You can find great-value Aussie shiraz with your eyes closed, but choosing good-value cabernet is an entirely different proposition.
The wines are far less consistent and the best – while they can be great – are usually very expensive.
Style is also quite varied. In my latest tastings of cabernet and cabernet blends, there were plenty of fine wines but never before has it been so important to read the description of the wine before you buy – as opposed to just the rating.
No better example than Pierro Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. This is a $77 wine, which might disappoint you if you’re expecting something deep, dark and powerful like a Moss Wood or a Leeuwin Estate Art Series. It is relatively light coloured and light weight for Margaret River. On the other hand, it’s very drinkable, very approachable now and doesn’t need long keeping. Indeed, I can enjoy it now. The complexity and range of flavours and perfumes bear closer comparison with pinot noir than monster Aussie cabernet, and the tannins are light and gentle.
My highest-rated wines in the cabernet tasting include Voyager Estate’s 2012 trio (the regular cabernet merlot and the two single-block Project wines – U12 North Block and V9 Old Block), Hardys’ rip-snorter Thomas Hardy 2013 (which is incidentally a rare blend of Margaret River and Coonawarra grapes – a great options game wine!), Sally’s Paddock 2013, Balgownie Estate 2013, Oakridge 864 2014, Majella The Malleea ‘12, Yalumba The Signature ‘13, Yering Station Reserve ’14 and the best Howard Park Scotsdale I’ve seen for some time, the 2014. And a newcomer from the Barossa, Soul Growers Cellar Dweller 2014 – whose winemaker is the accomplished Stuart Bourne, formerly of Chateau Tanunda (tastings).
Bargains? Yes, there are several. Most of the above are quite pricey wines but try these for value. All scored at least 90 points.
- Longview Devil’s Elbow 2013 (AUD $27)
- Richard Hamilton Hut Block 2014 (AUD $21)
- Reverend V 2014 (AUD $24, from the Vinaceous team)
- Rosily Vineyard The Cartographer 2012 cabernet blend (AUD $23)
- Castelli Cabernet Merlot 2014 (AUD $22)
- Leeuwin Estate Prelude Cabernet Merlot 2012 (AUD $27.50)
And a special mention goes to Reschke Rufus The Bull, a 2010 Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon for $22.50. It’s drinking beautifully now and the price is remarkable for a wine of its maturity and quality.