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Cabernet Sauvignon Masters 2016: Results

We round up the medal-winning wines from this year’s Drinks Business Global Cabernet Sauvignon Masters, with New World examples impressing judges with their consistent quality, even at entry level.

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As we noted in last year’s report, such are the powerful traits of Cabernet Sauvignon, wherever it’s grown, and however it’s handled, the grape displays a pleasing sameness. In essence, it’s a grape of resilience and reliability. So, unlike Pinot Noir, another grape in our Global Masters series, Cabernet Sauvignon offers regularity in personality, which is derived from its dense tannins, and juicy blackcurrant flavours, along with its subtle and refreshing leafy lift, as well as lingering coffee and cedar characters. It’s a bit like ex-pat Brits drinking tea and playing cricket: Cabernet behaves the same way wherever you find it. But what about quality? Here too, Cabernet offers consistency, although the high points are only attainted in certain places. As this year’s competition confirmed, the great sites for Cabernet are Chile’s Maipo and Colchagua Valleys, North America’s Sonoma County along with its Napa and Columbia Valleys, and Australia’s Coonawarra and Margaret River regions. Of course, Bordeaux is the home of this noble grape, and the benchmark Cabernet-based wines, but the Masters competition was primarily a New World tasting, simply because it is focused on unblended examples, which one rarely finds in Europe. Nevertheless, there were notable Cabs from the Old World, surprises even.

The judges

Patrick Schmitt MW
David Round MW
Keith Isaacs MW
Richard Bampfield MW
Patricia Stefanowicz MW
Clement Robert MS

Two Gold medal-winners in particular highlighted the value of this type of competition – tasting the wines blind without knowledge of source country does allow lesser-known regions to shine. Consequently, among this year’s top scorers were wines from Turkey’s Thrace and Spain’s Castilla-La Mancha. Furthermore, a theme noted last year, and continuing in 2016’s tasting was the quality of Cabernet from Argentina, a country far more famous for its Malbecs, but crafting beautiful wines from Cabernet too. If, however, one were to select a single country where the Cabernets were consistently good across all price points, it would undoubtedly be Chile. Here is a nation that manages to serve up a typically juicy Cabernet character at £10, and, at higher prices, deliver the grape’s potential for making structured, complex, age-worthy reds too.
Cabernet_Sauvignon_2016_eva-photography_IMG_7740-EditLightness of touch

However, to move away from the sources of accomplished Cabernet, and looked at the winemaking approaches, it was evident after this year’s tasting that cellar techniques aren’t too heavy handed. While there were instances of slightly harsh tannins from crude extraction techniques, the judges were impressed at the high number of smooth, polished wines in this year’s competition. The other criticism that tends to plague Cabernet-based wines is the use of too much oak. Exposure to young barriques in large quantities can yield a grainy drying sensation on the palate, while smothering Cabernet’s attractive perfume due to the vanillin from the wood. But, for the most part, the wines in this year’s Masters tasting displayed a level of oak that complemented the flavour and structure of the Cabernet, rather than overwhelming the grape. And the best entries were a pleasure to assess, leaving one salivating at the thought of the rare sirloin that would partner them perfectly – although it was just water biscuits for the judges. As the results over the following pages show, Cabernet can yield good wines at lower prices, with a clutch of Silver medals awarded below £10 and one Gold medal too, which was given to an example from Chile’s Casas del Toqui.

Between £10 and £15, Chile once more picked up a Gold, this time for the price-competitive and highly-respected Cabernet specialists from Colchagua Valley, Siegel Family Wines. But even at these lower prices there was a wine from California that took home a Gold. Called The Bridge, the wine is a collaboration between South Africa’s Ken Forrester and America’s Jesse Katz, and uses grapes grown in the Alexander Valley. While, proving that this may be a sweet spot price-wise for good Cabernet from Argentina, there were no fewer than five Silver medals awarded to this single nation between £10-15 (if one includes varietal and blended Cabs) and two from one winery in particular, El Esteco.

Jump in quality

Over £20 though, there was a step change in the quality of Cabernet. Even before we had moved into the £30-plus category we had exceptional examples from Columbia Valley, with the Cold Creek Vineyard Cabernet, as well as Miguel Torres’s top wine from Chile, the Manso de Velasco, and Aresti’s Family Collection, also from Chile, and the same region – both of these Cabs were from the Curicó Valley. Within the £20-30 price range there was also a Spanish Cabernet, although it is perhaps no surprise that it achieved a Gold – this was from Marqués de Griñón, a producer that sources its grapes from the prized Dominio de Valdepusa vineyard in Castilla-La Mancha, which, at over 1,000ft, is one of the highest in Spain. In the same price band, but in the blended Cabernet category, was the wonderful Finis Terrae from one of Chile’s oldest wineries, Maipo’s Viña Cousiño Macul. At £30 and above we had yet more great wines from Chile, including perennial high-performer Casa Real from Santa Rita’s oldest Cabernet vineyards in the Alto Maipo, and the Jackson Family’s Hawkeye Mountain from the Alexander Valley. Both of these Cabs received the ultimate accolade of Master.

About the competition

In a crowded wine competition arena, The Drinks Business Global Cabernet Sauvignon Masters stands out for its assessment of wines purely by grape variety rather than by region. Divided only by price bracket and, for ease of judging, whether the style was oaked or unoaked, the blind tasting format allowed wines to be assessed without prejudice about their country of origin. Wines were scored out of 100, with those gaining over 95 points being awarded the top title of Master. Those earning over 90 points were given a Gold, those over 85 points a Silver and those over 80 points a Bronze. The wines were judged by a cherry-picked group of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers on 14 April at the Tramshed in Shoreditch, London. This report only features the medal winners.

Aiming high

Australia also confirmed its ability to craft Cabernets great enough to command high prices, dominating the top medals for wines priced £30-£50. Notably good examples hailed from the Bird in Hand winery, which uses grapes from Adelaide Hills, and Terre à Terre, a project from husband and wife Xavier Bizot and Lucy Croser (daughter of Brian Croser) that takes its Cab exclusively from the Crayères vineyard in Wrattonbully. Wines from both the Barossa and Margaret River also took home Golds in the blended category from producers Château Tanunda and Cape Mentelle, respectively, while we were excited to unearth an equally high-quality example in this category from Turkey – The Chamlija Cab from the country’s Thrace wine region. Finally, over £50, California showed its skill with top-end Cab.

As one might expect, Napa-based Stag’s Leap wine Cellars gained a Gold, which was earned for its Cabernet from the Fay vineyard. In the blends category, Frank Family was gloriously awarded a Master for its Napa Cab called Reserve Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, while, showing the quality potential of Californian Cabernet in Paso Robles too, Justin was given a Gold for its rich and ripe Isosceles. In short, the tasting confirmed the superiority of New World Cab-centric regions such as Napa and Maipo, while highlighting the quality potential in areas less well known for this grape, whether it’s Mendoza, Castilla- La Mancha or, the real surprise this year, Thrace. db

Click through for a full round-up of medal-winning wines…

100% Cabernet Sauvignon – Unoaked

Company Product Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Santa Rita Estates Doña Paula – Paula Cabernet Sauvignon Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2015 Bronze
Concha y Toro UK Viña Maipo Classic Series Maipo Chile 2015 Bronze
Cremaschi Barriga Tierra Del Fuego Central Valley Chile 2015 Bronze

100% Cabernet Sauvignon – Oaked

Company Product Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Casas del Toqui Single Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2014 Gold
Australian Vintage Nepenthe Altitude Cabernet Sauvignon Adelaide Hills Australia 2015 Silver
Finca Las Moras Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon San Juan Argentina 2015 Silver
Casas del Toqui Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Cachapoal Chile 2014 Silver
Australian Vintage McGuigan Shortlist Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2013 Silver
Les Domaines Auriol Le Réveil Cabernet Sauvignon France France 2014 Bronze
Trivento Bodegas y Viñedos Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Uco Valley, Mendoza Argentina 2015 Bronze
Santa Rita Estates Carmen Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile 2014 Bronze
£10-£15
Siegel Family Wines Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile 2014 Gold
Ken Forrester Wines The Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley USA 2013 Gold
Mr Riggs Outpost Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2014 Silver
El Esteco Finca Notables Cabernet Sauvignon Cafayate Argentina 2013 Silver
El Esteco Ciclos Cabernet Sauvignon Cafayate Argentina 2014 Silver
Flagstone Music Room Western Cape South Africa 2012 Silver
Mascota Vineyards Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon Maipu Argentina 2014 Silver
Navarro Correas Colección Privada Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina 2014 Silver
Viña Valdivieso Single Valley Lot Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Rapel Chile 2014 Silver
Casarena Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina 2012 Silver
Aresti Chile Winery Trisquel Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile 2013 Bronze
Millaman Limited Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Curicó Valley Chile 2014 Bronze
Broquel Broquel Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina 2014 Bronze
Viña Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Limited Edition Maipo Valley Chile 2013 Bronze
Montgras Antu Cabernet Sauvignon Alto Maipo – Lindetos Chile 2014 Bronze
Viña Apaltagua Tutunjian Single Vineyard Curico Valley Chile 2013 Bronze
Zonte’s Footstep Peacock’s Tail Cabernet Sauvignon South Australia Australia 2014 Bronze
Trapiche Gran Medalla Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina 2012 Bronze
El Esteco El Esteco Cabernet Sauvignon Cafayate Argentina 2013 Bronze
Viñedos Emiliana Signos de Origen Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Chile 2013 Bronze
Viña Tabali Tabali Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Chile 2014 Bronze
£15-£20
Terrazas de los Andes Terrazas Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina 2012 Silver
Bird in Hand Bird in Hand Cabernet Sauvignon Adelaide Hills Australia 2014 Silver
Miguel Torres Chile Cordillera Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2011 Silver
Katnook Estate Katnook Founder’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2014 Bronze
Pascual Toso Selected Vines Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina 2014 Bronze
Viña Apaltagua Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Andes Chile 2013 Bronze
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Reserve Parcel Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2014 Bronze
KWV South Africa KWV The Mentors Cabernet Sauvignon Coastal Region South Africa 2013 Bronze
£20-£30
Ste Michelle Wine Estates Cold Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley USA 2012 Gold
Miguel Torres Chile Manso De Velasco Curicó Valley Chile 2012 Gold
Marqués de Griñón Cabernet Sauvignon Castilla La Mancha Spain 2013 Gold
Aresti Chile Wine Family Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Curico Valley Chile 2011 Gold
Pascual Toso Alta Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina 2014 Silver
St Hugo Wines Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2012 Silver
De Bortoli Wines Melba Reserve Yarra Valley Australia 2013 Bronze
Casarena Owen’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Agrelo Agrelo, Mendoza Argentina 2011 Bronze
Viña Perez Cruz Pircas de Liguai Cabernet Sauvignon Single Collection Maipo Andes Chile 2012 Bronze
St Hugo Wines Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2004 Bronze
£30-£50
Jackson Family Wines Kendall-Jackson Hawkeye Mountain Alexander Valley USA 2012 Master
Santa Rita Estates Santa Rita Casa Real Alto Maipo Chile 2012 Master
Bird in Hand Nest Egg Cabernet Adelaide Hills Australia 2013 Gold
Katnook Estate Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2013 Silver
Jackson Family Wines Atalon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley USA 2012 Silver
Jackson Family Wines Stonestreet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley / Sonoma County USA 2012 Silver
Terrazas de los Andes Single Vineyard Los Amoros Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2013 Silver
Villa Vallemaggiore Poggio Re Tuscany Italy 2014 Bronze
Over £50
Ste Michelle Wine Estates Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars FAY Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley USA 2013 Gold
Wakefield/Taylors Wines St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2013 Silver
Bird in Hand Winery Marie Elizabeth Cabernet Sauvignon Adelaide Hills Australia 2013 Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2012 Silver
St Hugo Wines Vetus Purum Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2010 Silver

Cabernet Sauvignon blend – Unoaked

Company Product Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Quinta de Maipo 1948 Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2015 Silver
£10-£15
Santa Rita Estates Medalla Real Unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Chile 2014 Bronze

Cabernet Sauvignon blend – Oaked

Company Product Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
De Bortoli Wines De Bortoli Family Seclection Cabernet Merlot South Eastern Australia Australia 2013 Silver
Viña Palo Alto Winemaker’s Selection Maule Valley Chile 2014 Bronze
Viña Maipo Vitral Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2014 Bronze
Ste Michelle Wine Estates 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Columbia Valley USA 2013 Bronze
Viña Canepa Famiglia Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Central Valley Chile 2014 Bronze
£10-£15
Viña Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Aconcagua Valley Chile 2014 Silver
Ste Michelle Wine Estates Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Columbia Valley USA 2013 Silver
Trivento Golden Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Valle de Uco, Mendoza Argentina 2013 Silver
Viña Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition Maipo Andes Chile 2014 Silver
Santa Rita Estates Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Chile 2012 Silver
Santa Rita Estates Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Alto Maipo Chile 2013 Silver
Viña Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Maipo Andes Chile 2014 Bronze
Concha y Toro UK Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Chile 2014 Bronze
Quinta de Maipo Famiglia Cabernet Sauvignon Finisimo Central Valley Chile 2014 Bronze
Zonte’s Footstep Avalon Tree Cabernet Fleurieu Peninsula Australia 2014 Bronze
£15-£20
Viña Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon Lot N 1 Maipo Chile 2014 Gold
Cremaschi Barriga Limited Edition de Familia Valle de Locomilla Chile 2013 Silver
Viña Valdivieso Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Chile 2013 Silver
Montgras Intriga Alto Maipo – Lindetos Chile 2012 Silver
Viña Concha y Toro Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Chile 2013 Silver
Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon Lujan de Cuyo Argentina 2014 Silver
Viña Arboleda Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon Aconcagua Valley Chile 2014 Bronze
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Merlot Margaret River Australia 2014 Bronze
Zenato Santa Cristina Cabernet Sauvignon Garda DOC Veneto Italy 2013 Bronze
Viña Cono Sur 20 Barrels Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Chile 2013 Bronze
£20-£30
Viña Cousiño Macul Finis Terrae Maipo Chile 2011 Gold
Jackson Family Wines Fortress Sonoma County USA 2012 Silver
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Double Lariat Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley USA 2014 Bronze
Viña Valdivieso Caballo Loco Grand Cru Apalta Apalta – Santa Cruz Chile 2013 Bronze
Viña Valdivieso Caballo Loco Grand Cru Maipo Maipo Chile 2013 Bronze
£30-£50
Terre à Terre Crayères Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Wrattonbully Australia 2014 Gold
Chamlija Wines Chamlija Cabernet Sauvignon Thrace Turkey 2013 Gold
Château Tanunda 50 Year Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon Barossa Valley Australia 2013 Gold
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Australia 2012 Gold
Viña Cousiño Macul Lota Maipo Valley Chile 2010 Silver
Viña Errazuriz Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve Aconcagua Valley Chile 2013 Silver
Ste Michelle Wine Estates Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars ARTEMIS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley USA 2013 Silver
Jackson Family Wines Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley USA 2012 Silver
Viña Maipo Protegido Maipo Chile 2013 Silver
Castello Vicchiomaggio Ripa delle More Tuscany Italy 2013 Bronze
Over £50
Frank Family Reserve Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley USA 2013 Master
Justin Justin Isosceles Paso Robles USA 2013 Gold
Viña Valdivieso Valdiviso La Primavera Lontue Chile 2005 Silver

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