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LAST TIME WE LOOKED AT PINOT NOIR AND WHAT A VERSATILE GRAPE IT IS, UNFORTUNATELY, THERE IS GOING TO BE LESS OF IT AVAILABLE OVER THE NEXT TWELVE MONTHS WITH WINE AUSTRALIA REPORTING THAT ALONG WITH RIESLING THE SIX OF THE 2020 CRUSH WAS 20% DOWN FOR PINOT NOIR AND 28% FOR RIESLING. THE OVERALL AUSTRALIAN WINE GRAPE CRUSH IN 2020 WAS DOWN 12% YEAR-ON-YEAR AS THE INDUSTRY BATTLED EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS AND BUSH FIRES.

Red varieties fared slightly better than white varieties in 2020 being down 11% compared with 2019 while white wine varieties were down by 13% and our largest variety Shiraz decreased by 10%. The main contributor to the reduction in the white wine crush was Chardonnay which was down 19% and Riesling which was down 28% which was a 20 year low at a total of just under 17,000 tonnes.

Whilst the crush was down it still resulted in a crop of 1.52 million tonnes the equivalent of more than a billion litres of wine being produced even so it was the lowest crush since 2007 but very similar to the 1.61 million tonnes of grapes crushed in 2010 which also turned out to be an exceptional year for quality.

Wine Australia reported that whilst the crop was down the quality was again expected to be very high as Autumn temperatures were generally around average or slightly cooler leading to ideal ripening and harvesting conditions which resulted in reduced yeilds but with more concentrated colours and flavours in the berries.

Whilst I appreciate that the largest produced red wine in Australia is Shiraz and in Grange, we have a wine that can match some of the Grand Crus of Bordeaux I still have a warm spot for Australian Cabernet Sauvignon which I believe can match any produced anywhere in the world. I find a really good Cabernet is a lot more approachable especially with food than Shiraz and in my time with Penfolds always preferred a glass of Bin 707 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon to that of Grange Hermitage as was known in those days. I find Shiraz seems to have too many different characters depending on where the grapes come from whilst Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River or Coonawarra has the lovely blackcurrant aroma and regardless of age has a more rounded softer finish to that of Shiraz, which is the great thing about wine everyone has different opinions and tastes. Cabernet Sauvignon first arrived on our shore in the early 1800s with the cuttings originally coming from Bordeaux in France and is the prime component of the great Grand Crus of the region when blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc and is known as the ‘King of Red Wines’

Today it is the most planted red wine grape grown around the planet being grown in every grape growing country including in The Northern Hemisphere North America, Eastern Europe, Italy and Spain. In the Southern hemisphere, it is grown in Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa and was introduced with many other varieties to Australia by James Busby, a wine pioneer who imported the grape in 1832. Initially used for blending it was recognised as being able to make a great wine in its own right and for many years was the great red wine grape of Australia.

The majority of grapes grown in Coonawarra go into making a 100% varietal wine and the wines produced can vary to medium-bodied to full-bodied styles. Expect a supple palate and balanced tannins with aromas of cassis, blackcurrant, redcurrant, blackberry and mulberries when young and with age more earthy, savoury and spicy characteristics.

In the Barossa some of the great wines of the region, especially those pioneered by the late Max Schubert of Penfolds and Grange fame, haves used Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon as a part of the blend with Shiraz especially in cooler vintages when the cabernet fruit is rich and ripe.

Cabernet Sauvignon is also one of the great wine styles of The Clare valley being bold, powerful and earthy, Taylors was a vineyard founded on producing great Cabernet and their Jaraman Cabernet is outstanding matching any Shiraz they produce.

Over in the west, Margaret River produces Cabernet similar to The Coonawarra and although wines from the region only go back to just short of fifty years they have become a Cabernet powerhouse. Margaret River only accounts for around 10% of the total wine production of Australia but around 30%of premium wines come from this region. Wines from this region have won the Jimmy Watson Trophy on no fewer than six occasions and include Cape Mentelle 1982 and 1983, Flametree 2007, Joseph River 2009, Deepwoods 2014 and Xanadu 2016. Also look for Evans and Tate, Cullens, Woodlands and Mosswood who also make outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon.

Back to Victoria where the Yarra Valley excels especially Yarra Yering and Langhorne Creek in South Australia where Cabernet was first planted in the 1800s by Bleasdale founder Frank Potts. Not to forget The Hunter Valley and Lakes Folly where Dr Max Lake produced an Australian icon. Lakes Folly, Deep Woods Estate, Evans and Tate and Millbrook wines are now all part of the Fogarty Wine Group.

To finish James Halliday has a couple of interesting wines in his latest article a couple of old favourites and a couple of newcomers. He recommends Majella “The Musician” 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon $18, Wirra Wirra “Church Block” 2018 $22 and in interesting blend Longview Fresco Red comprising of Nebbiolo, Pinot Nero, Sangiovese and Barbera a real Italian mix $26.