvignon John riddoch 2003 (coonawarra) – 16 SB: very deep red. Pure and lifted cassis nose, with a slight herbaceous minty tone. mediumbodied, supple, and moderately concentrated, with firm tannins supporting the fruit. Indeed, it’s a touch extracted given the modesty of the fruit, and there is some lack of acidity and zest. this seems fully ready. Pleasant but unremarkable. coonawarra? 14 AJ: dark black-red. age has brought a resolution to these aromas, as well as a warm harmony that, again, underlines the extraordinary potential of these two regions. Fruit sweetness and freshness both, combined with a creamy wealth and incense spice notes—all come together here. deep, tangy, savory; a wine of remarkable depth and authority that has held on to its textures remarkably well, too, and would provide great mature drinking just now. It is too acid, and the acid suffocates the natural allusiveness of this beautifully ripe fruit, but aside from that, this is very impressive and underlines the natural authority that cabernet fruit from both regions delivers. coonawarra. 16.5 AR: good color, shading from ruby to garnet; quite subtle aromatic quality, fresh and berry-like; fair berry fruit quality on the palate, with savory, dry blackcurrant fruit, well-integrated oak, and good juicy acidity. Evolution is bringing additional savory characters, albeit a tad dry and chunky on the finish. margaret river? 17 Yalumba the Menzies coonawarra cabernet sauvignon 2005 (coonawarra) – 16 SB: very deep red. oak dominates the nose, though there are some herbaceous tones, too. Less full on the palate than the nose suggests, but this is nonetheless concentrated and fleshy, with good acidity and ripe tannins. Still youthful and brisk, though a touch sweet on the lovely blackcurranty finish. Has panache and length. coonawarra? 17 AJ: Saturated black-red. Lots of open-pored, friendly, blackcurrant-pastille fruit; easy, gentle, fragrant; milk chocolate, touches of spice. Lively, fresh, relatively simple, elegant; piles of acidity as usual. Some tannins. this is another wine rather marshaled into technical rectitude, though the fruit purity is remarkable as so often for both these regions, and you feel that so much more could be achieved with a more fastidious and non-interventionist approach. coonawarra. 14 AR: Intense youthful color, and equally intense dark berry fruits on the nose; very fine berryfruit concentration, with a seamless palette of cassis and black-cherry fruit flavors; the texture is lovely, really succulent and juicy and full of delightful fruit flavor in which oak, tannin, and acidity are seamlessly integrated. Excellent wine. margaret river? 17.5

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cape Mentelle cabernet sauvignon 2006 (Margaret river) – 15.5 SB: very deep red. Sweet, elegant blackcurrant nose, with lift and purity. Sleek and silky attack, with a graceful lightness of touch. the wine itself is concentrated and far from light, but it doesn’t seem effortful or strenuous. the acidity gives freshness and finesse. Eminently drinkable and full of charm, this is a slinky little number I could easily get used to. Quite good length. coonawarra? 17 AJ: Saturated black-purple. classic blackcurrant fruit, a touch leafy and a touch sweaty, but cinnamon and coriander-infused, vivacious, engaging, and attractive if you don’t mind the leafiness. Intense, but that intensity is acid-driven, without fruit sweetness clinging to it and perfuming it. Long, formal, correct, but the palate lacks the charm and seductiveness the nose promised, principally because acidity is clamping everything in place. all this makes it merely varietal. Yet the fruit quality is outstanding: bright, focused, and vivacious; and the oaking has been very well managed. margaret river. 13 AR: mid-ruby in color, showing some evolution; some herbal, leafy undertones on the nose, a hint of greenness; similarly on the palate, a nice quality of blackcurrant and berry-fruit sweetness underscored by slight herbal, minty tones, with good supple tannins and balancing fresh acidity, then a touch of dryness on the finish. overall, though, a nicely juicy and approachable style that’s halfway to bordeaux. margaret river? 16.5 clairvault estate cabernet sauvignon Margaret river 2005 (Margaret river) – 15.5 SB: very deep red. reserved nose, with fine blackcurrant fruit and a hint of volatility. medium-bodied, reasonably fresh, sweet and direct, with integrated tannins. However, it is also one-dimensional, and the sweetness of fruit overrides other components. So, there’s little complexity and a distinct linearity. to put it another way, it’s rather boring. moderate length. coonawarra? 14 AJ: Saturated black-purple. Smoky, rich, and dark. Full ripeness achieved here, and I get that wonderful sense of an old, respiring warm land at the end of a hot summer’s day which is so endearing in great australian reds. there’s the gum trees at the vineyard’s edge, too: very subtly mentholly, but well incorporated into the whole, freshening the fruit notes and anchoring the wine in place. a truly lovely aromatic profile. as usual, a little more acidic on the palate than one would like after an aromatic profile of that richness and breadth. Pure, clean, curranty, correct, but perhaps held in check. one gets the sense that cabernet grapes in this place would like to do more. nonetheless, a well-judged, wellcrafted wine imbued with a sense of place. coonawarra. 15.5 AR: mid-ruby, starting to shade to garnet in the glass; appealing, sweet cassis fruit on the nose, starting to show some mature characters; equally pleasant juicy-

fruit sweetness on the palate, nicely integrated oak, quite cassis-like and spicy in its flavor profile, with nice ripeness, integrated oak, and fresh, slightly bitey acidity. Seems a tad anodyne but is one of those seamless sorts of wines that grow on you and finish with a surprising degree of confidence. 16.5 cullen Diana Madeline 2005 (Margaret river) – 15.5 SB: very deep red. dense, black-cherry and plum nose. Sweet and zesty attack, with a surprising amount of acidity carrying the fruit, as well as some discreet tannins. but it’s one-dimensional, despite some coffee tones on the mid-palate, and I don’t find much depth or complexity. It strikes an appealing note, but there are no chords to fill it out. moderate length and a slack finish. coonawarra? 14 AJ: Saturated, dark black-red. Sweet, warm, rich; fine leather and incense spices. a beautifully composed aroma of great charm and seductiveness. tangy, edgy; mid-depth of blackcurrant fruit, with slightly burned edges. Lush and deep, vivid and long, with a moderate acid balance in the australian context and satisfactory tannic mass. Satisfying and sound, though lacking sumptuousness and finesse and never quite matching the aromatic promise. I’m being tough, though; this is impressive, chunky cabernet with plenty of extract; a good food partner. margaret river. 15 AR: good, youthful ruby, nicely evolved aromas, showing blackcurrant and a touch of mintiness; very ripe on the palate, with substantial chocolaty sweetness of dark berry fruits but behind it a slight chunkiness of tannins and astringency. It’s quite traditional in style (australia not bordeaux), a tad foursquare, and seemingly just a little tart on the finish. coonawarra? 17 cullen Diana Madeline Margaret river 2007 (Margaret river) – 15.5 SB: opaque red. dumb nose. very ripe cherries and blackberries on the palate, which is concentrated and bright. It seems a touch overripe, with some alcohol showing, but it has exuberance and flesh. Hedonistic and enjoyable, though I would prefer more nuances, texture, and complexity. Quite good length. margaret river? 15 AJ: dark black-red. an interesting fruit shift in this wine compared with many of its peers: not so much blackcurrant as black cherry and plum. Some sweet oak shaping for prettiness. an engaging and charming aromatic profile. Less violently acidic than many, this continues the aromatic theme with a fruit-dominated palate of some richness and subtlety. there is some textural tannin to lend the wine foodfriendliness and complexity, and the fruits modulate toward a classic graphite-cedar melange at the end. balanced, accessible, and attractive wine of enduring merit, though without the finesse to win a truly high score. margaret river. 15

AR: good, youthful, ruby hue; this is quite sweet and spicy on the nose with a feeling of power and super-ripeness to it; and it is opulent, sweet, and ripe on the palate, with a chocolaty undertow, but certainly not cooked or overripe, just dropping below the threshold to deliver plenty of appealing black-cherry jam fruitiness that’s nicely framed by oak and acidity, finishing just a tad dry and hot. coonawarra? 17 Malone wrattonbully cabernet sauvignon 2005 (wrattonbully) – 15.5 SB: very deep red. Splendid, vibrant, blackcurrant nose, with some smoky oak. very rich, voluptuous, creamy; very ripe without being jammy; this is a sensuous expression of cabernet, with enormous appeal. there’s not a great deal of evident structure or tannin, but there is ample concentration, and I don’t doubt that this has the tenacity to develop further. good length. margaret river? 17 AJ: Saturated black-red. Lots going on here but rather a muddle: pastille-like blackcurrant fruits, but a very dusty element, too, and something darker and more treacly. nonetheless, I much prefer this to the simpler, overly pristine aromatic profiles. Edgy, acidic, herbaceous, a touch petrolly. all of these elements corrode the intrinsic purity of the fruit and the lovely milk-chocolate richness of the best elements of it. those best elements have real grace and charm. mixed ripeness, surely, which a more selective approach might rectify—or an overgenerous hand with acid additions. coonawarra. 12 AR: Youthful ruby in color, there’s an intriguing malty/savory tone behind the more obvious berry-fruit characters and licorice’s spicy oak on the nose. Fine cassisfruit concentration and opulence here, lovely complexity in its evolved richness of fruit flavors, fine succulence of texture, lovely freshness and balance, topped off on the finish with savory qualities. this has plenty of life in it and should mature into a ripe old age. coonawarra? 17.5 parker terra rossa coonawarra cabernet sauvignon 2004 (coonawarra) – 15.5 SB: very deep red. Sumptuous and oaky blackberry nose. Firm attack, with distinct tannins and acidity supporting the stern black fruits. the texture is juicy, though, despite the concentration of flavor, and the fruit carries through to the finish. there’s little subtlety here, and the fruit may be a tad too ripe, but this is a serious wine with personality and persistence. margaret river? 15.5 AJ: Saturated black-red. Lots of herbaceous notes here. these provide a lift to the blackcurrant fruit, but they also mitigate its purity. the fundamental cassis enchantment remains. textured and deep, yet as so often the depth and length are functions of the acidity, rather than being based on the throb of wonderfully handled and grown fruit given lengthy vinification. nonetheless, acid aside, this is a wine of remarkable fruit purity

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this was a very good tasting, with an exceptionally high level of quality consistency. I am convinced that there are other areas that produce fine cabernet in australia, too—notably Eden valley, for instance. nonetheless, the tasting demonstrated that margaret river and coonawarra are by and large preeminent when it comes to fine australian cabernet Sauvignon. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that distinctions between the two regions, and the search for a specific terroir character, were not as easy to put your finger on as might at first have appeared. Hindsight, they say, is a wonderful thing, and it is no bad thing when it blows away your preconceptions, as it did in this tasting. we all thought it would be a fun exercise to try to work out which wine was margaret river and which coonawarra, and I fell into the trap of believing that it would be more self-evident than it was. of the 32 wines, I was right about half of the time, with egg on my face the other half. there were seven coonawarra wines I thought were margaret river and, conversely, nine margaret river cabernets I placed in coonawarra. why? I think because little clues you give yourself about perceived terroir can easily play tricks when there are so many other factors at play. neither margaret river nor coonawarra are the cohesive regions that their names alone might lead you to believe. both have their cooler and warmer sites, their pockets producing distinctive styles, their older and younger vines; and margaret river, in particular, has expanded considerably in area. vintage variation accounts for differences, too: 2006, for instance, was cold in margaret river but beautiful in coonawarra; 2007 was excellent in margaret river, with coonawarra less even. changes in viticulture have altered styles, bringing extra ripeness, for instance, where previously the vine struggled. add to that the significant contribution of winemaking to wine styles, and trying to pick terroir can become a minefield. and so it proved. red that’s ready to drink now, albeit at its peak. margaret river? 17 the redman coonawarra 2002 (cabernet/ shiraz/Merlot) (coonawarra) – 15.5 SB: very deep red. Some greenness on the nose, which may or may not be acceptable, depending on individual tastes. mediumbodied, sleek, and surprisingly fresh, this has fine-grained tannins, ample sweetness of fruit, and good acidity. there’s a menthol tone, as well as blackcurranty fruit, but it’s less evidently green on the palate than on the nose. the mid-palate shows more elegance than weight, and it does lack some persistence and staying power. but it’s a pretty wine, with considerable charm. coonawarra? 16.5 AJ: very dark black-red. ample fruit, but the fruit has a kind of tinned or contained quality that lacks end-of-season resonance. Far too acidic, alas. the acid levels suffocate everything. beneath the acid, you can see warm, supple, evolved fruit of real articulacy and ripeness trying to emerge; good textural tannins, too. but this must be pushing 7g/l final acid, and it’s far too much. coonawarra. 11.5 AR: ruby/garnet in color; beautifully evolved; complex aromas of coffee, dark chocolate, and cassis, with both evolved characters and a sweet, red-berry fruit quality, combining beautifully in a seamless, bordeaux-like style that spells complexity and class, thanks to a lovely red-fruit quality in which the sum is greater than the parts. margaret river? 18 xanadu Margaret river cabernet sauvignon 2007 (Margaret river) – 15.5 SB: very deep red. Subdued nose of black cherries and cassis, with a whiff of oak. Full-bodied and suave on the attack, with opulence and a distinct luxuriousness. the fruit seems very ripe, as are the tannins, and if at present it seems excessively sweet (though neither jammy nor obviously alcoholic), I guess that will integrate and harmonize before too long. Quite feminine, if one is still allowed that term, and none the worse for it. good length. margaret river? 16 AJ: deep black-red. Sweet oak and limpid black fruit. Pure, long, rather featureless, but classic cabernet all the way down the line. Some pencilly finesse emerges with time in the glass. Pungent, acidic, intense, and long as a consequence of the acidity, with penetrating, rather hard blackcurrant flavors. not a lot to say apart from that. Plain, correct, unseductive. coonawarra. 12.5 AR: good youthful color; attractively aromatic nose combining hints of cedary oak and a touch of mint. Lovely, opulent dark-berry and blackcurrant fruit juiciness, with a moderate, cedary, oak veneer, very succulent and supple tannins, and what feels like a very natural balancing freshness on the finish. the flavors, the style, and the balance are all very good here, with a subtle finish that adds grip, but not too much. margaret river? 17.5

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Leeuwin Estate art Series cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (margaret river) 18 the redman coonawarra 2002 (cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/merlot) (coonawarra) 18 woodlands colin margaret river wilyabrup cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (margaret river) 18 wynns coonawarra Estate cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (coonawarra) 18 malone wrattonbully cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (wrattonbully) 17.5 Yalumba the menzies coonawarra cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (coonawarra) 17.5 Xanadu margaret river cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (margaret river) 17.5 Zema Estate coonawarra Family Selection cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (coonawarra) 17.5 cullen diana madeline margaret river 2007 (margaret river) 17 cullen diana madeline 2005 (margaret river) 17 Lenton brae wilyabrup margaret river cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (margaret river) 17 moss wood cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (margaret river) 17 Parker terra rossa coonawarra cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (coonawarra) 17 rosemount Show reserve coonawarra cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (coonawarra) 17 Sandalford Prendiville reserve margaret river cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (margaret river) 17 watershed awakening margaret river cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (margaret river) 17 wynns coonawarra Estate cabernet Sauvignon John riddoch 2003 (coonawarra) 17 Yalumba menzies the cigar 2006 (coonawarra) 17

and impressive tannic wealth in the australian context. It lacks extract and savory depth, but the fruit qualities are potentially remarkable—so remarkable, indeed, that they need to be qualified by extract and savory qualities if they are not to seem simple and one-dimensional. margaret river. 14.5

AR: good depth of color; very nicely evolved, savory aromatic character; initially this comes across with an attractively evolved sweetness of dark berry fruits. It then rapidly turns savory, and while it just starts to pinch the mouth a little with its slight astringency, its concentration of cassis-fruit flavor and good oak integration makes it a very nicely evolved

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gralyn estate Margaret river cabernet sauvignon 2007 (Margaret river) – 15 SB: very deep red. closed nose. rich but stern, very concentrated, almost austere, with a pronounced minerality; a touch of iron on the palate. this has depth and character but still seems very youthful. there’s none of the sweetness and accessibility that give a slight vulgarity to some of the other wines. It’s less overtly fruity, less friendly, but has distinction and should develop, in time, into an elegant and harmonious wine. coonawarra? 17.5 AJ: dark black-red. Strange ashy scents. You’d guess this has been bushfire-affected, but I’m not aware of any problems of this sort in these areas. Herbaceous underneath; the ensemble rather unattractive, unclassical, unalluring. Something a touch fecal there, too, though this is the merest hint, and in a wine with more satisfactory primary aromas it might even add some complexity. after a while in the glass, the ashiness clears (a reductive issue?), but the herbaceousness, of course, remains. more tannic than some; customarily acidic. Some edgy blackcurrant crouching underneath the acidity. Lacks flesh, richness, depth, and sensual allure. a crunchy, bracing kind of cab. that fecal back-note is still apparent on the palate. my score reflects my uncertainty about its long-term future. margaret river. 11.5 AR: mid-ruby in color, this is relatively evolved; distinctly minty on the nose, perhaps a little on the green side, even, while the palate, which also shows underlying green notes of mint and capsicum, has an attractively sweet quality of concentrated blackcurrant fruit and chocolate to it. It is firm in its tannins and acidity, leaving you with a slight mouthpuckering sensation of excess acidity, but it should balance out perfectly well with food. Feels like coonawarra. 16.5 Moss wood cabernet sauvignon 2006 (Margaret river) – 15 SB: very deep red. discreetly opulent nose, with a good deal of smoky oak. there’s a combination of ripeness and herbaceousness that seems contradictory but is appealing nonetheless. broad and rounded on the palate, with a slight lack of concentration and grip. the fruit is sweet and silky, with sufficient acidity to carry it through to the finish. It’s almost too finely tuned, too sleek, and a bit more muscle and grip would not go amiss. moderate length. coonawarra? 15.5 AJ: dark black-red. rather general, rather vague, with a kerosene-like touch. machineharvesting and rough handling? curranty, tangy cabernet. Simple but not unpleasant. tastes inexpensive, though correct. It has some length. the terroir probably deserves a little more effort than this, however. margaret river. 12 AR: mid-ruby and quite evolved in color; attractive mulberry-like nose and fruit, with a pleasant, opulent quality to it; very supple, easy tannins and a nicely approachable style overall, with a light touch of spice to the mulberry fruit. margaret river? 17

vasse Felix Margaret river cabernet sauvignon 2007 (Margaret river) – 15 SB: very deep red. muted and dense nose, with black fruit and a dash of herbaceousness. rich, ripe, and juicy; abundantly fruity but with pleasing acidity, too. this has verve and drive and an appealing mintiness on the finish. It’s not hugely complex, but the wine is in balance and has the structure to go the distance. good length. coonawarra? 17 AJ: Saturated black-purple. Some aromatic breadth here and a more exuberant ripeness than many. warm, savory, slightly sweaty (screwcap again, or handling?). Some vanilla; a malty sweetness, too. not bad, though not classic. Edgy, acid, loose, light: lacks concentration of fruit, depth, and texture. Instead, you get brisk, light-footed, and lively wine, with plenty of blackcurrant-pastille fruit. a nice varietal in the australian idiom, but surely these regions should be able to achieve a bit more than that? coonawarra. 12 AR: good, youthful ruby hue here. Intense nose, attractively aromatic, with the scent of licorice spiciness, cedary oak, and black fruits; this has a very good, ripe, rich blackcurranty fruit quality; well concentrated and intense on the palate, with a very succulent quality of tannin and freshness. the slightly bitey acidity on the finish suggests quality winemaking to bring an extra dose of freshness and agreeability, but it’s very well crafted. coonawarra? 16.5 xanadu exmoor Drive Margaret river cabernet sauvignon 2007 (Margaret river) – 15 SB: very deep red. Lush, dense, inky nose, solid, quite oaky. Surprisingly sweet on the attack, and the texture is luminous—except that this is presumably a young wine, and it seems quite forward. the acidity is quite jagged and may well have been added, and at present the wine lacks harmony. It could also do with more concentration of flavor. but this sweetness and lack of depth suggests a more commercial style. margaret river? 15 AJ: deep, pure, glowing purple-red. Quite sweet oak here, and relatively simple fruits beneath; very blackcurranty. attractive, happy-go-lucky scents. vivid, lively, enjoyable, though fundamentally simple wine. the acidity is tempered and not excessive, allowing a sense of natural primary-fruit sweetness to come through. but it doesn’t rise above the level of the well-made varietal; the only nod to terroir is that the variety is obviously happy in this location. Some gentle shaping tannins. coonawarra? 13.5 AR: Youthful color, though showing a hint of evolution; attractively berry-fruity nose, with nicely integrated oak and licorice spice; on the palate, the berry-fruit richness is tempered by juicy fresh acidity and well-integrated oak, with an emphasis on blackcurrant flavors. the overall impression is of a good bordeaux style, quite firm, with a shade of dryness on the finish, but appealing in a moderate, claretlike way. coonawarra? 16.5

woodlands colin Margaret river wilyabrup cabernet sauvignon 2005 (Margaret river) – 15 SB: very deep red. Sweet, intense, blackcurrant nose. Suave and velvety attack, with luscious fruit but, fortunately, no jamminess. It’s a luxurious style, as wine to wallow in, and it does seem to lack some nuance and edge. despite some acidity on the mid-palate, the finish is somewhat abrupt. It’s hard to fault the fruit quality, but there is some blandness here. moderate length. margaret river? 15 AJ: Saturated black-purple. another rather kerosene-like muddle: unresolved mixed ripeness. tangy, light, petrolly, and simple, though full of the effortless varietal character that both regions can deliver. once again, the soils and skies deserve a little more effort than this. acid tang dominates the finish. margaret river. 11.5 AR: Quite evolved in color; the nose, too, with its attractive fragrance, suggests a degree of maturity, with its leafy mulberrylike undertones; very appealing, with an almost deceptive fruit richness and flavors in bordeaux-style mold, and mulberry and blackcurrant fruity opulence; there’s very good oak integration, which tempers the fruit with an attractive succulence of texture and a natural feel helped in part by its savory acidity. coonawarra? 18 Fraser gallop wilyabrup Margaret river cabernet sauvignon 2007 (Margaret river) – 14.5 SB: very deep red. Lush, oaky, cassis nose, with coffee tones from the oak, and showing intensity and purity. ripe and juicy, almost to excess; indeed, that sweetness of fruit is at the expense of other components in the wine. this may be a crowd-pleaser, but it would fatigue my palate quite quickly. moderate acidity, too, and an overall lack of zest and complexity marks the wine as a whole. modest length and a slack finish. margaret river? 14 AJ: dark black-red. Fresh, agreeable, slightly leafy; classic blackcurrant; some plumpness suggested here, too. not hugely subtle, but satisfying. deep, medium depth of fruit, but hard acidity gives this blackcurrant a slightly metallic, hard edge. acid-powered length on the palate. good purity and precision; some sweet frosting to the fruit, though this is kept in the background by the acidity. overall, this is a lively, bright, glittering kind of cabernet that clatters through the mouth; I would prefer a little more depth, richness, texture, and sumptuousness. no ambiguity about the varietal, though. coonawarra. 13.5 AR: deep, rich color; good, fresh, and intense, leafy, cassis aromatic quality here; very nice sweet-fruit succulence, with the accent on black berry fruits; nicely integrated subthreshold oak that’s clearly helping to round out the tannins, while the texture overall feels supple and nicely balanced. there’s some firmness on the finish—a combination of a slight tannin-and-acid structure, but it’s nicely

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in harness with the fruit, leaving you with a feeling of satisfaction. coonawarra? 16.5 parker terra rossa First growth coonawarra 2004 (cabernet/Merlot) (coonawarra) – 14.5 SB: opaque red. Slightly cooked nose— plums and black cherries. Soft, rounded, and rather soupy, this lacks acidity and flair. It tastes as if it was made from fruit that had been picked too late; it’s floppy and cooked and doesn’t develop on the palate. the finish is sweet and fairly short. margaret river? 12 AJ: Saturated black-red. Lots of ripeness here: dark, treacly, yet very attractive, too, with lots of twiggy autumnal complexities. burnt blackberry, rummaged earth, a kind of pond of black fruits bubbling gently in the late-season warmth. Enticing. all those lateseason fruits captured on the palate… yet the bolt of adjusted acidity running through them have deprived them of their natural resonance and reverberation. the overall result, despite those wonderful fruit characters and well-extracted tannins, is hard and simplifying. Such a shame. another potentially outstanding wine deprived of its natural articulacy by intervention. margaret river. 14.5 AR: dense, rich ruby in color; attractive spice and dark fruits on the nose; this has quite firm, cassis-fruit flavors, with firm tannins and quite marked acidity, the dryness and slightly pinched acid character suggesting a feeling of compensation for a warm-climate style. coonawarra? 16.5 Zema estate coonawarra Family selection cabernet sauvignon 2005 (coonawarra) – 14.5 SB: very deep red. Lush, toasty, blackberry nose; teems with fruit. there are coffee and menthol tones that give the nose some lift, too. distinctly sweet on the palate, with high, surely added acidity. this is far too aggressive, and the toastiness also dominates the palate. Stylistically, this is all over the place and seems cobbled together. cloying. coonawarra? 12 AJ: dark black-purple, saturated. vivid and penetrating blackcurrant aromas of soprano style, quite edgy and jittery, almost yogurty. Penetrating, though, and with soft meatiness behind. not a rich or complex nose, but striking. very intense, though much of this is acid-derived. Some tannins; some chocolaty depths to the fruit. Impressive, but lacks natural articulacy; rather cranked up and forceful. the raw materials look extremely good, however, and with a gentler and subtler touch, this could easily become fine wine. margaret river. 14.5 AR: dense, dark ruby; quite intense aromatic quality, with loads of mint, mulberry, and blackcurrant; powerful fruit concentration on the palate, with dense, rich, cassis-like and pruney fruit framed by cedary oak and very well-crafted tannins and fresh acidity. a wine with the concentration of fruit and backbone for aging for a good ten years—and possibly a good deal longer. classically coonawarra? 17.5 Devil’s lair Margaret river 2004 (cabernet/Merlot) (Margaret river) – 14 SB: very deep red. very oaky black-fruits nose. ripe and plump, and close to jammy, with a soft texture. but it has ample concentration and some density, and the tannins, though ripe, give some fine-grained nuances to the otherwise bland texture. a touch too sweet and sedate for my taste, but many will enjoy this style. margaret river? 14.5 AJ: Saturated black-red. Fresh, lively, a touch grassy, a sense of mixed ripeness and the heterogenous crop. deep, edgy, acidic; lacks the purity of fruit that both regions can so easily deliver. aussie cabernet from fine vineyards on autopilot. needs more ripeness, depth, and texture, with the intricacy that comes from care at every stage of the process. coonawarra. 12 AR: dark, evolved color, quite meaty and sweetly dark-fruity on the nose; nicely evolved fruit character, with undertones of maltiness and pomegranate; good, opulent fruit richness here, nicely evolved blackcurranty red that maintains its character and freshness while the suppleness of tannin and marked, fresh acidity make their contribution. a deceptively subtle style that doesn’t hit you over the head, but you know you could enjoy it with a meal. margaret river? 16 redden bridge the crossing cabernet sauvignon 2005 (wrattonbully) – 13.5 SB: very deep red. rather jammy nose, with a good deal of oak. Soft, juicy, rounded, but too ripe and sweet for my taste. there is some intensity of fruit and good acidity, but it’s one-dimensional, and the jamminess is offputting. moderate length. no real personality, so I have no idea where it comes from. 13 AJ: dark black-red. Earthy, warm, fat, generous, unusually blowsy for this context but attractive withal, with a warm, woody edge. Lush, vivid, both very ripe and acid-tweaked, with a mid-palate absence. Simple, tangy, generous, but it lacks refinement, density, finesse, and poise. margaret river. 11.5 AR: good color; some coffee and chocolate aromas mingled with mulberry fruits; something rather animal in there? Plenty of sweet mulberry fruit on the palate, quite juicy in texture, finishing with quite chunky, dry tannins; seems to have all the parts that add up to a coherent whole. coonawarra? 15.5 vasse Felix Margaret river cabernet Merlot 2007 (Margaret river) – 13.5 SB: very deep red. Some stewed fruits and a good deal of oak on the nose. this Portiness may initially be appealing, but it seems too much of a good thing. Super-ripe attack, voluptuous and close to jammy, this seems overdone, and a lack of acidity doesn’t help. there’s a slight weediness on the finish, too, as though the wine is being strung out on a thread of sweet fruit and little else. moderate length. coonawarra? 13 AJ: glossy, saturated black-purple. a strange melange of almost burned black fruits plus a petrolly, kerosene-like note presumably related to fruit shading in some way. the unattractive scents of mixed ripeness, in sum: a sorting table might have helped. much the same on the nose: very petrolly and livid, though the depth of pure blackcurrant that is hidden amid the muddle is impressive. Potentially good wine that needed a much more fastidious approach than it got. coonawarra? but it could be either… 11.5 AR: mid-ruby, showing a degree of evolution in the glass; this is quite spicy and blackcurranty on the nose; the palate is showing signs of evolution, with a nice, gentle, succulent fruit quality, slightly dry tannins, and puckering acidity behind the blackcurrant fruit sweetness. an attractive style that is already approachable now but needs food to show at its best. coonawarra? 16 commentary (after the wines’ identities had been revealed) SB: I was pretty impressed. what struck me was how consistent the wines are. there were only a couple of wines I thought were really outstanding, but everything was pretty well made. these were all highly enjoyable, highly drinkable wines. the counterpart was that there was a certain sameness to them. Even though we got two (or even three) regions represented, stylistically there aren’t huge variations. It is not a bad thing, because this is an artificial context, lining up 32 wines and tasting them one after the other; for the consumer, that’s not going to be an issue. AJ: You didn’t get a sense of margaret river, of coonawarra…? SB: I had a stab at identifying each. AJ: So, what were your principles of identification? SB: Essentially I said to myself, “this is probably coonawarra; and if it’s not, it’s margaret river,” rather than the other way around. that herbaceousness that you can get in coonawarra was in some wines. AJ: So, you associate herbaceousness with coonawarra? Quite often in australia it’s associated with margaret river. SB: I tend to find it more in coonawarra. to me it’s not disagreeable. there was one wine I thought was distinctly green, but other than that I find that slight herbaceousness quite attractive. AJ: Herbaceousness is a recurring element, regardless of whether it’s from coonawarra or margaret river. AR: that’s an intriguing issue, really… Herbaceousness, greenness. I think that both margaret river and coonawarra have elements of greenness, but I think the greenness in each is different. my general feeling, and I could be completely contradicted

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by the results, is that my coonawarra greenness tends toward a more eucalypty kind of greenness, whereas my margaret river greenness stems from a more herbal sort of greenness. and both have elements of terroir about them, inevitably. AJ: Particularly the eucalypty one, surely, because the vineyard wine you can rectify with canopy management or whatever, but the eucalypty one is part of the terroir. AR: depending on the results, I feel I got more eucalypt from the coonawarra style, and a little more pyrazine-like, possible greeny, from the margaret river. AJ: Is that a distinction you would recognize, Stephen? SB: not particularly, no… I’m not saying it’s not there, though. I associate margaret river with a bit more weight of fruit than coonawarra. that’s another way in which I thought I could distinguish the two. but I am not as refined in my appreciation of herbaceousness as you! AR: Presumably you’ve both been across to bordeaux to taste the 2009s. SB and AR: Yes. AJ: what about greenness in that context? Let’s talk a little more about greenness. AR: they’re calling 2009 bordeaux a california vintage. maybe they should be calling it an australian vintage. but I think there is a level of greenness that’s acceptable, that adds freshness, that adds a bit of complexity, when it’s not wholly ripe, but ripe enough, and if on the palate it can deliver a satisfying degree of fruit quality—which I think it can do in bordeaux, and it can also do in australia. SB: If it’s green pepper, that to me is excessive. but that’s an extreme. otherwise, I agree. a little bit of vegetal quality can give a slight twist to the wine. AJ: but is it something that you actually want as a complexing factor in great cabernet, or is it something that should be excluded altogether? SB: If it’s there and it’s not particularly intrusive, it’s fine. It’s not something that I would particularly look for or mark down. AR: I think a small seasoning element of it is fine. It’s when it becomes obvious and over the top that it becomes unacceptable. AJ: my view, for what’s its worth, is that it’s best not there. In all of my great references for cabernet, herbaceousness does not play a part in any note. I love your distinction, anthony, and I think it’s very valid. I absolutely subscribe to the margaret river/ capsicum/shaded fruit, especially when you go south of wilyabrup, because that’s when it becomes a real problem, and coonawarra being more the minty eucalypt. and if it’s minty eucalypty, for me it’s not herbaceous, it’s something else. and it’s a terroir character that you can find in australia and in california. I’ve got no objection to it, and it’s part of the composition; it can add immeasurably to the complexity of the wine. I’ve been to vineyards in victoria, and they are surrounded by

eucalyptus trees, but they are different varieties and you don’t get any eucalyptus at all. the awrI has done quite a bit of research in western australia, actually, and the results show quite clearly that the vines situated closest to the eucalypts have more character than those 15m [50ft] away. It’s quite provable. but it may be that there are chemical components in the aromatic spectrum of wines that we associate with it that aren’t derived from that. SB: I marked down a lot of wines that I thought were overripe. I’m far more bothered by that. AJ: well, we got slightly sidetracked on that. Let’s go to ant now and get overall opinions. as fine wines, how good are these? that’s the main question. AR: well, overall, I really enjoyed these wines; and overall, they provide a huge amount of satisfaction. there is a lot of generosity of fruit, a lot of opulence, richness, flavor, and stylishness. certainly there are stylistic differences, but I was very happy and very impressed by the general level of quality. AJ: any other issues? AR: I was making a division in my own mind between the levels of ripeness that we were tasting. my feeling was that there were some wines that tended toward the overtly blackcurrant, blackberry, and other strong fruit flavors, and in my head I thought that these were probably more coonawarra in style. on the other hand, there were wines that had a more integrated character in terms of fruit and tannins and acidity. they showed very well in an overall balanced style, and I tended to think of those as more margaret river styles, though I may be wrong. I felt there was something close to bordeaux, especially to margaux—an elegance, a savoriness, a balance that I really enjoyed. AJ: we all seem to be saying that coonawarra is purity of fruit, length, and line, and margaret river is a bit more opulent in texture. AR: not necessarily more opulence, but perhaps a bit more depth, texture, complexity. coonawarra perhaps has a bit more obvious, enjoyable, dark-fruit character. SB: I agree with your characterization, andrew, yes. AR: can I tempt you into saying that one is better than the other? SB: no! [All laugh.] AJ: what about acidity? AR: I think acidity is definitely an issue. with bordeaux, you tend to assume that acidity is natural. with australia, there’s always a question mark at the back of your mind as to what extent the acidity is natural and to what extent added. there were some wines that clearly did pinch and pucker the mouth. they felt like they’d been overacidified. AJ: as dinner wines, how do they work? SB: very well, except for those jammy wines. there were wines where I noted the acidity, and in one or two instances I thought there was added acidity; not so satisfactory, but that, for me, lifts the wine—that’s precisely

the reason they’re so enjoyable with food, because they’re ultimately refreshing rather than fatiguing. It’s got to be well integrated in the wine, though, just as tannins have got to be well integrated. AJ: what about other elements, such as alcohol, extract, richness, tannin, and so on? SB: there were one or two wines where I thought there was just a trace of alcohol on the palate—but it was nothing like california napa cabernet, where you’ve quite often got that rasp of heat and raisins. AJ: can you draw some more comparisons between california and western australian cabernet? SB: I think there is a stylistic tendency to go for overripe fruit in california, especially in napa valley, and it’s complicated by the american critics, many of whom like big, jammy monsters. Except for a couple of wines, that wasn’t a problem in this tasting. and you mentioned tannins: I thought the tannins were quite well integrated. there weren’t many wines that felt overextracted; I thought people had quite a soft touch. this is why I liked these wines, why I liked this tasting. the wines were well balanced and harmonious. the one point I would make is about oak. Frequently I would write “oaky” or similar, which is something you hardly ever do when you’re tasting bordeaux or california now. but I’m not sure the wines had more new oak treatment here than they would have in bordeaux or california or other wineproducing areas. the oak just seemed to be more present. AJ: what about the middle palate? because if you’re noticing oak, often the middle palate is a little recessive. SB: that may be part of it. I think it’s a little to do with structure—not necessarily the proportion of oak being used, but the fact that the wine may lack the density to absorb the oak. So, I agree, yes, it’s related to the middle palate. You have a lot of sweet fruit, a bit of fruit intensity, but not a lot of depth of fruit or structure. In those instances, it’s not surprising that the oak is more obtrusive than it would be in a wine with more grip. AR: I agree. a lot of my notes refer to oak. generally speaking, though, I felt that the oak was pretty well handled. I got the feeling that they are very aware of it in australia and of how they use it. AJ: when you’re talking about cabernet from coonawarra and western australia, you’re talking about much less grotesquery than in other regions. However, to me there is still a big gulf between the way these wines taste and the wines from contemporary bordeaux. do you think that these two regions are performing at their full potential? and if not, how could they do that? SB: I think that they are both making very good wines, and I dare say they could make even better wines. I am not one of those wine critics who like to lecture the winemakers. I think they’re both doing pretty well. AR: I agree.

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