The timing of International Cabernet Day on the last Thursday of August each year is just about perfect for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere as we battle the last of the winter westerlies and prepare our palates for the return of lighter styles in Spring.
And with time of our side to prepare for this year’s edition of the globally recognised event, there’s no excuses for not having the cellar stocked with ample offerings from our best producers!
Although the varietal originated in France in the 1700s through a chance crossing of sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc, it has made a second home for itself here in Australia where we make, what I would argue, are some of the best cabernet in the world!
It’s often referred to as the “King of Reds”, and in Australia it is undoubtedly the King in regions like Margaret River, Coonawarra and the Clare Valley where is does exceptionally well. And our winemakers aren’t afraid to price their premium cabernet accordingly with examples like the Greenock Creek Vineyards Roennfeldt Road Cabernet (Barossa Valley), Cloudburst Cabernet (Margaret River) and Penfolds Bin 169 Cabernet (Coonawarra) all selling at well above the $200 price point!
But unlike European (and even American) wine lovers, we are blessed with the privilege of being able to buy exceptionally good cabernet without having to spend the GDP of a small African nation!
Personally, I prefer to stock my cellar with styles that will benefit from a few years laying on their side; like the Juniper Estate cabernet from the Margaret River, Balnaves from the Coonawarra and both Kilikanoon and Sevenhill from The Clare Valley.
But if there’s a crowd favourite across the dining rooms of Australia, I’m guessing that it’s the Taylors Estate label Cabernet Sauvignon from South Australia’s Clare Valley.
I was introduced to it over 20 years ago by a friend who swore it was the world’s best wine, and to this day it’s still a remarkably good value drop. On the nose there are ribena and tomato leaf aromas, though once on the palate, blackcurrant and cassis flavours emerge and navigate a course through waves of cedar, spice and eucalypt. And it’s nicely balanced too, with fine tannins and a French oak complexity through the finale. Given that it sells at a $15 – 20 a bottle price point, it’s no surprise that it’s more popular than a Kim Kardashian selfie!
The Taylors story began in 1969 as a family owned winery in the Clare Valley. And to this day they are a family owned operation who say that they “rest on the principle that the finest wines are those made with the greatest dedication and care” and “above all, our imperative is to respect the fruit”. And to their credit, when the 2011 vintage was sub-optimal, they held true to their beliefs and refused to make any premium wines despite the financial cost to the organisation. You’ve got to respect that kind of nerve!
In more recent years, the Taylors team have introduced the Jaraman range which sits between their Estate and St Andrews ranges. You’ll find it on the shelves at an ask of between $25 and $30 for the 2016 release. It’s a blend of Coonawarra and Clare fruit and had already taken out gold and silver medals at international wine shows. With a Coonawarrra dominance (73%) to the blend, the white pepper and eucalypt aromas on the nose are unsurprising, but the richness of the chocolate and blackberry fruit does take you a little by surprise! There’s oodles of luscious red fruits through the middle and some delightful cedar and brambly traits through the conclusion. It’s a full-bodied wine that is perhaps more elegant than bold, and with good tannin structure, would be the perfect partner for Mum’s rosemary encrusted lamb roast!
By area under vine, cabernet is the world’s most widely planted grape varietal – and for good reason; it’s reliable, attractive and versatile. As a blending partner, it’s a musician. As a single varietal, it’s a rock star! So this year, make International Cabernet Day something special and take advantage of the incredible good value that our Aussie cabernet has to offer.