I struggle to articulate more abstract, aesthetic dimensions of wine. It’s one thing to list flavours and try to describe structure, all of which are quite tangible with a little experience of tasting and writing. But what of crucial notions such as coherence, style, philosophy? Much harder to crystalise intellectually, let alone write about. And so I grapple with this note, because it’s a good wine, indeed well achieved given the vintage, yet there’s something that separates it from the best years, and it’s that intangible quality that I’d like to pin down, and repeatedly fail to do.
It’s oaky for sure – arguably too much so, depending on one’s tastes. The nose is flagrantly vanillan alongside varietal cassis and sweet dusty leaf. It has the dark, clean fruit for which I adore Coonawarra Cabernet and, in a sea of increasingly full, plush wines, I’m glad for the rustic simplicity of the style. Despite the modern slickness of the oak, this strikes me as a gleefully old-fashioned wine, perhaps less concerned with appearing seamless than it is providing a decent hit of flavour. At the very least, it seems totally unpretentious.
The palate is similarly rustic, perhaps lacking in fruit intensity (similarly to the recently tasted 07 Cabernet Merlot
), but somehow managing to emerge with a good degree of satisfaction. Sort of like a diver who straightens up just moments before hitting the water. A nice clean entry, dark berry fruit and prominent vanilla oak creating a dessert-like flavour profile without, however, any overwhelming sweetness. It’s home cooking to a glossier wine’s night out. The middle palate remains lean, with little evolution in flavour profile, save for some attractively ferny herbaciousness. Straight through to the after palate and finish, then, with relatively abundant tannins that are chalky and somewhat lumpy in character. It certainly dries the mouth in a pleasant way, suggesting food, rather than another sip, is the right answer.
I’ve definitely tasted better Cabernets from this region, with greater complexity and less rusticity. But what value enjoyment? Drink with outrageously flavoured Italian food.
Balnaves of Coonawarra