First cabs off the rank...
Rich, luscious cabernet-dominant reds were up for judgment from the Dish Tasting Panel’s discerning palates – find out who came out on top, for some seriously delicious winter supping.
Fun facts you can take to your next pub quiz: 1) cabernet sauvignon has been grown in Bordeaux, France, since at least 1600AD and 2) cabernet sauvignon only exists because somewhere in the mists of time, (red grape) cabernet franc and (white grape) sauvignon blanc did the wild thing in the woods somewhere.
However, if you’ve been struggling to get back into local cabernet after some less-thanluscious experiences back in the 80s and 90s, then get the good glasses out of the china cabinet folks, because we’ve found some wines to rock you. For the longest time, our growers were stuck with some rather average clones that struggled to ripen regularly and could be a real pain in the clacker to get your tastebuds around. The wines were often rather hard, green and overly grippy in the gob.
Yet thanks to having access to high-quality, modern plant material, better suited to New Zealand’s regional diversity, alongside increased winemaking skill and (dare we say it) a touch of global warming in more recent years, we are experiencing a massive elevation in the quality of Kiwi cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc in the marketplace.
And that’s exactly what we here at Dish
were looking for, the best of those cabernetdominant styles available right now.
Straight out of the starting gates it was clear 2015 had something special where cabernet is concerned, as our top three wines hailed from this vintage. The 2014 vintage is also looking like a sexy slow-burn, boasting the largest percentage of silver medals, and a surprising number of shiny-new 2016 examples showed well. The year 2013 was hailed as New Zealand’s “vintage of the century” for red wines, hence fewer entries from that year as most good examples have since sold out. Hawke’s Bay clearly leads the cabernet charge, boasting 90 per cent of our Top 10 wines.
“Those growing cabernets now, should only have the best sites and the best practices in hand,” says winemaker and panel judge James Rowan. “With these wines, bigger isn’t always better and grace, refinement and purity should prevail. Why do some producers still try to extract everything by leaving fruit on the vines too long or the wine in barrel too long? Do they not taste their wines? On a positive note though, some people are clearly blessed with some winning hands, lucky them and us!”
For associate judge, winemaker Renée Dale, cabernet franc is about florality and cabernet sauvignon is about presence.
“There was definitely presence in this tasting, but to me the more outstanding wines were the delicate cabernet francs,” she says. “When I taste cabernets I want to be enthralled and mystified.
“There were outstanding wines that took me by the hand and danced me through a storyline of cassis, Mediterranean black olives and spice, but there were also some wines which fell short and dropped me on the floor. There were wines with obvious Brettanomyces* influence and you do begin to wonder, is this invited into the wine to hide its sins? Brettanomyces and cabernet can be an acceptable partnership but with the delicate New Zealand styles, not so much”.
* Brettanomyces is a strain of yeast which, when present in a wine, can impart barnyardy, cow patty, horsey, mousy or Band-aid aromas. At lower concentrations, ‘brett’ can add complexity to a wine, yet people’s thresholds of perception and tolerance of brett vary. Some don’t notice it, while others are repulsed.