Cabernet sauvignon and friends blind tasting

Seminar 6: Presented by Brian Croser

By Edward Ragg
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Edward Ragg, Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting

Edward Ragg, Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting [©Redfish Bluefish Creative]

Karen MacNeil


This was one of the more controversial sessions of the Landmark, not because, as a blind-tasting, it yielded any astonishing surprises as how to these Australian fine wines showed alongside the likes of 2005 Ridge Monte Bello and 2005 Chateau Pichon Lalande, but rather for its premise.

Brian Croser asked the group as a whole to vote, having tasted each wine blind, as to whether the wine in question was essentially a terroir wine – i.e. showing mainly its origins viticulturally rather than primarily illustrating the influence of the winemaker – or was essentially a wine in which the hand of the winemaker (and, by extension, winemaking process) was uppermost.

I wasn’t especially comfortable with this distinction and Karen MacNeil, seated to my left, made her reservations about this apparent dichotomy clear to the panel. Perhaps, in the cases of certain wines, the nominal split between ‘winemaker wines’ and ‘terroir wines’ might hold, especially for wines made on more commercial terms v. wines with a distinct sense of origin. This would be a question of a wine’s style rather than privileging one form of wine over another. But just how far such a dichotomy can be stretched in the arena of fine wine is arguable.

Croser, perhaps playing devil’s advocate, certainly initiated debate at a time when consumers in some international markets – the US and UK especially – often equate Australia with over-extracted, burly, alcoholic wines based largely on inter-regional blending. Having said that, there was discussion of a ‘house style’ effect (in terms of winemaking) in the case of the 2007 Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia, an extremely good wine with a considerable future ahead. Given the Bin 707 constitutes a blend from various South Australian sites, then maybe it would be fair to say that wines based on blending from various terroirs are necessarily, but not in a pejorative sense, winemakers’ wines (witness, also, Champagne, sherry, port etc.). To this extent, this session anticipated Brian Walsh’s ‘Single Vineyards and Sacred Sites versus Blending’ tasting later in the week.

Generally speaking, however, the group discovered wines with a distinct sense of place regardless of winemaking style(s) – Thomas Woolrych from the UK’s Direct Wines identifying almost all of them blind by region. In other words, the wines evidenced all the advantages of Australia’s cutting-edge winemaking – in terms of purity of fruit, sensitive handling of oak, overall balance etc. – with characteristics clearly indicating regional differences, for example, Margaret River v. Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon. The differences were even more marked when the cooler and relatively undiscovered virtues of Yarra Valley cabernet sauvignon (and its cabernet-blends) came to light.

Of especially high quality from this session were: 2004 Wynns John Riddoch Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot, Margaret River, 2004 Hardy Wine Co. Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, 2004 Wirra Wirra Angelus Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, 2006 Lake Breeze Arthur's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot/Malbec, Langhorne Creek, 2006 Wendouree Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec, Clare Valley, 2007 Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia, 2007 Yarra Yering Carrodous Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Yarra Valley of which the Penfolds Bin 707 were the stand-out wines.

Tasting Notes


This article was originally published on

This is the eighth instalment of a 14-part series in which Edward Ragg provides an in-depth Inreview of last year’s Landmark Tutorial, a showcase of Australia’s finest wines. Co-founder, with Fongyee Walker, of Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting based in Beijing, Ragg has also produced detailed tasting notes on all 185 of the wines tasted in the Landmark seminars on Adegga.



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September 05th, 2011
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