My fellow wine taster and JamesSuckling.com contributing editor Nick Stock told me that “cabernet sauvignon is the most versatile red wine grape in the world” after the Cape Mentelle International Cabernet Tasting in Margaret River, Australia. I’d tend to agree.
Creating many of the greatest wines in the world today, the formidable grape can make reds that can age for centuries, too—over the years I have been lucky enough to taste a number of early 1800s Bordeaux that were still enjoyable, with complex aromas and flavours.
So I was excited to be part of the Cape Mentelle Cabernet Challenge in Margaret River, a blind tasting of some of the best 2012 cabs in the world, including first growths from Bordeaux, top estates of Australia and revered Super Tuscan reds of Italy.
The 2012 vintages in the tasting included a broad variety of Australian wineries—Leeuwin Estate, Woodlands, Cullen, Moss Wood, Vasse Felix Heytesbury, Cape Mentelle, Deep Woods Reserve, Mount Mary Quintet, Wynns John Riddoch, Penfolds Bin 707 and Houghton Jack Mann. In addition, California was represented by Far Niente Estate and Château Montelena, while France showcased Cos d’Estournel, Léoville Las Cases, Lafite Rothschild and La Mission Haut-Brion. Italy shone through with Ornellaia and Tenute San Guido Sassicaia.
Wines at the challenge were served blind and mixed up, so you couldn’t tell which one was from which country, region or winery. I found all of them very distinctive, especially many of the Australian cabs, which seemed to have a minty, fresh herb undertone, almost oyster shell-like in flavour. The Bordeaux seemed slightly more austere in texture with firm tannins, while the Californian and Tuscan cabs were more fruity and luscious.