Coonawarra remains one of the best places in Australia to grow cabernet sauvignon.

Eight Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon barrel samples

So the annual barrel series auction conducted on October 15 is a time to celebrate all Coonawarra cabernets. Buy some if you wish by having a bid. It only has to be five dozen. Average auction price per bottle is around USD 60.

This year eight makers are participating so I had the occasion recently to taste a barrel sample of each cabernet 2010. Wines will be bottled around February 2012 and delivered to the happy bidders in May next year.

Wines are tasted and reviewed in order of my preferences. In all cases as a style of cabernet which has good potential to age as that is the primary construct to hold an auction of the region’s most age worthy grape.

The anchor flavour in this 2010 cabernet group is mint, subtle, menthol like, sweet, green, wintergreen, just a lovely sweet fruit flavour that conveys refreshment from the wine. It bobbed up many times as an underlying cabernet flavour.

Another pleasing character about both this vintage and the means of making these wines, and selecting the barrels for auction, is the path beyond just big, boisterous fruity wines displaying oak dominance or a large aging-in-barrel footprint.

I appreciated wines with ripe fruit aromas (they all had it) and integrated nose character, little poking out, and an element of savouriness on the palate to be accommodating towards food. Tannin of course is a given, that’s cabernet.

Tasting cabernets

Majella barrel; ++++1/2; aromatic oak which emanates sweetness; black fruits and black pepper, oak sweetness, seaweed, very, very, tight tannins which are good, compact as a palate, mint, aniseed, a very composed wine, like the medium body; 2017-2020.

Parker barrel; ++++; spicy, earth, savoury, grand oak sweetness, all about subtlety, chocolate oak on palate, the ripeness is spot on and the spice/savoury traits say this has been excellently thought through in production, softer style, not very tannic so able to be drunk earlier; 2015-2017.

Brands barrel; ++++; earth, cedar, seaweed, oyster shell (developing complexity), oak, actually woody, mint and plum, plump in the mouth, not an oak day but firm-forming tannins which stamps it as cabernet, lots of concentration, 2017-2020.

Zema barrel; ++++; cumin/spice, savoury, oyster shell, complex and smart, slippery in the front of palate, glycerol, very ripe, richer, high alcohol style, mint, high in tannin and long backbone, 2018-2022.

Wynns barrel; ++++; cedar, berry, oak concentration, big on oak and quite drying, good, dusty fruit, warm on the finish, trending towards 14%, will always have oak presence, drink 2018-2020.

Katnookbarrel; ++++; earth and plum, low oak perceived, some good funk, savoury, has the classic mint/spice, lots of tannin, tight and warm, about 13.5%, drink 2017-2020.

The Menzies barrel; +++1/2; cinder oak, very sweet nose, lots of tannin and syrupy texture from ripeness and alcohol, has lots of dryness and brooding flavour to find, a long time until it softens, mild flavour lots of extract, drink 2018-2020.

Lindemans barrel; +++1/2; leafy, straight varietal nose, currant plus oak, slippery in texture from high ripeness, big cedary palate, lot of fruit and mint, fruit style, drink 2017-2019.

Bids for any parcels are entertained by auctioneer Mark De Garis 0n +61 8 87372695.

Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator

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