Since 1982, Margaret River’s Cape Mentelle has hosted annual blind-tastings of renowned Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines. The 20 wines selected this year were tasted in three brackets, with commentary from various wine writers provided after each bracket. At the latest iteration, in November 2016, Australian writer Tyson Stelzer and I were asked to speak after the second bracket.
“My embarrassment is your entertainment.”
Overall, this was a terrific tasting, with the wine quality uniformly excellent, despite a difficult vintage in Bordeaux. As Jean-Guillaume Prats quipped after the tasting, “We have a saying in Bordeaux. ‘When you see botrytis, it’s time to pick it.’”
He also acknowledged how difficult it was to figure out which wine was which.
“It’s not that Margaret River is more like Bordeaux, but that Bordeaux has become more like Margaret River,” said Prats.
It was indeed tough in many cases to discern where the wines were from, but I’ve shared my guesses when I made them. Here’s a full list of this year’s wines in the order in which they were tasted, plus my own brief notes and rankings for each. My embarrassment is your entertainment.
First Bracket (7 wines)
Wine 1. Ranked 6/7
Notes: Nose of cherries, red fruit, cedar, vanilla, flavors add bay leaf, sage. Medium-bodied, tart, with a long finish. Margaret River?
Reveal: Vasse Felix 2013 Tom Cullity (Margaret River, Western Australia)
Specs: 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot | 14.5% abv
Wine 2. Ranked 2/7
Notes: Dark, firm and chewy. Moderate acidity. Chocolate and cassis, long finish. Bordeaux?
Reveal: Houghton 2013 Jack Mann (Frankland River, Western Australia)
Specs: 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, 1% Shiraz | 14.0% abv
Wine 3. Ranked 3/7
Notes: Dusty, iron-inflected, supple and velvety. Lovely balance and elegance with plenty of richness. Italy?
Reveal: Wynns Coonawarra Estate 2013 John Riddoch (Coonawarra, South Australia)
Specs: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon | 13.5% abv
Wine 4. Ranked 1/7
Notes: Toasty, cedary oak. Dark fruit. Plush and velvety, with chocolate and plum on the long finish. California?
Reveal: Destiny Bay 2013 Magna Praemia (Waiheke Island, New Zealand)
Specs: 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec | 14.5% abv
Wine 5. Ranked 4/7
Notes: Restrained nose. Red earth and red currant. Taut, lean, crisp.
Reveal: Moss Wood 2013 Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon (Margaret River, Western Australia)
Specs: 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot | 14.0% abv
Wine 6. Ranked 5/7
Notes: Lovely cassis aromas, also some red fruit. Juicy at first, then cedary and prominently woody, ending on espresso notes.
Reveal: Spottswoode 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ( St. Helena, California)
Specs: 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot | 13.9% abv
Wine 7. Ranked 7/7
Notes: Earthy, Bordeaux-ish nose with some coffee bean. Crisp, high acid not much fruit. Bordeaux?
Reveal: Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion 2013 Graves (Bordeaux)
Specs: 65% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc | 13.2% abv
Bracket #2 (7 wines)
Wine 8. Ranked 3/7
Notes: Cedar, dusty earth, orange zestand chocolaty oak. Lovely supple texture with crisp acidity and a wonderfully long, silky finish.
Reveal: Tenuta San Guido 2013 Sassicaia (Bolgheri Sassicaia, Italy)
Specs: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc | 13.5% abv
Wine 9. Ranked 2/7
Notes: Deep, dark and intense notes of chocolate and plum. Rich and velvety without being heavy or overdone. Long, bright finish.
Reveal: Leeuwin Estate 2013 Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon (Margaret River, Western Australia)
Specs: 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec | 13.5% abv
Wine 10. Ranked 4/7
Notes: Lovely red fruitwith bay leaf. Silky feel. Ripe and powerful yet elegant and polished.
Reveal: Chateau Montelena 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California)
Specs: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc | 14.1% abv
Wine 11. Ranked 1/7
Notes: Cassis and vanilla—lovely integration of fruit and oak. Shows purity of fruit allied to top-notch French oak. Balanced, silky, long finish.
Reveal: Yarra Yering 2013 Carrodus (Yarra Valley, Victoria)
Specs: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon | 13.0% abv
Wine 12. Ranked 7/7
Notes: Rather herbal, showing bay leaf, rosemary, cassis. Leaner, less opulent, but still excellent.
Reveal: Cullen 2013 Diana Madeline (Margaret River, Western Australia)
Specs: 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc | 13.0% abv
Wine 13. Ranked 5/7
Notes: Classic cassis nose, some dried herbs, Ribena. Medium-full in body, creamy texture with ample oak.
Reveal: Cape Mentelle 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Margaret River, Western Australia)
Specs: 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot | 13.5% abv
Wine 14. Ranked 6/7
Notes: Lovely oaking. Cedar, vanilla, red fruit. Great integration. Emphasis on elegance rather than power.
Reveal: Château Léoville Las Cases 2013 Saint-Julien (Bordeaux)
Specs: 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot | 13.1% abv
Bracket #3 (6 wines)
Wine 15. Ranked 6/6
Notes: Red fruit, cedar, hint of mint. Crisp, bright, high acid.
Reveal: Deep Woods Estate 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Margaret River, Western Australia)
Specs: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon | 14.0% abv
Wine 16. Ranked 4/6
Notes: Bay leaf, sage, red fruit on nose. Medium to full body. Blocky austerity backed by juicy fruit. Bordeaux?
Reveal: Chateau Margaux 2013 Margaux (Bordeaux)
Specs: 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot
Wine 17. Ranked 3/6
Notes: Cedar and vanilla. Sexy oak, with just enough cherry fruit in support. Plush and long.
Reveal: Woodlands 2013 Benjamin Cabernet Sauvignon (Margaret River, Western Australia)
Specs: 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc | 13.5% abv
Wine 18. Ranked 2/6
Notes: Reserved and elegant, combining red fruit and fine leather. Full bodied, plush and long.
Reveal: Diamond Creek 2013 Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California)
Specs: 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot | 14.5% abv
Wine 19. Ranked 5/6
Notes: Dark-roasted coffee bean, toasty oak. Cranky at being opened. Firm and chewy. Throwback to old-school Bordeaux.
Reveal: Château Cos d’Estournel 2013 Saint-Estephe (Bordeaux)
Specs: 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc | 12.7% abv
Wine 20. Ranked 1/6
Notes: Dark and smoky. Plum and cherry fruit. Dense and chewy on the palate. Bordeaux?
Reveal: Ornellaia 2013 Bolgheri (Italy)
Specs: 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot