Happy International Cabernet Day 2016! Following last week’s article on this flagship wine, Cam Haskell, wine manager at Arimia, reveals his top picks from the region.
Choosing good Cabernet in the region is about the easiest task I can think of – but here are some personal favourites from across the region. I could list another 20 off the top of my head, but here’s today’s list…
image below: Moss Wood
The packaging isn’t always to everyone’s liking, particularly if they own a wine rack, wine fridge or shelf built for standard bottles, but Laurance’s Icon Cabernet is a wine with fantastic, generous red and black fruits, nice, graphite tannin and a lick of quality oak that washes around with it. A bit of merlot fleshes it out, and, it’s gotta be said – it’s one of the best value wines in the region.
Photos below and right: Laurance of Margaret River
The Deep Woods Reserve Cabernet is a bold, punchy expression that is a modern Margaret River classic. Whilst it’s not as pretty or refined as some, it’s got a bit more in the way of grunt and power courtesy of its Yallingup contribution, without ever being cartoonish. Easy to see why it’s picking up show trophies seemingly everywhere it stops off.
Image below: Deep Woods Estate winemaker Julian Langworthy in the barrel room
Wilyabrup truly is a happy hunting ground for the Cabernet-centric – very probably the best bit of earth in the hemisphere for the stuff. It’s very hard to go wrong here. Take your time; sniff out what you like and put it away.
One of the wines I’ve liked the very most this year is from Ed Tomlinson’s at Lenton Brae – his ’14 Cabernet might be light on colour – but forget that. It’s high on class. Savoury and long, it plays within itself like a good opening batsman getting set at the crease. It’s a wine that reminds you of what gets sacrificed when people pursue fruit and ripeness relentlessly – the very best wines have a sense of poise. This one could write a Ph.D. on it.
Photo, right: Lenton Brae workers sorting grapes by hand
Woodlands have, for me, made the best wine in the region for the last 5 years. Their Cabernet Sauvignon reeks of good breeding, great fruit growing and impeccable handling. World class. Genuinely, truly, world class. As daft as it sounds, it makes the $150ish price tag look a bargain.
Photo below: Woodlands Wines
Moss Wood are truly an MR icon – and along with Cullen’s Diana Madelaine (the 2012 of which is astonishingly good), this is one of the two most renowned red wines WA produces. And whilst their star seemed to be fading a tad a couple of years back, for me the last couple of vintages have been positively fizzing with life – the oak trimmed down and vitality folded into their trademark length and structure – they won’t stop being iconic anytime soon.
Photo below: Moss Wood Wines
Houghton’s 2013 Gladstone’s Cabernet Sauvignon really is a wine of exceptional breeding and, ultimately, class. It feels unfussy and almost natural – and everything in the right places, judicious to its core. The way the fruit leads to the oak to the tannin… it starts with a melody and it finishes as a choir.
Evans and Tate’s Redbrook routinely carries a whiff of fresh tobacco, delicious pencil-shaving oak, and cracking gravelly tannin. Great site, great handling, and a fantastic matching of tannin and oak: great wine.
Photo below: Moss Wood Winery
Heading further south has its own rewards. A wee while ago I got a sneak peek at a 14 Stella Bella Cabernet Sauvignon. And it really looks great. A touch herbal, but more savoury than green, and really terrific Cabernet cassis purity. Fantastic expression of southern Margaret River (Karridale) fruit. Dee. Licious.
McHenry Hohnen continue with what Dave Hohnen sparked off at Cape Mentelle in the 80s, and with increasing vine age and meticulous vine management and deft, light hands in the cellar, these are wines coming on strong. The Rolling Stone is more Bordeaux blend than Cabernet per se – but no worse for it.
Photo below: McHenry Hohnen
Back up north, Clairault-Streicker have a ripping selection of reds to try. But the wine that’s long held my interest is the Streicker Ironstone Cabernet. A bag-full of blackcurrant, it’s a drink that’s sucked up it’s time in barrel, and between the cedar-y, all-spice, generous but well structured fruit, it’s a wine that will come on a bit quicker than some of the others in this list, but no doubt reward the self-control in cellaring time.
Photo below: Clairault Streicker Wines
This article follows on from an earlier piece by Cam Haskell: Cabernet Sauvignon: discover Your Margaret River Region’s flagship wine.
Cam Haskell is the Wine Manager at Arimia, and sits on the Margaret River Wine Industry Association’s Wine Show Subcommittee. This year the Association is hosting the inaugural Australian Cabernet Challenge, in search of Australia’s best Cabernet-based wine.