A Taste of Australian Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon

By Gavin Trott


Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world's finest red wine grapes. From Bordeaux to California and increasingly in Italy and even Chile, Cabernet makes great red wines. Australia is no exception making great Cabernet in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and the Hunter Valley.

Cabernet grapes tend to be thick skinned with bunches of small berries, and also only give moderate sized crops in general. This means that wines made from these grapes will have plenty of skins from which to get colour, flavour and tannin, and have plenty of flavour as a finished wine.

Cabernet based wines can tend to be quite tannic when they’re young, but age very gracefully with a softening of the tannin and the slow development of complexity, cedar and cigar box aromas. In regions where the grapes do not quite ripen there can be a ‘capsicum’ or ‘green bean’ character. This can add complexity to the wine, but if more than a trace it tends to distract from the experience and be a fault. Very ripe Cabernets from warm climates tend to be less distinctively Cabernet, and develop chocolate and richer flavours, and while delicious young, do not cellar as well. The flavour profile in Cabernets tends to be black and red currant, blackberry, and cassis, with occasional hints of mint, chocolate and even regional earthiness.

Regional versions of this wine can be noticed and I will mention these below along with some recommended wines to try from each region.

Consistently Australia’s best Cabernets are made in the Coonawarra region of South Australia. This is a small cigar shaped region with red ‘Terra Rossa’ soils over limestone, free draining and with a cool climate. The wines from here tend to be well balanced with a very good cellar potential

Wynns John Riddoch
Lindemans St George
Bowen Estate
Gartner Estates
Zema Estate

Barossa Valley
The warm climate here tends to produce richer dark and fleshy wines with typical chocolate hints. Blackberry more than blackcurrant is often the dominant fruit flavour.

Penfolds Bin 707 (although very much a multi region blend these days)
Charles Melton
Grant Burge
Wolf Blass
In Central Victoria there is often a mint/eucalyptus hint to these wines over classic cassis and blackcurrant.

Mount Mary
Oakridge Estate

Margaret River
Very good region indeed for Cabernet wines, slight gravelly hints with red berry fruit and usually great length and cellaring ability.

Moss Wood
Leeuwin Estate
Cape Mentelle
Chateau Xanadu

Great Southern
Howard Park

Hunter Valley
Very regional as all their reds seem to be, earthy style whose regional nature continues as they age.

Lakes Folly

Author Information:

Gavin is the manager of the Australian Wine Centre (a large collection of affordable, rare and cult Australian wines) and hosts the very popular Auswine Forum (An online discussion forum about Australian wine).