In November of last year a tasting was held to compare two of Australia’s most prominent Cabernet Sauvignons. It was expected that we would see two very different styles of Cabernet with the family owned Mount Mary from the cool Yarra Valley in Victoria and the corporate giant Southcorp owned,
Penfolds 707 Cabernet from the warmer Coonawarra and the Barossa Valley in South Australia.
The first dinner was Cullen and Moss Wood and I wrote about it here.

The tasting was as follows, in order served;

Pol Roger NV:
This bottle was cellared for 3 years after release. Citrus, touch of yeast, apple, pear and toasty development. A balanced and delicate palate with lovely restrained, focussed fruit intensity. This was ready to drink now.

St John’s Road Eden Valley Riesling 2005:
Opened with a fair bit of sulphur which was difficult to get past, but there was some light honey, lime and toast lurking in the background. The palate was soft and dilute across the mid-palate, lacking much to get excited over.

Penfolds Yattarna 1996:
Corked, just slightly – but enough to ruin the experience for me.

Mount Mary Chardonnay 2005:
Pears, grapefruit, passionfruit, florals and minerally slate on the wonderfully pure nose. The palate is structured, balanced and elegant – it is already lovely to drink, but this is going to be sensational with time. Drink now if you like them young, but otherwise check back in 5+ years.

Mt Mary Quintets 1986:
Aromas of briar, tobacco, leather, violets and crushed rocks. Good depth of flavour, with elegance and balance but not a whole lot of complexity or texture/mouth-feel to it. This bottle was drinking at, or just past its peak.

Mt Mary Quintets 1990:
A nose of tobacco, blackcurrant, blackberry and cedar. Excellent structure to the mouth-coating palate, with tannins still prominent at this stage. There is the potential to improve over the next 6-7 years from here. I took a quarter of the bottle home and it was holding up very well the next evening.

Mt Mary Quintets 1991:
Cinnamon, liquorice, aniseed, rhubarb and cherry aromas on the nose. A mature, structured palate with components well integrated at this stage and the fruit holding up well. This bottle has reached its peak but I think it would have held its plateau for a number more years.

Mt Mary Quintets 1993:
Some smoked meats, chocolate and brief whiffs of capsicum comprise the nose. Good texture to the palate, but there are some bold tannins poking out and a flash of bitterness on the back palate. I still found enjoyment in drinking it but it was one of the weaker vintages on the night.

Mt Mary Quintets 1994:
The nose opens with pepper, roasted vegetables, violet and some artificial citrus type notes. Palate shows green, bitter tannin and oak flavours smothering the thin fruit. Couldn’t see this coming together with more bottle age, but others had more hope for it.

Mt Mary Quintets 1996:
A nose dominated by intense red cherry, raspberry, rhubarb and cedar. Very youthful and richly fruited on the palate, but with the tannin structure and depth of fruit behind it to indicate that this could be superb with some more time. While it provided some pleasure to drink now, it will improve over the next 10 years and maybe more.

Penfolds Bin 707 1986:
A weedy, pumpkin and dill dominant nose. The palate lacks cohesion, with tannins standing out and some acidity on the mid-palate throwing the line right off. The more that I tasted this as it sat in the glass, the less that I liked it. This bottle was quite youthful but I doubt it would have ever found balance.

Penfolds Bin 707 1990:
Restrained nose of tobacco, black fruits and a touch of American oak backing. The palate was quite fleshy and showed some richness to the fruit flavour. Dipped away at the end of the palate, finishing a bit short, but otherwise the balance was good and this had the stuffing to improve for another 5 years.

Penfolds Bin 707 1991:
Black cherry, blackberry, pomegranate and some nicely integrated oak aromas. There is good balance and length to the palate with the structure and depth of fruit to continue developing well over the next 6 to 7 years. This was probably my favourite wine from the 707 line up on the night, with the depth of fruit and the integration of the oak the deciding factors.

Penfolds Bin 707 1993:
Briar, tobacco and red currants as well as noticeable oak and volatile acidity that ruin the experience on the nose slightly. The palate is well fleshed out and has decent length but not a great amount of depth or complexity. Enjoyable drinking, but not for the long haul. Drink now.

Penfolds Bin 707 1994:
Cassis/blackcurrant and oak aromas form the restrained nose. Good texture and mouth-feel to the palate, but lacks depth and anything else much to provide a wow factor or to make me want to drink it again. Could well get better given some extra time as it may just be in a slightly quiet phase, but on the night it was no better than very good.

Penfolds Bin 707 1996:
A dark, brooding nose of cassis, cedar, vanilla and cola syrup. There is a great deal of richness and sweet fruit on the palate but there is also firm structure through some monumental tannins. Allow it time to rest, as of now it is too youthful and forceful at 10 years of age, come back in another 10 and it may still need more time. Could be headed for greatness.

Rausan Segla Margaux 1996:
A welcome change of pace after some of the full on 707s. Savoury, earthy and meaty with a bit of brett styled complexity and blackcurrant undertones. Elegant and showed very good balance. Tannins are still evident but they are nicely woven into the rest of the elements. Very good now and I think this bottle was only 2 or 3 years away from hitting its peak.

Orlando St Hugo 1998:
Smoked meat, blackberry, tobacco and cedar from the French oak. Tightly knit palate structure with tannins providing good structure that should bode well for aging this wine. Fairly bold primary fruit flavour and a medium length finish. Give it at least another  5 years as it is too young now.

De Bortoli Noble One 1998: Two 375ml bottles from the same source which made for an interesting comparison.
Bottle 1: Weak apricot and marmalade with a touch of botrytis. Palate is flabby and lacks acid. Finishes short, dilute and disappointing. No identifiable fault. 80/100
Bottle 2: Wow, what a difference. There is much more intensity and swirling aromas to the nose, still with plenty of apricot and botrytis but with another layer of tropical fruit and honey. The palate shows a similar difference with greater richness and intensity of flavour and a much better acid structure, although perhaps needing a touch more acid to be fully balanced. Good length and delicious to drink. 89/100

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. I must admit that are Australian wines are top class these days. I am especially enjoying these wines and must admit you have captured them perfectly in your write up. I advise that a person should really give the Mount Mary Chardonnay some time. It delivers considerably well, very early. But, as you say, a good 5 years or so and it will be incredibly refreshing and taut. It is a wonderful mix, promising a great deal – nutty of perfume of peach, melon and grapefruit with subtle undertones of vanilla, wheatmeal and cinnamon. Silky and with a melon-like flavour. Once given some time to mature, this will really deliver wonderfully.

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