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Clare Valley Cabernet: top Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia 

The Clare Valley, South Australia

Generally speaking, Australian Cabernet Sauvignon isnít great. There are just three places that seem to be able to grow it really well: Margaret River, Coonawarra and the subject of this piece, the Clare Valley.

Itís a little surprising, because Cabernet is a really adaptable grape variety that, unlike Pinot Noir, for example, seems to grow well just about anywhere. It seems, though, that many Aussie regions, such as the Barossa, are just a bit too hot for Cabernet, and it goes all over-ripe, minty and a bit leafy green.

Coonawarra and Margaret River Cabernets rock, and these regions have built their reputations on this grape. But Clare Cabernet also rocks, although fewer people seem to write about it. I had the chance to try a wide range of them, and came away pretty impressed. Come to think of it, Iíve also been impressed by Clare Shiraz and Clare Riesling. Thereís something a bit special about this South Australian wine region.

Grosset Gaia 2001
Powerful blackcurrant fruit, spice and mineral nose. Open, expressive boldly fruited palate with a really nice spiciness adding complexity to the blackcurrant fruit. 91/100

Jeanneret Cabernets 2003
Sweetly blackcurranty and chocolatey with a bit of spice. 88/100

Jim Barry Coverdrive Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Very deep colour. The nose shows blackcurrant fruit with chocolatey richness and some herbiness. The palate is boldly fruited and quite primary with nice structure. Very rich and full. 90/100

Kilkanoon Blocks Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Very deep colour. Sweet, complex blackcurrant fruit nose with lovely savoury complexity. The palate is intese, fruity and spicy. A delicious wine in a full-on style. 93/100

Kilkanoon Killermanís Run Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Very deep coloured. Sweet chocolatet black fruits nose is quite complex. Primary, intense black fruits on the palate with some minerality. Full on and lovely. 92/100

Knappstein Enterprise Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Very deep coloured. Creamy, ripe, black fruits nose with a minty edge. The palate is powerful, savoury and spicy with some minty oak, although overall this is a fruit-driven wine. 90/100

Koonowla Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Some evolution to this wine, which shows herb-tinged black fruits. Opening out. Spicy and full. 88/100

Koonowla Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Evolved sweet caramelly edge to the nose. Spicy, sweet palate is more advanced than youíd expect. 86/100

Koonowla Ringmaster Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Bright, sweet, herb and tar notes on the nose. Quite light and expressive. A lighter style. 85/100

Mitchellís Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Expressive herby, leafy blackcurrant fruit nose. Herby edge to the sweet fruit on the palate. A lighter, food-friendly style thatís very nice. 88/100

Mount Horrocks Cabernet Merlot 2002
Sweet, expressive black fruits nose. Nice savoury, spicy minerally edge to the palate. Nicely complex. Good stuff. 90/100

Neagles Rock Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Sweet and expressive with nice fruit. Not too sweet or heavy, which is a good thing. 89/100

Olssens of Watervale Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
A bright, distinctly minty stype with lots of fruit. 86/100

Penna Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Deep colour. Sweet, herby and minty with a spicy finish and lots of fruit. 87/100

Sevenhill Cellars St Ignatius 2004
Deep coloured. Unusual sweet nose with a herby edge. Bright, bold, fresh primary fruit on the palate. 86/100

Skillogalee Cabernets 2003
Quite a developed sweet red fruits nose. Sweet, spicy palate is quite evolved. A nice food wine but slightly odd. 88/100

Tim Adams Cabernets 2003
Very deep colour. Sweet bright and fruity. Thereís oak here, but itís in check. 88/100

Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2004  (n.b. this is the UK market name: itís Taylors in Australia)
Bold, sweet blackcurrant fruit nose. Fresh and very blackcurranty on the palate. Nice purity here. 90/100

Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Very deep colour. Complex, pure bold blackcurrant fruit dominates here: a lovely expressive wine. Really good. 91/100

Wakefield St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
Evolved, cedary, earthy spicy blackcurrant nose. Softening a bit on the palate, this has great concentration and good complexity. Nice purity here: this wine is ripe but balanced. 93/100

Wakefield St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Complex, expressive wine, showing earthy, minerally blackcurrant fruit. Evolved and drinking very well now. Delicious. 92/100

see also: report on a visit to the Clare

Wines tasted 10/06
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