So rare is the occasion that I can break myself free of my ever tightening preferences that when the urge to try something new came upon me at Woodland Hills Wine Company, I grabbed a couple <20$ Cab blends from Australia. A year ago if you had asked me what my least familiar wine region might have been, I would’ve wagered either Germany or Australia. Well a case or two of Kabinett later I’m afraid Australia is the lone wild west resident for this guy. Part of it has always been the region’s reputation; I dislike huge wines that overwhelm or over-intoxicate. Like many wine regions Australia is not just one thing however, and particularly these days there is tremendous variety to be had.
My two choices were based solely on price (20 or less) and grape (Cabernet or Cab blend).
Girt by Sea 2012 by Voyager Estate (not Grit by the Sea as I first read, shame) is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend from Margaret River. At $20 this was right at the top of my targeted price. On opening and for the rest of the first night it was a huge initial disappointment. Uninteresting and monolithic, it was showcasing only unripe tannin and bitterness with a faint hint of fake grape candy, not my idea of fun. Fortunately, I did not think it was flawed and so tossed it in the fridge for a day. The next day it was much more interesting: smoky, with blue fruit and minerality, though with a touch of that volatile acidity (nail polish). Overall a very robust, earthy wine that you should absolutely decant for an hour or two at least.
Church Block Cabernet 2013 by Wirra Wirra was sourced from a vineyard in the McLaren Vale, a pretty well regarded Australian subzone. Far less Cabernet than the Girt, 50% Cab, 37% Shiraz, 13% Merlot to be precise. Appropriately priced (~17$). This was a robust, and muscular wine that never wowed me with any complexity, but unlike the Girt by Sea, it was ready to go as soon as I opened it (take this as a neutral observation). Big smoky aromas of mocha, dark blue and berry fruits, also baking spice, made me suspect a greater perceptible oak influence. The taste was surprisingly fresh with red fruits and med+ acid. Will drink well for 5-10 years. A good mid-week option for pairing with bigger foods or palates. In the trade you might say this tastes of the wine-maker not the vineyard. Very little of it tasted like Cabernet or Shiraz, as the oak and tannin and acid were all vying for attention. But blends are meant to have their own distinct personality and this one did have character, a touch more than you typically see for 17 bucks.