Sommelier Wine Awards 2009: New World – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Carmenere

Drinks: Wines

Chile, again, was the country to catch, with Gold Listed wines throughout the price points. On this evidence, the Kiwis and Aussies need to pull their socks up

And you thought the New World was more interested in Pinot Noir than Cabernet Sauvignon? Not on this evidence. The Bordeaux varietals category was easily the biggest of the New World – almost as big as Syrah and Pinot combined – with a decent number of wines from every country.

Most of the cheaper entries were, as you might expect, from Latin America, with South Africans starting to appear in numbers around the £8 mark, and Australia, California and New Zealand generally contenting themselves with the upper reaches.

In fact, the star country here was Chile, which had the vast majority of wines under a tenner and a few good representatives at more serious prices. Errazuriz deserves a mention for its Don Max making it onto the Gold List for the second year running, even if it didn’t manage its heroic 2008 feat of supplying almost half of the Gold wines.

The South Africans should be pleased at getting two wines onto the Gold List, while the Kiwis and the Aussies ought to feel rather chastened, with their successes being few and far between.

Stylistically there was a lot of variability. At the lower end, the judges were happy to find wines with decent fruit, ripe tannins and a balance. Moving up through the price points they became more demanding, with sheer size less important than subtlety.

‘You get a lot of oak and spices, but not really enough fruit,’ said Andrea Bricarello of Corrigan’s Mayfair. ‘They come out fast, but don’t always last.’

This was a section where personal preferences diverged enormously, with some tasters more open to the bigger styles than others. Particularly at the cheaper end, there were some pretty dismissive tasting notes, though things seemed to improve markedly around the £8 mark.

‘What the sommeliers want and what the market wants are very different. It was hard for our group to reach conclusions,’ sighed Dans le Noir’s Dominique Raclin.

One interesting factor that seemed to rear its head for the first time was that many of the more expensive wines were deemed significantly too young to drink, and failed to make the step up from Shortlist to Gold List, not because they weren’t good enough but because they simply weren’t ready.

We found good wines throughout the range here, from house/entry level through to the mid-price and up to the top stuff. The expensive wines were concentrated and need a bit of time, but they were good. Dario Buonavoglia, Hakkasan

Sometimes a Cabernet/Merlot wine can have this appearance of being two wines mixed together, but the best wines here were harmonious. Stephen Nisbet, L’Ortolan


Pascual Toso Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Barrancas, Maipu, Mendoza, Argentina
£5.55 @ Stratford’s Wine Agencies

Thick textured, sweet and chunky with lush black cherry and plum fruit. Even at this price, it could go a couple more years. Solid, well-made wine that overdelivers for the price point.

Caliterra Tributo Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Colchagua Valley, Chile
£6.68 @ Hatch Mansfield

Bright fruit, dark and juicy, with plenty of flesh and a liberal dollop of oak. A light green-pepper character made some wonder whether there was a little Carmenère in here, but it was thought to be a good food match. ‘Amazing plush fruit, but elegant,’ admired Olivier Marie.

Penley Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Coonawarra, Australia
£9.46 @ Moreno Wines

Bucketloads of cassis and menthol, with a fair bit of grip as well. Smooth and succulent, plush and pretty, but with an interesting slightly medicinal quality. ‘Ripe fruit and quite stylish,’ said Stephen Nisbet.

Idiom ‘Bordeaux Blend’ 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa 
£10.99 @ Amathus

Game and leather behind the juicy, lush plum fruit. Pretty long, complex and ripe, with soft tannins. Like black fruits wrapped up in leather. ‘Funky, soft and supple,’ said Samuel Walker.

Errazuriz Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve 2006, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
£16.01 @ Hatch Mansfield

Cassis to the power of 10 on the nose, this is a big beast that really needs decanting. Juicy and well directed, with big liquorice flavours behind the fruit. ‘Ripe black fruit with spice and pepper,’ said Agustin Trapero. One for the venison or spit roast.

Echeverria Founders Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Molina, Chile
£17.54 @ Hallgarten Druitt

Deep and rich, with a ripe blackberry and apple structure. Long, elegant, structured and intense, even at this price it was seen by several tasters as good value for money, though definitely on the young side, with the structure to go a good few years.


Explorer Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Concha y Toro, Central Valley, Chile
£4.90 @ Concha y Toro

Deep colour, youthful-looking. Plenty of lifted blackcurrant fruit flavours. Rounded, soft tannins. Great flavour for the price, pretty complex and also food-friendly.

Franschhoek Cellar The Old Museum Merlot 2007, Coastal, South Africa
£4.90 @ DGB Europe Ltd

Leafy, dark-fruit nose, with a good mouthfeel, silky texture and good fruit flavours. Well put together.

Lauca Reserva Carmenere 2007, Maule Valley, Chile
£5.89 @ Barwell & Jones Ltd

Slightly herbaceous edge to the nose, but the palate is riper, with dark forest fruits and grippy tannins.

Apaltagua Envero Gran Reserva 2007, Colchagua Valley, Chile
£6.65 @ Anthony Byrne Fine Wines

Ripe, but not over-ripe blackcurrant and cassis flavours and good intensity. Somewhat youthful, but good for the money.

Echeverria Carmenere Reserva 2005, Molina, Chile
£6.98 @ Hallgarten Druitt

Leather, liquorice and soy sauce behind the black-fruit palate. ‘Plums and cassis, with dry, sweet spice,’ said Igor Sotric.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2006, Columbia Valley, Washington State, USA
£7.75 @ Stratford’s Wine Agencies

Earthy, smoky style of Cabernet with cassis, pepper and olives. Silky fruit on the palate, with a ripe, long finish. Grown up.

Pascual Toso Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Barrancas, Maipu, Mendoza, Argentina
£8.20 @ Stratford’s Wine Agencies

Open, interesting nose of blackberries and dark cherries. ‘Rich and liquoricey,’ mused Chris Zoeller. Tobacco and cedar follow on the palate, with tight, grainy tannins.

Sibaris Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Undurraga, Colchagua Valley, Chile
£8.49 @ De Bortoli (UK) Ltd

‘Interesting, with good red and black fruit and nice balance,’ enthused Igor Sotric. Fruit, alcohol and tannin are all well balanced in this soft, medium-bodied wine.

Casa Silva Carmenere Gran Reserva ‘Los Lingues Estate’ 2007, Colchagua Valley, Chile
£9.00 @ Jackson Nugent Vintners Ltd

Primary black fruit backed up with some earthy, spicy, salty and mineral characters. Juicy, too.
‘Savoury and delicious,’ pronounced Peter McCombie MW.

Balgownie Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
£10.22 @ Boutinot Ltd

Dark fruit, chocolate hints and some leafy eucalyptus/iodine on the nose. Palate returns to the chocolate/dark fruit routine, and gets spicier with time.

The Morgenhof Estate 2004, Stellenbosch, South Africa
£10.42 @ McKinley Vintners

Dark, dense and sweet, with impressive concentration, and an almost Bordelais spice and smoke character. ‘Classy. Long, lovely and structured,’ said Ivan Dixon.

Stoney Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Domaine A/Stoney Vineyard, Coal River Valley Tasmania, Australia
£11.00 @ Alliance Wines

Lighter and more herbaceous in style – many were convinced it was Cabernet Franc. ‘Wonderful capsicum character,’ eulogised Angela Reddin. ‘With lively redcurrant top notes.’

Saint Clair Rapaura Reserve Merlot 2007, Marlborough, New Zealand
£11.76 @ Hallgarten Druitt

Big herbacious nose, delicious and chewy – and will almost certainly improve for the next five years or so. ‘Cheval Blanc in disguise,’ said Roger Jones.

Penny’s Hill Specialised Shiraz Cabernet Merlot 2006, McLaren Vale, Australia
£12.08 @ Hallgarten Druitt

Savoury dark fruits backed up with spicy cedar and tobacco characters. ‘There’s spiciness here,’ said Roberto della Pietra, ‘but it’s packed with fruits and the finish is clean and long.’

Jarraman Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Wakefield, Clare Valley, Australia
£13.10 @ Stratford’s Wine Agencies

A lot of eucalyptus and menthol in this offering. ‘Very Clare Valley,’ said Mike Harrison, picking the style blind. ‘Sweet, intense and concentrated, with good balance.’

The Lane ‘19th Meeting’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, The Lane Vineyard, Adelaide Hills, Australia
£16.90 @ Corney & Barrow

Nice bottle age on this wine, with the very approachable currant and cassis character given added complexity by vanilla and a slight new leather note. Moderate tannins.

Don Amado 2005, Torreon De Paredes, Rengo, Cachapoal Valley, Chile
£16.99 @ Forth Wines Ltd

Minty, savoury dark fruits, with an earthy minerality in behind. Big structure, with brisk (though ripe)
tannins. ‘Dry, concentrated and focused,’ said Dario Buonavoglia. This big beast needs rare beef.

Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Bodega Catena Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina
£20.61 @ Bibendum Wine Ltd

Dark fruits and chocolate tasted through a haze of mint and tobacco leaf. Soft, round tannins, with
great length and depth. ‘Elegant and delicate,’ said Olivier Gasselin. Excellent, grown-up wine.

A lot of the high-end wines didn’t get through because we didn’t see them as value for money. At that price you can get pretty smart Bordeaux – so the New World has to outperform that. Peter McCombie MW, consultant and team leader

Even at £8 there was a lot less confected rubbish and a lot more proper wine. Louis Villard, consultant

Editorial feature from the Sommelier Wine Awards 2009.

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