Alert readers will know this wine was tasted a while back as part of a broader look at 2010 SBS blends. The wine performed pretty well in that line-up. But ranking wines in tasting line-ups or shows is a dangerous thing, providing only one side of the equation quite unrelated to the others – including the real experience of real people drinking wine for pleasure. That's what we were doing.
The Cape Mentelle SBS sits at the upper echelon of the price range for these styles of wine and wears the burden of the label’s reputation, meaning it has to be good every year to command the price they’re asking. Sure, there’ll be the usual robots who buy this wine every year so they can have a piece of Cape Mentelle on the table at dinner parties, but there’s no doubt you would find equally excellent examples of SSB/SBS from Margaret River at much lower prices. That said, this is a very good wine.
A colour of clean, fresh straw. Grassy and minerally chalk hits the nose up front, some grapefruit tang and pithy lemon. There’s a cool crispness, like un-ripe peach, and a line of gooseberry. Subtle, stylish background oak, and there’s smokiness, spice and some green sweet-pea aromas too.
The palate is creamy yet bursts with flavour mid-palate. Tangy grapefruit again, lime, juicy citrus – quite frankly mouthwatering and begging for some spicy Asian fare to tease out it's restrained power. The grassy, herbal characters continue here, plus the chalky minerality, but it all adds to the complexity – a simple complexity if that’s the right wording, because after all, these wine styles need punch and delicacy in equal measure, and this wine nails it. Crisp, without appearing to be, and great length. There's oak again which helps draw out the palate and add creamy texture.
Good wine. It’s on the serious side – the lean and keen and mean side – but that makes it sensational with food. We did Thai green curry and Thai fish salad. Getting the food/wine matching right is key to allowing the wine to express it’s best, and vice versa. The underlying sweetness of the SBS burst forth when paired with the chilli and rich creamy coconut curry.
Value: $28 at cellar door – it’s right up there and you’re paying for ‘label’ here, but it’s a very stylish drop.
Tasted: August 2011
Source: Cellar Door
Producer: Cape Mentelle – www.capementelle.com.au. Established in 1970 by David Hohnen and friends, the winery is considered one of the elite producers of Margaret River. Hohnen later went on to develop Cloudy Bay in New Zealand and then sold his winery interests to the massive LVMH Group. He now runs pigs and sheep while keeping his toe in the wine industry by way of McHenry Hohnen Vintners.
Region: Margaret River, Western Australia.
Site: Gravelly loam and some sandy soils over a clay base (the majority of the fruit comes from Cape Mentelle's southern vineyards, specifically Chapman Brook).
Winemaking: 54% Sauvignon, 46% Semillon. Approx 15% fermented in French and American oak. Four months on lees.
Vintage: Another superb year in the blessed west. Brilliant for whites with warm, dry conditions throughout summer.