You gotta give credit to Chapel Hill. In a region where shiraz is boss and grenache, sangiovese and tempranillo are emerging as future stars, Chapel Hill has bravely come forward saying; 'hey, we're giving good old-fashioned McLaren Vale cabernet a serious shot'. Carefully avoiding over-ripeness has been a real key to Chapel Hill's recent success with the variety.
In what is usually a battle between regional strength and varietal character within McLaren Vale cabernet, (hot) seasonal variation may just have won out here, but this open and generous cabernet expresses all 3 elements with well conceived integration and undoubted drinkability. It's deeply scented with dark plums, olives and touches of meat, revealing very rich, ripe cabernet fruits joined by a classy fragrance of lightly smoky, chocolate/coffee oak. Essentially, the ripe fruits and splendid chocolatey tones translate into an ultimately big, smooth, rich and satisfying palate, which is just too big, smooth and rich to be truly exceptional. Its red plum, cassis and sour-edged black cherry flavours are entrenched in a sumptuously creamed texture and pushed long by smooth vanilla oak, enduring notes of olive and an equally smooth, polished cut of velvety tannins, but it takes time to show true dryness and grip. However, at no stage does the wine appear over-ripe and it's certainly a pleasure to drink.
ü A top effort from a difficult season for McLaren Vale cabernet (this wine was picked late Feb/early Mar) which only underlines Chapel Hill's progress with the style. The 2008 is a real crowd pleasing Aussie red, devoid of the excessive ripeness found in so many McLaren Vale cabernets that year. It's a nice wine, but not a great cabernet. Drink to 2018.