2005 Château Tour St Bonnet Medoc Cru Bourgeois

Whilst I can grasp the basics of the leviathan that’s the Bordeaux wine business, the sheer volume of options and some scary pricing often steers the buying choices elsewhere. If I knew enough to regularly buy something this good, I’d be a lot more willing to explore. Of the last two experiences, one was too leafy, underripe and a bit feral, the other leaden with over ripe deadened fruit and oak. Neither escapade worth sharing. Research suggests this is from 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and the rest a bit of Malbec and Petit Verdot. The cork was in good nick. Once opened, scents of iodine and old wood sweetened by some raisined bottle age. Once the air got to it, some solid cherry and mulberry fruit plumped up the middle with a whiff of cassis to follow. All clean and nicely extracted. The ending marked by a glorious almond and hazelnut paste savour. The ending of the ending controlled by mature fine tannin and still fresh and clean acidity. If I drank enough of the stuff, I’d be bold enough to say proper claret. Simply delicious.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. 536 gms of glass. $31 at auction.

92 points but a big plus for sheer class.

2016 St. Huberts Cabernet Sauvignon

Clean, appealing cassis, green leaf and mint. Some cedar through the middle to end. Opens up with mulberry, brightly edged fruit which seems good friends with the leaf and breath of wood. Second day it’s still sinewy but relaxing a little. More of that cassis and mulberry woven with sparks of acidity and tightly woven tannin. Yet more evidence, should it be needed, that the Yarra Valley is such a good place for Cabernet Sauvignon when it’s this well grown and made. Frustratingly the slightly cheaper Cabernet Merlot blend from the same vintage was just a bit too dull and savoury. Often available for under $30 in the supermarket duopoly’s booze shops. Worth the trade up. Proper Cabernet.

14% alcohol but in no way breathy or warm. Screw cap. $12.50 in a mystery six pack from cellardoor.co. Good way to extract some value from the layers of TWE’s many labels.

93 points.

2018 Te Mata Estate Hawke’s Bay Cabernets Merlot

Te Mata have been doggedly producing gently extracted, quietly digestible Cabernets for a long time, impervious to the wild swings of wine fashion. An idiosyncratic persistence with corks in their two best perhaps their only silliness. From a warmer season, a swell of sweet ripeness buffers the herby, gravel astringency of proper Cabernet. There’s still a savoury raspberry leafiness though, perhaps from the Merlot and Cabernet Franc listed on the back label. The usual Cabernet suspects like blackcurrant, mulberry and leaf are evenly measured out, freshened to end with gentle ripe tannin and a clip of acidity to invite another sip. All at a price to make a bottle of Bordeaux blush.

13% alcohol. Screw cap, hooray. $24.

90 stylish points.

2006 Wendouree Cabernet Malbec

Some generous wine loving people bring the most delicious things to the dinner table. Wendouree at its zenith. All those alluring smells, Oz bush after rain, rich cherry, cassis and whilst I’ve no idea why, the word mossy comes to mind. A soft explosion of all these things in the mouth as what must be the Malbec builds and builds a rose and bramble intensity. Structurally, the tannins are perfectly ripe and full of comfort. The acidity perfect. Expletives and pleasures galore.

13.7% alcohol. Cork. Thanks for sharing.

97 points, yes really.

2010 Skillogalee The Cabernets

Clare Valley Cabernet blends are part of Australian wine heritage, particularly if they have some Malbec adding sweet berry fruit to that stern old Cabernet. There’s also some Cabernet Franc here too but the back label is coy about percentages. Opening with all the correct clean smells of strict winemaking, cassis, red fruits, mint, tobacco and a dab of coffee and vanilla oak. Broad shoulders, square of jaw and firm of handshake. Open and guileless. It’s the depth of sweet berry red fruits that convinces, all set against firm, no nonsense tannin and acid. It’s the lingering mouth perfume of cassis that beguiles, showing beautifully ripened Cabernet. Little age weariness, just a smooth mellowing. Very tasty and firmly Clare. Nothing fancy.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. Was about $26 on release.

93 points.

2004 Wendouree Cabernet Malbec

One from the cellar. The tree bark came out a little bit too easily but still seemed to have done its job. Such a volume of those typical Wendoree smells, Australian forests after rain, choc mint, cherries, blackcurrant, and something involving iron and liquorice. Huge in the mouth but still disciplined by fresh, natural acidity and a solid wall of frowning skin tannin. A reminder of Wendouree from the last century. A lasting fruit perfume smooths the structure and maybe there’s finally a suggestion of age starting to calm the austere Cabernet scaffold or is it that round Malbec swell of sweet berries? In no way diminished on day two. The 2018 vintage mail out on real paper in an envelope is due in the letter box soon. A few for the cellar and some optimism about living long enough to enjoy them.

13.2% alcohol. Cork. About $45 on release.

94 points.

2018 Pierre et Rodolfe Gauthier Jour du Soif Bourgueil

Maybe jour du soif is French for an AFD, whatever that may be? This is far too good to just quench a simple thirst. Stainless steel only I think and it’s so clean and pure bar a little reduction in the first small glass. Ripe and dark for a Loire red, there’s bright raspberries, sour cherries, almost plum and a satisfying build up of gravelly earth as it slips away. Just as it does, a waft of that sweet green leafiness pops up to remind us it’s Cabernet of the Franc sort. These fleshy evenly ripe flavours have great support from silky ripe skin tannin and comfortable acidity. It proved its worth by staying much more than just thirst slaking over three days. At last, a Loire red wine not spoiled by a dirty barrel.

Following a bit of a google, it seems the producer is also more widely known a Domaine du Bel Air, Gauthier Père at Fils and have been certified organic since 2000. The back label on my bottle was just Pierre et Rodolfe Gauthier. Their more expensive cuvées are finished in oak, hmmm.

13% alcohol. Cork. Think it was about $36?

92 points.

2017 Te Mata Estate Awatea Cabernets Merlot

From memory this is normally about half Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Cabernet Franc making up the other half. If you have a Bordeaux itch, then this will scratch it with a gentle hand and leave you with enough money to buy another or even trade up to a top of the range Coleraine. Spotless perfume of red berries, dried flowers, a touch of tobacco and that old school pencil box. Beautifully judged extraction to just medium bodied, Perhaps not quite the fruit sweetness or depth of the warmer year 2016 release but it does have that pleasing drag of fine dry tannin and acidity that brings to mind those oft repeated words, gravelly and mineral. What exactly mineral means is hard to say when there are so many minerals on planet earth but it will have to do. The reviews of the 2018 Coleraine are so good, there may be extravagant purchase looming notwithstanding the archaic use of tree bark. Hawkes Bay’s own first growth.

13% alcohol. Very smooth, expensive looking bit of cork. Around $40. The Coleraine is still under $100 which in world terms is value.

93 points.

2006 Yering Farm The George Cabernet Sauvignon

Yet another Yarra Valley Cabernet, this one from under the floorboards. Still a crimson sort of red colour, as usual with Cabernet from the Valley, age is kind. Those distinctive smells of ripe blackcurrants cut with leafy green and a twang of truffle and tinned sweet corn. Little bit of blackberry to add richness. The structure has resolved, throwing a good layer of deposit on the side of the bottle. The gentle fine tannin and ripe sweet acidity that make Yarra Cabernet so attractive are there in good proportion. Sometimes a divisive set of flavours for those who find the green savoury notes difficult but for me there’s more than enough sweet fruit pushing the tang to one side. As the Pretenders sang, special, so special.

13% alcohol. Screwcap. About $30 sometime over a decade ago.

93 points.

2010 Black Sheep Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

Without doubt the Yarra Valley’s best red varieties are from the Cabernet family. One day the fashion business that’s Australian wine will again trend in Cabernet’s direction, one day. In the meantime you can still buy a cleanskin with a dodgy photocopy label for under $10. It’s from the shelves of Boccaccio Cellars, the food and wine epicentre of Melbourne’s leafy suburban Balwyn where expensive German autos circle the supermarket car park and a long display of Barolo fills a shelf. This Cabernet probably comes from the vines at Hoddles Creek in the cooler altitudes of the Yarra hills and it shows with crisp red cherry and mulberry, a smidgeon of blackcurrant and a leafy edge. Despite the cool, there’s ripe tannin and a good pull of acidity. The ripeness is still there in a sort of Loire Valley way that builds length of flavour rather than width. It’s a long way from the grainy sour green of unripe Cabernet from warmer climates where sugars rise well before flavours develop. Well that’s one view, some will still see green. Still plenty here after ten years. Good honest Yarra Claret for the price of two coffees. The 2018 version still wears flares amongst the floor stacks of discounted no labels.

13.1% alcohol. Screwcap. $8!

90 points.