Chateau du Moulin Rouge 2009

91+ points

Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux. 13.5%

Gosh this is like just fermented juice. No that gives the wrong impression, what I mean to say is that this is very much clear primary flavours, juicy. Yet not so sweet as a young Margaret River Cabernet, less blackcurrent. More texture too.

Another great cru Bourgeois from 2009. A standout vintage where minor wines give fantastic early pleasure.

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Chateau Beaulieu comtes de tastes 2005

84 points

Bordeaux Superieur. 60/40 Merlot Cabernet. 13%

8 years old and it’s still oaky with raspy tannins. Too extracted, no charm. This Chateau is trying too hard with green harvesting and long macerations – which they boast of on the back label!

Certainly a Bordeaux Superieur that could be a superstar of its appelation if only they would aim for finesse rather than brute concentration.

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Petaluma 1999 Coonawarra

86-91 points (depending on the bottle).

Coonawarra, South Australia. 13.5%. cork. 60:40 Cab Merlot blend.

At its best this wine is marked by sweet coffee oak well matched to the concentrated fruit in a big style. Somewhat Opus One like.

But many bottles simply don’t sing, the definition is lost, as is much of the fruit and oak sweetness. Which makes the touch of eucalypt on the finish quite jarring.

I blame the corks.

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Yalumba The Menzies 2006

87++ points

Coonawarra, South Australia 14%

Dark opaque colour.

Oaky, raspy even on the nose.

A strong dense wine still gripped by oak. Concentrated fruit, muscular texture and then minty finish. Built to impress rather than to charm though this vintage has enough mid-palate that I think it will age well into a looser more charming wine. Personally I’d like to see a touch of Merlot, lower alcohol and less oak. Less show pony and more sophistication. It’s a bit butch and in a vintage where it’s probably got its best clothes on.

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Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

92 points

Margaret River, Western Australia. 14%

Great label. Delicious wine.

Leeuwin Estate Cabernet has not only bounced back but is now exceeding its best wines of yesteryear.

On the negative side this is a touch spirity, and the (added) acid gives it a touch of that Tamarillo flavour. But it’s hard to be negative about a wine that shows such beautiful, succulent, concentrated fruit flavours beautifully framed by high quality oak. I don’t know of any Australian cabernet that has such oak. All this at barely 5 years old.

It isn’t as exquisite as the 2008 which I think will soon come together and eclipse this with its greater elegance but this 2007 gives delicious drinking and will continue to do so for many years. I’m still unsure if these top WA reds ever develop the aged complexity of Bordeaux, if they do they take a frustrating long time to do so, but in compensation they start drinking as fantastic reds way earlier. Hard to complain about a wine that gives so much pleasure young and keeps on doing so for years – a rare example even if most back labels make this claim.

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Yalumba FDR1a 2008

86 points

Barossa Valley, South Australia. 13.5%

FDR1A stands for “fine dry red” a Cabernet Shiraz blend aged in French, Hungarian and American oak. I’m not sure what the point of this wine in Yalumba’s portfolio when they already have The Signature cab/shiraz blend which is supposed to be “the finest red of the vintage”.

Anyway this isn’t a patch on the 2006 Signature. The fruit doesn’t sing in anything like the same way.

Heavily oaky dense, old fashioned wine.

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Chateau Cantemerle 2007

89 points

Haut-Medoc (Macau). 13%

Impressive for the vintage. Very savoury but offset by some warm (not sweet or estery, high toast?) oak.

As to be expected for the vintage this lacks concentration and fruit sweetness but it isn’t raw and green. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes quite a mean savoury wine until it reaches a more relaxed complex old age. I do expect it will last 10 years plus.

If 2007 hadn’t been so highly priced no one would complain about wines like this.

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Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet 2008

90++ points

Margaret River, Western Australia. 13%

I stopped buying this wine, which I had presviously much liked when it headed towards some sort of Californian style with cool fruit ramped up to 15% alcohol and lashings of French oak.

This is more than a return to form it’s something different and better. Amazing aromas, floral intense. A pretty wine, with intensity, shiny oak and tight acid. Wonderful restrained weight and real bordeaux freshness. I would like to try this alongside some of the very best 2008 of Bordeaux.

Needs time to settle down, let these components to knit together and the middle palate to flesh out. Great potential. An exciting wine from a region that already had high standards.

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Voyager Estate Cabernet Merlot 2008

90+ points

Margaret River, Western Australia. 13.6%

I stopped buying Voyager cabernet after the 2004 vintage. Their quality was undeniable but stylistically they were heading towards a hefty Californian style. But this is a breath of fresh air, great (albeit youthful) flavour with a lovely freshness and vitality. I wasn’t surprised to see they have moderated their alcohol level too.

Well done. Seriously good WA cabernet blend.

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Chateau Potensac 2004

88 points

Medoc. 13%

Nice claret. While I’m sure the Delon family (owners of Leoville Las Cases) emplo state of the art winemaking there is nothing souped up about this wine. It doesn’t even strike me as particularly modern (though the 2003 was). This is very true to its terroir and the vintage.

Savoury food friendly but without particularly classy fruit and unlikely to develop much complexity. That said, if I sniff deeply I get a hint of marzipan new oak esthers. Perhaps this wine still has some degree of integration to occur. Perhaps it will be a longer distant runner than I expect and will win higher ratings in future. I look forward to finding out.

Nice simple classy label.

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Stonyridge Larose Cabernets 1999

81 points

Waiheke Island, Auckland. 13%

First bottle was barely drinkable, very ordinary. This one has an odd sheep shed aroma (I appreciate the humour in this being a NZ wine). Palate is not particularly inviting, green flavours with rotting ripeness. Very savoury, not so bad with food.

When I grew up in NZ this was an icon wine. This is very disappointing.

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Wickman tasting of icon Aussie Cabernets

Mark Wickman of Wickman Wine Auctions invited me to a really nice tasting with some of his other clients – nice people.

The tasting was partly to check the condition of these wines which have gone to Singapore and back – they were in pristine condition, obviously they have been kept under good cool cellar conditions.

Here are the wines that were tasted in order:

Mount Mary Quintet 2003 – 13% – Yarra Valley – 88 points

A charming, soft savoury food oriented wine. European herbaceousness. I came back to it at the end of the tasting and wasn’t quite so impressed (I can understand Parker complaining that this is a poor imitation of Bordeaux and that Australia should focus more on what it does best) but it is a good wine, just not really worthy of the fame and price.

Cullen Diana Magdelaine Cabernet Merlot 2004 – Margaret River – screwcap – 14% – 91++ points

Superb cab merlot fruit, lots of high quality oak, tannin, strong concentration. In spite of its youth and intensity it’s a pretty delicious wine. My only gripe with these top WA cabernets, Cullen in particular, is that they always seem so youthful, I’ve seen them soften and integrate a bit with age but not develop complex secondary characteristics of age. Perhaps they just age very slowly. That said they have delicious flavour from early on. Classy wine.

Moss Wood Cabernet 2002 – Margaret River – screwcap – 14% – 91 points

A very interesting wine, I would have picked it blind for Merlot not Cabernet, a very dense high quality merlot. Could be a Californian icon wine.

Sawdusty warm oaky nose, plummy fruit, almost a touch of that fruitcake ripeness that top Pomerols show. Plenty of stuffing, and tannin too. Very ripe but not cloying.

I’m not sure I’d have liked this wine so much if I had it alone with dinner, but I could very well be wrong. Intruiging wine. Very different from the Cullen but similar quality level.

Domaine A Cabernet 2003 – Tasmainia – 13.5% – 88 points

Lacks the concentration of the prior two wines. A bit sweet and simple at first but nice cool climate fruit flavours emerge, and a welcome degree of secondary development starting to emerge. Has some charm, it’s a very interesting and good ambassador for Tasmania – cabernet is hardly their most successful variety, which makes this all the more impressive. Suffers in comparison with the prior two much deeper WA wines though.

Balnaves ‘The Tally’ Cabernet 2005 – 14.5% – 85 points

The disappointment of the tasting. Dark yet slightly dull colour, syrupy currant nose, palate is warm-hot climate straight forward Aussie cabernet, with too much alcohol. Some people felt it was more like “dry red” than varietal. It’s a powerful wine that shows first class winemaking but a style that just tramples over terroir – I’d have never picked this as a Coonawarra wine. It’s good quality but way over-priced and competing head-on with McLaren Vale and Barossa cabernets.

Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz 2006 – Barossa – 14.5% – 90 points

I expected this wine to absolutely bomb in the company it was shown in here. This is a soft alcoholic sweet fruity Barossa shiraz with lashings of American oak, very different from the largely elegant line-up that cam before it. If it had been tasted blind this would have been an awful shock!! But fortunately it wasn’t. I had low expectations, the last Meshach I tried was very sweet, but this wine showed some restraint in the use of oak, and the added acidity gave balance without standing out. It’s not a wine I’d seek out, there are too many better and cheaper competitors, but I was pleasantly surprised here. A good example of a particular style of Barossa shiraz.

I see it won a gold at the Decanter world wine awards.

Chateau D’Agassac 2009

90+ points

Haut-Medoc. 13%

50/50 Cab/Merlot blend is another astonishingly attractive young 2009 Bordeaux. This has a limey tone to it which sounds awful but quite the opposite it makes it fresh and interesting.

I don’t know this Chateau but I found their impressive website. They look very innovative. They have even bottled under screwcap (after a visit to Australia)! Very good to see.

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Chateau Senejac 2009

89+ points

Haut-Medoc. 13.5%

It’s interesting, and somewhat unexpected just how much the vineyard expresses itself inspite of the vintage (very distinctive, extraordinary) and the new ownership/operators – I believe that the Pontet-Canet team are in-charge and Senejac is now biodynamic.

But it’s still Senejac, with pronounced minerality even in such a sumptuous vintage. Terrior in action ?

Red fruits, firm palate, though tannins are ripe and soft. Not a blockbuster by any means, and hardly likely to stand out at a tasting. But food friendly. And cellar oriented too I think but I would expect it’s best development before 15 years of age.

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