It was surely one of the most important and glorious marriages that between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc in the late 17th century, when in the quaint village of Bordeaux they gave birth to one of the most important grape varieties in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon. Its bold and sturdy character make it an ideal survivor of cool damp conditions, thereby finding it easy to plant its roots in various wine regions in the world.
Throughout the years Cabernet Sauvignon made good friends with a number of grape varieties which developed great blends both in Bordeaux and in other wine regions like Coonawarra. Being a late ripener with high levels of tannins, friends like Merlot, Malbec, Shiraz, Cabernet franc and others help by adding soft, round fruit to the denser character of Cabernet Sauvignon. For many this grape variety reaches is highest expression on the top left bank of Bordeaux in sub-regions of Pauillac, Saint Julien and Saint-Estèphe giving top First growths with exceedingly high prices. Yet what about the other wine regions tucked away in the faraway land of Australia?
Around three quarters of Australia’s Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in South Australia and yes to my luck Coonawarra has been and still is one of the best hosts for this grape variety. A few years back discussing old world versus new world wines a friend of mine remarked, there are so many great wines in Italy and France, surely enough for a lifetime so why bother about new world wines after all? Well, I hope my friend gets more than one lifetime because the wines from Coonawarra and other regions in Australia merit a few years of indulgence and appreciation.
There was no better way to appreciate this great variety other than to attend the Coonawarra Cabernet Masterclass last November which was conducted by James Halliday and taste the iconic Mildara Peppermint Pattie 1963 vintage. Nicknamed Peppermint Pattie due to its strong minty characters, this was Mildara’s first 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra aged for 2 years in French and American oak and sold at $1.85 a bottle. With its red brick and brown tinge this wine stood out from the rest of the Coonwarra crowd; an aroma profile still generous with cedary black fruits and still some hints of peppermint, medium weight on the palate having a good balance with subdued tannins yet present acidity. A remarkable character for a 47 year old still charming everyone in the room.