Cabernet hum-dingers

Cabernet sauvignon grapes (Photo: Bob Ecker – Napa Register)

Cabernet sauvignon is a beautiful wine when the grapes are grown in the right place, they achieve proper ripeness, and the winemaker doesn’t clutter it up with too much oak.

The best of these are normally quite expensive, but one of the glories of this job, that keeps me keen, is the opportunity to discover top wines at affordable prices – great value for money, in other words.

In my latest tasting of 125 cabernets and blends, there were some hum-dingers. Serafino 2015 is amazing at less than AUD $30. Its gold medal at Sydney last year was no accident. And in owner Steve Maglieri’s glory year, too.

Cape Mentelle’s Trinders Cabernet Merlot 2015 is possibly the best yet under that label. It’s around AUD $31. Another Margaret River wine, Grace Farm 2015, is also excellent for the same price ball-park. Hardy’s HRB 2015, a blend of Coonawarra, McLaren Vale and Frankland River, is a ripper, and just AUD $35.

From Coonawarra, Brand’s Laira Blockers 2014 is a steal at AUD $25. Its big brother, Brand’s Laira One Seven One 2015 is in a higher realm price-wise (AUD $80), but it was simply one of the best wines of the tasting.

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery 2016 is a great bargain at AUD $24: it was made by Bruce Dukes, as omnipresent as some benevolent spirit. His wines are always good value.

Juniper Estate’s 2014 Aquitaine, a blend of all five Bordeaux red grapes, is a superb wine and great value at AUD $38. Mark Messenger nails it again.

In the same region, again a fair bit more expensive but a very exciting wine, is Moss Wood’s Ribbon Vale Vineyard 2015 (AUD $65). This is the best red wine I’ve seen yet from this vineyard, which Moss Wood took over in 2000 when its founders retired. Its price has been gradually creeping northwards but so has the quality. It is simply a blinder of a wine. At this rate, it will catch up to the flagship Moss Wood Wilyabrup Cabernet.

Two Yarra Valley wines that I loved for their quite different style must be mentioned. Sunshine Creek Cabernets 2014 (AUD $45) is another blend of all five Bordeaux varieties, and with the benefit of some bottle-age, it’s a lovely mellow, medium-bodied wine with wonderful vinosity. It’s very much cast in the regional style made famous by the likes of Mount Mary and Yeringberg. The winemaker is Mario Marson, who did time at Mount Mary, so there’s a thread of continuity.

The other one, which has a certain stylistic kinship, is Wantirna Estate Amelia Cabernet Merlot 2015 (AUD $80). Red berries, violets, fruit-sweet, soft and delicious. Take a bow, Maryann Egan.

3 thoughts on “Cabernet hum-dingers”

  1. John Lord says:

    Affordable is a relative term Huon and most of these are not other than for special occasions. Particularly when they are so young where we need to buy 6 and drink one per year etc.

  2. Graham Cannon says:

    Hi Huon. It’s interesting that less than a year apart your tasting notes reflect a 5 point increase in quality in the Serafino 2015. I presume it’s bottled under Stelvin. I was under the assumption that (good) Cabernet based wines needed time to age (as reflected in your 2017 note). Have I been under a misapprehension all these years? Enjoy your posts. Regards Graham C

    1. Huon Hooke
      Huon Hooke says:

      Tasting notes are not immutable. Yes, wines do change over time and that may be reflected in ratings, although a year isn’t much for a young cabernet. I was probably a bit tough on that wine the first time around. Humans are just humans after all, not machines – despite the impression of infallibility some critics try to create.

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