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SWA 2011: NEW WORLD - CABERNET SAUVIGNON - MERLOT & CABERNET FRANC - THE REST OF THE WORLD

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc: The Rest Of The New World
More ambitious pricing but some decent wines too, with Australia, Argentina and South Africa leading the way

While Chile’s Cabernets were heavily concentrated under £10, the rest of the New World was less shy about submitting pricier examples, with a fair selection of wines over £15. Although Argentina, in particular, put forward a fair few cheapies, with the Michel Torino a standout.

It was, in fact, one of only two medal successes for the country (both cheap), and something which Dominic Jacobs explained thus: ‘It would have been good to see more regional personality. There is still a tendency for some Argentinian producers to think bigger is better, to use too much oak and extract too much when making a more expensive wine.’

If there were issues of pumped-up, steroid wines from Argentina, then New Zealand suffered from the opposite, with seven-stone, sand-kicked-in-the-face weaklings. Sommeliers don’t normally mind a bit of ‘edge’ to their reds, but the Kiwi submissions were felt to overstep the dividing line into greenness. And, with high prices, the country didn’t manage
a single medal – a blow for a place that has liked to bill itself as the New World’s Bordeaux.

Australia, by contrast, performed pretty well, with nine medals its best haul yet – even
if none of them was Gold. Coonawarra led a charge of wines that combined ripeness with
a much lighter touch than would have been the case 10, even five, years ago and the country can consider itself unfortunate that none of the plethora of Silvers went one stage further. Perhaps it’s the souped-up Aussie dollar pushing prices from ‘good value’ to ‘good but pricey’.

California has often been a ‘doughnut’ flight, with a couple of good Central Valley
cheapies and some testosterone-filled monsters for big prices at the top end. But this year
was the region’s worst showing to date, with just one medal – a Silver – for Michael
Mondavi’s Emblem at £18. ‘Over-oaked, over-extracted and over here,’ was one taster’s
grumpy assessment of a pretty poor flight.

In fact, while Australia dominated the medals haul, the story of this category from a news point of view was perhaps the positive reaction of the tasters to the stuff they were trying out of South Africa, with most wines eschewing hard, jammy or rubbery flavours in favour of complexity, finesse and a sense of place. For a country that has often struggled to make any impression at all in the SWAs, a Gold and a Silver was a good showing.

‘The prices have crept up but these were still good value and would sell well on the list. They would be great with roasts and meats,’ said Irina Atanasova.


GOLD LIST

Michel Torino Cuma Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Cafayate, Argentina
£5.61 @ Hallgarten Druitt
SWA 2011 Gold List At this price, judges were impressed with the flavours and balance. The nose was a balance of dark fruits and herbs, while the palate had bright, dark berry fruit. ‘Sweet fruit, focused tannins, moderate acidity and a grippy structure,’ was how Ivan Dixon put it.

Devon Crest Devon Valley 2006, Stellenbosch, South Africa
£10.76 @ Enotria
SWA 2011 Gold List With its minty eucalyptus and classic fynbos plant notes giving away its South African heritage, the wine’s varietal character shows true Bordeaux leanings, with blackberries, cedar and liquorice alongside herbal, tomato leaf and mocha aromas. ‘Good, structured tannins and length,’ said Kyri Sotiri. ‘Too young,’ warned Charlotte Jonasson.

SILVER

Norton Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Mendoza, Argentina
£7.75 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
With juicy sweet currants on the nose alongside a touch of liquorice, minty chalky notes and herbs, there’s good fresh fruit and texture plus a decent balance on the mid-palate and a delicately spicy finish. ‘Elegant and long with good freshness,’ said Charlotte Jonasson.

Katnook Founder’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Coonawarra, South Australia
£9.25 @ Bibendum
With black pepper, liquorice, meaty hints and capsicum on the nose, we’re in savoury territory. Add in ripe blueberry and plums on the palate, dry tannins, a sweetish mouthfeel and a long finish, and it’s no wonder Laura Rhys MS felt this had ‘good complexity’.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Coonawarra, South Australia
£9.56 @ Treasury Wine Estates
Sporting a classic blueberry nose with minty hints, this impressed with its balanced palate and firmish tannins. ‘With tobacco and spice, and juicy fruits, this has a nice elegance,’ said Laura Rhys MS.

Wakefield Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Clare Valley/Coonawarra, Australia
£10.77 @ Louis Latour Agencies
Very Australian with its earthy and blackcurrant flavours. ‘Seaweed, black tea, with a hint of mint and acidity,’ said Nick Chiu, before adding: ‘This is a perfect accompaniment for sushi with tuna.’

Setanta Black Sanglain Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
£14.06 @ Novum Wines
With rich, dark, powerful fruits, this is juicy, with an earthy, spicy character. The palate sports ripe tannins, good structure, toasted oak and a dry finish, but unfortunately its price counted against it.

Idiom Bordeaux Blend 2006, Stellenbosch, South Africa
£16.99 @ Amathus Drinks
With its mix of fresh and aged black fruit with savoury notes, this was popular except for the
price. ‘Classic,’ said Olivier Marie. ‘Complex with hints of tobacco and cigar box, good length
and well-integrated, grippy but finely grained tannins.’

Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Napa Valley, California, USA
£17.90 @ Bibendum
Plum and brambly fruit flavours dominate on both nose and palate, alongside sweet oak, notes of cedar and grippy tannins. Still youthful, Kyri Sotiri felt it showed ‘pronounced tannins and delicate spice’, while Christine Parkinson, Hakkasan, said: ‘Balanced and very long, this has style.’

BRONZE

Pitchfork Cabernet Merlot 2008, Margaret River, Western Australia
£6.95 @ Bancroft Wines
Floral aromas mix with menthol and eucalyptus hints, morphing into sweet, ripe black fruit on the palate, with spice and chocolate tones plus well-rounded tannins. ‘Very good for the money,’ thought Michael Sharpe, Sycamore House.

Berton Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Coonawarra, South Australia
£7.54 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Thyme, eucalyptus and herbal notes on the nose lead through to a generously fruited palate with good spice intensity and plenty of tannins. ‘Marvellous for the money,’ said Team Leader Susanna Forbes.

Tahbilk Cabernet 2007, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria, Australia
£8.69 @ Ehrmanns
There’s plenty of soft raspberry fruit on this mid-weight Cabernet from one of Australia’s longest established wineries. Tannins remain a touch taut but the finish is clean and long.

Serpico Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, McLaren Vale, South Australia
£22.37 @ Liberty Wines
Spicy and brooding on the nose, this multi-layered, rounded wine won over the panel, with
its excellent fruit flavours and dry but integrated tannins. ‘An awesome wine,’ concluded
Michael Harrison, Hotel du Vin.

“I expected classic jammy, rich wines from Australia, but what I found was a restrained, herbaceous character. Subtle, and the prices were good. ”
Andrea Briccarello, Galvin La Chapelle


Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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