TOP 10 - the greatest Australian cabernet sauvignons of 2009

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Tyson Stelzer - Australian wine expert

Tyson Stelzer - Australian wine expert [©Tyson Stelzer ]

When only the very best is good enough you can't go past our Top 10 Australian Cabernet Sauvignon's. All need a special place in the cellar to mature, but if you're patient you'll have the time of your life with these beauties in 10 or 15 years time. Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer from Taste Food and Wine 2009 could hardly contain themselves tasting these beauties.

Penfolds Cellar Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon     2006    $250.00   
This is the best young Australian Cabernet that we have ever tasted. There you have it, one of the biggest statements in this book. And there's more. If you bring the rest of the world into play, the only region worth mentioning is Pauillac in Bordeaux, where Chateau Latour and the other big guns hang out. We are desperately serious about this statement and will watch this wine as closely as we can afford for the next fifty years (there’s not much chance Jukesy will outlive this wine). It has extraordinary persistence and concentration as well as masses of oak which its sensational fruit needs decades to come out from behind.

Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon     2005    $165.00   
This is a very ancient style of wine, staying completely true to its original recipe of broad oak. It has a Viking ship hull of wide oak beams, laden with Ribena fruit. Built for long distance with the stamina to last for decades, this wine is no catamaran scudding along at speed, it is a relentless vessel of doom which will crush unbelievers in its path. The only safe place is inside, and 2005 is the best vintage in more than a decade, so get on board.

Moss Wood Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon     2005    $105.00
The density of Cabernet fruit in Moss Wood 2005 is truly staggering, but none of this power is misplaced, ‘hot’ or oaky – it is just introverted and brooding. With vigorous swirling you may encourage fragments of this wine to dislodge themselves from the mother ship and it is these tiny morsels that point to an epic future and some stunning evolution along the way. One of the greatest vintages of all time returns Moss Wood to its position of the Latour of Margaret River.   

Jim Barry Wines The Benbournie Cabernet Sauvignon     2004    $95.00   
I (MJ) thought that the 2002 vintage of this wine was the best ever, but I spoke too soon. The Benbournie 2004 is a legendary wine with incredible intensity, but not an ounce of unwanted high tone oak or alcohol. It is in perfect harmony already and so decadent and attractive that you need all the self control you can muster to keep your hands off this wine.   

Skillogalee Trevarrick Single Contour Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley     2004    $65.00
The way that Skillogalee handles the oak in this wine is symptomatic of a white wine expert company in that the tannins are so fine-grained and controlled that they never take over the palate or dry out the tongue. This inevitably means that the wine is even more delicious than you could possibly imagine, in spite of its youth. And yet it will live for as long as the best of its competitors because there is such a mass of energy buried in its beautifully ripe core of cassis fruit.   

Petaluma Coonawarra     2005    $60.00   
We have had the great pleasure of drinking virtually every vintage of this wine, including the inaugural 1979 - which was and still is a staggering piece of crasftsmanship.  This glorious 2005 may be as delicious, too, after thirty years in a cellar.  One this is certain, though, and that is you can, without feeling too guilty, take a sneaky peak at this wine now to get a glimpse of the excitement that is to come. The blackcurrant fruit is stunningly lifted (Cabernet's trumpet call) and then the outriders of red berry notes flank this movement thanks to the astute addition of top quality Merlot. On the palate the vanillin oak and woodsmoke notes call out, adding to the cacophony. While this wine will need a long time to soften and integrate it makes for and extraordinary experience already. One of the incredible things about this wine was that we noticed that there was some left in the bottle three days after having tasted it and we couldn't resist dipping in again to see what changes had transpired (by the way, this is a top tip to determine how a wine might mature). It was beautifully balanced and even more alluring with great length and savoury complexity. Initially, this wine was so compact that it felt like there was a barrel's worth of wine in this bottle and with time, albeit only three days, we could see how settled and magnificent this wine was and will be. Does the 2005 have the wine of the quality of the 1979? We are absolutely certain that it does.

Wirra Wirra The Angelus Cabernet Sauvignon     2006    $52.00   
Wirra’s stellar Cabernet enters our list at half the price of many of the top end reds on the shelves. It is typical of this company to make this wine and, for that matter, its entire portfolio more accessible to wine lovers, so more people can enjoy world-class Cabernet without having to go to Bordeaux. It's layered with gamey complexity, complex dark chocolate flavours and very fit tannins.

Fox Gordon King Louis Cabernet Sauvignon     2006    $48.00   
What is amazing about King Louis is that, while he will be a king one day, at the moment he is gorgeous as a prince. Just don’t drink all of your stock too soon, because when he ascends to the throne you will not want to miss the occasion. Look out for restrained blackcurrant fruit with structure, lovely leaf nuances and great balance. When we lined up our short-listed Cabernets we turfed out more than 100 between Majella and King Louis. Long live the king.

Jacob’s Creek St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon
    2005    $40.00   
We have been following St Hugo closely for decades, and its inaugural inclusion in our book is a massive statement on the standard of this vintage. It’s inevitable that some of the Cabernets in our list will have quite dusty tannins, and this wine is one of them. It’s a classically shaped Coonawarra Cabernet, because it is built for the long-haul but does not for a moment sacrifice any of its beautiful violet lift or precise blackcurrant fruit flavour.

Majella Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra  
   2006    $34.00   
Warning: Do not, under any circumstances, drink this wine. Do not buy it unless you have a very deep hole under your house where you can hide it until at least 2020. There is a magnum’s worth of blackcurrant and capsicum intensity in every bottle and we would not advocate even opening one to see how tight it is because it would be wasted. Just load your cellar with as much as you can afford (quite a lot at this bargain price, we would imagine) and you will be back to thank us in ten years’ time. An invitation when you open the bottle will suffice.                                                           


Reproduced with permission. © Copyright Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer 2008 Members can purchase Taste Food and Wine 2009 from our online partner Seekbooks at a 12.5% discount, postage and handling extra.



  • Barossa Valley (SA)
  • Clare Valley (SA)
  • Coonawarra (SA)
  • McLaren Vale (SA)
  • Margaret River (WA)

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April 15th, 2009
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