Saturday, 19 October 2013

Aged Australian Cabernet Sauvignon

The new and old label
I recently had the pleasure to meet Wayne Stehbens who became Katnook Estate’s first winemaker in 1980 and remains so today. He guided us in a vertical tasting of the estate’s Cabernet Sauvignons. This year saw the release of the 2011 vintage, and the tasting was about the celebration of 30 years of Cabernets.

We tasted the 2011, 2010, 2002, 2000, 1999 and 1997. OK, not exactly ‘old’ by Europe standards, but when was the last time you tasted a 15 year-old Australian wine?

Katnook is situated in Coonawarra, the wine region famous for its terra rossa soil. Wayne believes Cabernet Sauvignon benefits from this red sandy clay loam on limestone and the surprisingly cool temperatures (highest 27ºC and average 19ºC in summer), resulting in a freshness and structure that Cabernet Sauvignon from warmer regions lacks.

The younger Cabs have the unmistakable mint and eucalyptus of Coonawarra, with fine tannins. I like the 2000 and 1999. The former has a good balance between ripe fruits and aged cedar notes, while the latter is of an elegant savoury character. The wine is nowhere near as complex as a fine Bordeaux but, at just over HK$200/bottle at Watson’s, I don’t think there is anything to complain about.

The same evening I was judging at The Sovereign Art Foundation French vs Australian blind tasting charity event, where both judges and guests scored 12 pairs of French and Australian wines of similar class and quality. While the judges gave more high scores to the French wines, the guests much preferred the Australian counterparts. An honest reflection of consumers’ palates?

Katnook is available from Watson’s Wine Cellar.

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