A highly knowledgeable audience attended a fascinating, sell-out blind tasting masterclass at Decanter’s London HQ last month, which was led by three international stars of the fine wine world. Decanter Content Director John Stimpfig reports.
The theme was Great Cabernets of the World in honour of Santa Rita’s exceptional Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, Casa Real which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
The tasting was led by Cecilia Torres, Casa Real’s renowned and experienced winemaker and Brian Croser, Decanter’s 2004 Man of the Year. In addition, the proceedings were moderated by Decanter’s Consultant Editor, Steven Spurrier, who knows a thing or two about Blind Tastings of Premium Cabernet Sauvignon – next year is the 40th anniversary of his famous Judgement of Paris.
‘The objective was to explore the differences of style and structure of great Cabernet Sauvignons from some of the greatest terroirs and producers around the world,’ explained Croser, whose guiding winemaking philosophy has been to match noble grape varieties to exceptional vineyard sites. ‘Each of these wines has a very definitive sense of place,’ he explained.
Cullen Diana Madeline, Margaret River, Western Australia 2011
80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 8% Cab Franc and aged for 19 months in barrique. Grown on old granite and gravelly sandy loam. Youthful, restrained, fine tannins. Leafy and cedary notes with a fruit profile of cassis, cola, mulberry and leather. Excellent balance and length. Low, medium body and structure with excellent acidic cut. Subtle and complex food wine.
Price: £59.50 – £63.29, Old Bridge Wine, Master of Malt
Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, USA 2011
Monte Bello’s Cabernet Sauvignon vines are grown on a sliver of the sedimentary Pacific sea bed in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. The wine was mostly (90%) matured in American oak barrels for sixteen months and provides a voluptuous nose of coffee, tobacco and primary black fruits. On the palate, were more of the same, together with intense, juicy black cherries, damson and cassis. Great vivacity and freshness, it was all wrapped up in dense yet ripe and grainy tannins and beguilingly low alcohol – just 12.8%. The finish was long, savoury and immensely satisfying.
Price £84.99 – £100, James Nicholson, Hennings
Te Mata Coleraine, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand 2010
Hawkes Bay’s cool climate and classic free draining soils at the base of the Havelock Hills combined resulted in a delicious, yet more austere style. Dry, and savoury with sweet and sour notes to the leafy cassis fruit, this was much less exuberant than the Monte Bello. Good freshness, medium weight and a persistent finish.
Price: £17.95 Berry Bros and Rudd
Drink: 2015- 2023+
Chateau Pontet Canet, 5eme Cru, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France 2011
Impressively ripe, sweet black fruits, ripe, upright tannin and lively acidity. There is a hidden power and notes of bay leaf, minerals and cigar box leading to a long finish. 2011 was a challenging vintage on the left bank and this was clearly an excellent and sterling effort.
Price: POA Lea & Sandeman, Armit Wines
Carmen Gold Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipu Valley, Chile 2010
Hedonistic and exotic with eucalyptus and sweet, spicy mulberry fruit. Lots of rippling tannins and mid palate texture. Generous, powerful and showy thanks to its warmer climate and alluvial soils. Another excellent expression of Cabernet.
Price: £41.21 – £46.32 The Drink Shop, Corking Wines, Exel Wines
Santa Rita, Casa Real, Alto Jahuel Maipo Valley, Chile 2010
Still beguilingly youthful with a cool spice and spearmint nose. In the mouth there’s warm climate sweet cassis, cedar, good acidity and generous, evolving tannins. Vibrant, expressive and long.
Price: N/A UK
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2011
The fruit for this comes from sandy gravely loam over clay and granite in Stellenbosch’s warm climate. The vines are up to 20 years old and give plenty of spice and power to the wine. But I also noted some stewed vegetables and burnt rubber flavours which marred the wine.
Price: £11.24 Slurp
Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France 2011
From a superbly sited terroir (gravel on clay-gravel subsoil), this classic claret has a floral nose, savoury leafiness, ‘a point’ acidity, perfect poise and a fruit spectrum ranging from plums, to roses and cherries. Fine tannins and a lingering finish. The blend is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot.
Price: £27.50 – £30 Bordeaux Index, Fine & Rare
Sassicaia, Tenuta San Guido, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy 2011
Great power, balance and concentration. Cloves, cinnamon, leather and blueberries leap from the glass. On the palate is smoked meat, brambly blackberry fruit and toasty oak. The tannins are firm and robust and there’s a good linear acidity from start to finish. Still needs time.
Price: £105-116 Armit, Fine & Rare, Private Cellar, The Wine Society, Try Wines Expertise
Santa Rita, Casa Real, Alto Jahuel, Maipo Valley, Chile 2001
Proof positive how well this wine can age and develop. One sniff revealed toffee, undergrowth and a savoury leafiness which followed through seamlessly onto the palate. Here the tannins were creamy, grainy and superbly textured. Its flavours in the mouth had clearly evolved beautifully and there was a lovely earthy, sous-bois character alongside caramel, cassis and pencil notes. All very correct and classical.
Price: N/A UK
Drink: Now – 2022
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