Cabernet Sauvignon, the mongrel grape

Cabernet Sauvignon, the mongrel grape

What is there to say about cabernet sauvignon that hasn’t been said before? Not a lot. Pre 1830 most of the red wine in Australia was made from the Burgundy grape (pinot noir) or miller’s burgundy. The latter is an interesting variety as it’s difficult to trace its origins in some references it appears to have an English connection as in

A General System of Gardening and Botany: Containing a Complete Enumeration and Description of All Plants Hitherto Known with Their Generic and Specific Characters, Places of Growth, Time of Flowering, Mode of Culture and Their Uses in Medicine and Domestic Economy : Preceded by Introductions to the Linnaean and Natural Systems and a Glossary of the Terms Used ; Founded Upon Miller’s Gardener’s Dictionary and Arranged According to the Natural System ; in Four Volumes, Volume 1 By George Don 1831

But in: Pomologia Britannica: Or, Figures and Descriptions of the Most Important Varieties of Fruit Cultivated in Great Britain, Volume 2 by John Lindley published 1841, the French connection is made

Or it could be pinot meunier as Wikipedia says

Pinot Meunier was first mentioned in the 16th century, and gets its name and synonyms (French Meunier and German Müller – both meaning miller) from flour-like dusty white down on the underside of its leaves

James Busby the intrepid Scot who arrived in NSW in 1824 but left for a European tour in 1830 (plus a moan to the English government on his treatment in NSW). In 1830/31 he did record collecting cabernet sauvignon from the Luxemburg Gardens along with a host of others.

Dr A.C. Kelly writing in 1864 says cabernet grew well in NSW but it was unsuited to South Australia.

In 1996 all the legend and mystique was taken from the noble cabernet sauvignon when DNA profiling showed it was an offspring of cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc. The date of this cross is put around the mid-17th century if correct this crossbreed has been producing in its own right for around 360 years give or take a decade or three. It’s been in Australia for around 180 of those years.

Anyhow if still awake after the intro, the wines

Procella ‘111’ Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon 2015: Beautiful deep ruby colour throughout, black fruit nose, sweet fruit at the front of the palate but slowly fades to allow a mix of flavours to enter and build the wine to a wonderful finish. Length, depth, acid and tannin all in balance, its drinking well now but still has time to go 96 points and worth, $40

Allegiance ‘The Artisan’ Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon 2015: Twin of the above? No it’s not as rich but that makes it no less a wine. The difference is in fruit character this is tighter in fact more in line with the cabernet norm. The best flavours come not on the journey but after it’s swallowed and the drinker lets them slowly fade away 95 points worth $40

Allegiance ‘The Artisan’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: The fruit aspect of the nose is fading with dusty, earth and leather starting to take over. It’s an age thing and very welcome to this taster. The age shows across the palate its dryer perhaps more grounded, it doesn’t bounce around in the mouth but makes stately progress, 95 points and worth $40

Penley Estate ‘Black Bull’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014: Deep as midnight colour wise, the nose has the blackcurrant cabernet character but also a hint of quality chocolate. Very Coonawarra across the palate deceptive on one level, which is its ready for drinking but a whole lot more going on underneath that shows it will age 95 points and just pushing the price bracket at $45

Thorn-Clarke ‘Sandpiper’ Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2015: Not what I expect from cabernet on the nose but it was delightful a mix of fresh fruit and fruit squash simple across the palate but pleasing 92 points and good value at $20

Hex & Heysen Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015: Light on the nose but what is there is clean and pleasant, Barossa richness floods the mouth and rushes the flavours across the palate at an unseemly pace. It’s a wine that shows its character on the return journey and nothing wrong with that 94 points OK price at $27

Pertaringa McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2015: I have a soft spot for McLaren Vale cabernet, I know not why as to me it rarely smells or tastes like cabernet sauvignon. It’s out there on its own. But like the scruffy mongrel with a few battle scars it has an appeal. Full, rich, ripe, mouth-filling wine that goes better with plum pudding or chocolate brownies (sans marijuana) than it does with the traditional lamb As a wine I give it what I consider a fair 92, as a personal like I give it more than that, good value at $22

Penny’s Hill ‘Edwards Road’ McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2015: Soft ripe fruit on the nose with the faintest edge of eucalypt, soft on the palate to start but an edge to the wine comes in mid palate it’s OK but lacks class 91 points, a lot of wine on the market at $25

Pertaringa ‘Rifle & Hunt’ Adelaide Cabernet Sauvignon 2014: Classic blackcurrant nose but with a spicy edge. Cool character across the palate with good depth, on the finish. What finish the wine lingers and continues to give long after swallowed 96 points and well worth $40

Byron & Harold ‘Gravity’ Great Southern Cabernet Sauvignon 2007: I’m not sure when it was bottled but its coming up to 10 years of age so has the nose and taste of a mature wine. Ignoring the wine for the moment several of us older wine folk recently conducted an e-mail exchange on the merits or otherwise of drinking mature wine.  Several had experience of younger members of trade/industry not liking the aged characters, because they have been brought up on clean fruit driven wines. We agreed that a lot of old wine no matter its pedigree was knackered but concluded it’s just a matter of changing tastes. I am comfortable with older wines provided they are in good condition and this is, classic nose of old dried leather, in the mouth beautiful fruit that drops away just post mid palate to be replaced with earthy savoury characters but reunited on the finish, a truly classy old wine 96 points and very good value at $35

Forest Hill ‘Block 5’ Mount Barker Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: An old style Australian cabernet nose, its strong, defined not to be messed with, it has a presence. It also has that overall older style flavour again its strong bold swathes of bitter/sweet flavour marching across the palate taking no prisoners. A style that will have devoted followers or others that can give this style a miss, which all up makes it a very interesting wine. 94 points on the high side at $65

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