Sunday, June 14, 2009


For the second installment of my back reviews I've chosen the world's ultimate red wine; cabernet. I tend to include cabernet blends (as long as they're cabernet dominant and partnered with other Bordeaux varieties) as well as straight cabernet sauvignons under this category. So you can expect to see numerous cabernet merlots here as well as classic blends like the 2005 Diana Madeline (pictured).
The wines I've selected are:- d'Arenberg Coppermine Road 2006, Grant Burge Cameron Vale 2006, Joseph Moda 2006, Penfolds Bin 407 2006, Penfolds Bin 707 2006, Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot 2007, Vasse Felix Heytesbury 2005 and Wynns John Riddoch 2005.
 Most of these should still be available in stores with the exception of the 2005 John Riddoch, which is just a fantastic wine if you haven't tried it.
Primo Estate recently released the 2007 Joseph Moda, but I haven't got round to reviewing it yet so you're going to have to make do with my review of the excellent 2006.
To be honest I was fairly disappointed with 2006 for Coonawarra but especially for the Margaret River. I've had to backtrack to 2005 for high quality reserve level wines for each region, of which the Heytesbury and John Riddoch are still current vintages.

 - Region: McLaren Vale,SA
 - Price: $55-$80
After an exceptional 2004 d'Arenberg suffered somewhat in 2005, but this most traditional producer recovered strongly in 2006. Alongside brilliant releases of Dead Arm Shiraz, Derelict Vineyard Grenache, Custodian Grenache and Ironstone Pressings GSM, they crafted a distinctly regional expression of  top shelf cabernet sauvignon with the Coppermine Road.
Deeply fruited, it's scented with minty, currant-like tones of rhubarb, dark fruits and classic chocolate/cedar oak. Elegantly concentrated in a fashion rare for McLaren Vale cabernet, its essence-like flavours drive throughout a silken palate, revealing meaty blackcurrants and exotic chocolate/cedar oak. It finishes exceptionally long and delightfully savoury, with a fistful of ripe, sandy tannins. Certainly pushing the boundaries of ideal ripeness, it remains just inside the lines thanks to its brightness and vitality.
üA genuinely regional, power packed McLaren Vale cabernet, d'Arenberg's 2006 Coppermine Road is right up to the standards set by the rest of Australia's best right now. Drink to 2026.
95 points

 - Region: Barossa Valley, SA
 - Price: $15-$26
If it's an idyllic setting for a romantic Barossa Valley wine experience you're after, then you need look no further than Grant Burge. So beautiful are their picturesque grounds that my girlfriend's flirted with the idea of getting married there! 
Displaying great colour density, Grant Burge's 2006 Cameron Vale reveals vibrantly lifted, classic cabernet aromas of minty cassis and chocolate/cedar oak without a shred of over ripeness. Medium-bodied flavours of juicy dark plums and ripe black berries stain its velvety palate, combined with savoury nuances of cedar oak; it develops into a finish of moderate length encased by a drying extract of fine-grained tannins.
üA genuine richness and ripeness is evident throughout the 2006 Cameron Vale, which despite not being terribly complex, elegant, or penetratingly long; it remains truly delicious. Drink to 2016.
92 points

- Region: McLaren Vale, SA
 - Price: $55-$90
The highly innovative Joe Grilli makes his iconic Moda Cabernet Merlot in the Italian Amarone style. After harvest the grapes are partially dried on racks (around 2 weeks) to increase skin to juice ratio, concentrating the flavours in an almost raisined fashion. The resulting wine is a lusciously rich, ripe dry red to which there is barely any competition in Australia.
Extravagantly ripe and dark, as befits the Amarone blueprint, the 2006 Moda's rich fragrance of currants, suede and bitter dark chocolate show a level of opulence rare in Australian wine. Sinister and brooding, its savoury, leafy black fruit profile drives in a full fashion alongside luscious chocolate oak and raisined notes. With tightly concentrated textures it builds into a long finish firmly bound by confident, prickly tannins and lasting notes of tobacco.
üEasily handling its heavily induced winemaker artifact, the 2006 is the best Moda for some years. Drink to 2022.
95 points

 - Region: South Australia
 - Price: $34-$55
The multi-regional Bin 407 sits just behind the almighty Bin 707 in Penfolds' hierarchy of premium cabernet sauvignons. Recent vintages of the 407 have been fantastic, transcending difficult seasons to deliver reliably outstanding South Australian cabernet through Penfolds' highly skilled multi-regional blending.
Presenting an aroma of great depth, the 2006 Bin 407 shows a dark nose laced with notes of cassis, mulberry and violets, with a sweetened influence of minty chocolate oak. Concentrated, smooth and silky, its ripe palate announces luscious flavours of intense berry fruits and mint, aided by an uplifting turn of fine, sandy tannins and fresh cedar carrying the wine into a persistent finish.
üAnother top notch Bin 407, this time with more concentration and texture than usual. Drink to 2024.
94 points

 - Region: South Australia
 - Price: $155-$220
Championed by the likes of Moss Wood, Cullen's Diana Madeline, Wynns' John Riddoch, Mount Mary's Quintet and the Yarra Yering Dry Red No.1; are Australia's benchmark regional cabernets, yet in reality Penfolds Bin 707 may still remain this country's ultimate expression of cabernet sauvignon.
Dark and inky in colour, with radiant magenta hues, the 2006 is deeply aromatic if a touch introverted, with a lusciously ripe, leathery fragrance which unfolds to meaty aromas of blackcurrant, prune and dark chocolate/vanilla oak over a whiff of clove. Massively concentrated, bruising and smooth; a myriad of palate staining dark mulberry, violet, currant and blackberry flavours are aggressively wrapped up by a cut of prickly, sandy tannins. With bitter dark chocolate oak and pleasant leafy tones, it leaves the mouth in a savoury fashion with exceptional length and lingering dryness.
ü This isn't the most elegant cabernet around, but it is an immensely powerful, long and structured Bin 707 of extravagant ripeness. Drink to 2030.
95 points

 - Region: Margaret River, WA
 - Price: $17-$29
Vasse Felix regularly makes one of my favourite Margaret River cabernet sauvignons, but for some reason their cheaper cabernet merlot has never fully impressed me.
Constructed in a vintage some are touting as brilliant for Margaret River reds, the 2007 Cabernet Merlot opens to an aggressively dusty, smoky and herbaceous nose with underlying green pea-like, vegetal tones woven throughout its dark fruit. Light-medium in body, and reflecting some of the maker's trademark elegance, its firm palate relies excessively on toasty cedar oak to drive and enhance its rather thin, sweet fruited core. Powerfully grippy, grainy tannins accompany the wine into an olive infused, green-edged, taxing finish of considerable length.
Drink to 2015.
88 points

 - Region: Margaret River, WA
 - Price: $63-$79
Vasse Felix release their two flagship wines; a cabernet blend and a chardonnay, under the Heytesbury label. Although the 2005 Heytesbury red contains shiraz it's generally regarded as a cabernet blend. So here it is.
Typical of Vasse Felix, it reveals a distinctly regional nose, with smoky, herbaceous notes of dark plum, blackcurrant, capsicum and toasty cedar oak underlined by dried herb aromas. Medium-bodied, the well balanced palate states great elegance and smooth, flowing texture, as it unfolds a dry, leafy expression of blackcurrant fruits and fine cedar oak, finishing with powdery cabernet tannins and enduring notes of tobacco.
ü A very good Vasse Felix red, but personally I preferred their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (94pts) for around half the price. Drink to 2019.
93 points

 - Region: Coonawarra, SA
 - Price: $59-$90
Wynns produced an excepional trio of cabernet sauvignons from 2005, with magnificent wines being delivered by the standard black label (94pts), a limited release cabernet named the Messenger (95pts), and best of the lot, a masterful, deeply layered release of the flagship John Riddoch.
Densely coloured and inky, its settled aromas reveal classically restrained liqueur cassis, violets and slightly smoky chocolate/cedar oak with floral nuances. Full, smooth, velvety in texture and balanced on a knife's edge, its refined palate contains a deep presence of subtle red and black berry flavours, with just a hint of fruit sweetness overlying some meaty complexity. A harmonious interweaving of cedar/vanilla oak bonds the wine, as it drives into a long finish, with eucalypt and vanilla tones framed by positively ripe, loose-knit, creamy tannins.
üAn immense wine of restraint and depth. Wynns' 2005 John Riddoch is ripe, elegant, smooth and seamless, making it one of the most polished Coonawarra cabernets of recent times. Extraordinary. Drink to 2030.
97 points

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