Pip to pulp, cab-sav takes some beating

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“The wine was opened and the gorgeous ripe blackcurrant flavours with a firm but very smooth finish needed no food to induce a vindication of my purchase,” writes wine columnist RICHARD CALVER

CABERNET sauvignon is a Bordeaux variety. It is a full-bodied red with firm tannins as a result of a high ratio of pip to pulp. It does well in cool-to-moderate climates but especially so where there is a coastal influence such as in the Margaret River. 

Richard Calver.

Canberra does well in the cabernet stakes with a remembrance on my part of tasting and liking Shaw’s 2015 Reserve. 

Despite the WA and Canberra contenders, the best Australian cabernet sauvignons come from the Coonawarra in SA, the name of the region being an Aboriginal word meaning honeysuckle. Halliday in his “Australian Wine Encyclopedia” says the Coonawarra is an “outstanding” cabernet sauvignon region, oddly focusing on the lack of natural beauty there and saying that it can be “grouped with the Haut Medoc of Bordeaux to prove the exception to the rule that almost all of the foremost wine regions of the world have landscapes of great beauty”. Fair enough; it shows he’s been to both places.

I recently bought a case of Heirloom Vineyards Coonawarra 2016 cabernet sauvignon. The purchase was motivated by three factors: a wine club that I belong to reduced the price to $30 a bottle, I had tasted another wine made by this winemaker and liked it and the back of the label contains an extract from a poem by Yeats which resonates:

Heirloom Vineyards Coonawarra 2016 cabernet sauvignon.

All wine comes in at the mouth

and love comes in at the eye;

that’s all we shall know for truth

before we grow old and die.

I lift the glass to my mouth,

I look at you and sigh.

I took a bottle of this wine to dine with a mate on a cold and blustery evening where we were feeling gloomy and in need of a boost, something to lift us out of the post-winter blues. But I certainly didn’t look at him and give a Yeats-like sigh. 

We decided on Indian curry at Daana in Curtin. I like a full-bodied wine with lighter fresh curries; although a softer finish as you get, for example, from a cabernet merlot blend, might be better able to withstand the contrast of creamy curry sauces than one with firm, drying tannins such as in big shiraz and cabernet sauvignon varietals. 

That is a personal preference; in my view meat curries can take big wines, especially reds, although our experience on the night has led me to rethink consuming any kind of wine with curry.

In order to lift the mood, I started with my dad joke: “Always eat safely; use condiments” I expostulated as we got the menu. “What?” said my friend. “You can sometimes be a wacky racer.” Suitably subdued, we turned to ordering naan bread, a prawn curry and a vegetable curry: my friend was taking a break from eating red meat. The wine was opened and the gorgeous ripe blackcurrant flavours with a firm but very smooth finish needed no food to induce a vindication of my purchase and know that this was the mood lifter that was needed. But regrettably it wasn’t the wine for the food. 

I made sure that I drank plenty of water before I sipped the wine as the curry sauces were not any kind of match for the wine, albeit pleasant enough. The curries and the wine together left an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth.

But as the well-heated venue and the wine and the medium curries heated us up, we got to talking about the positives that we had in view: such as his holiday to Iceland, mine to China. 

And the positives of drinking good wine at a reasonable price. Because it must be said that we remain the lucky country. We have amazing choices of so many good Australian wines that we are spoilt for choice, including the choice of a good cabernet sauvignon or for that matter a cabernet merlot that would have better matched the food. 

“Australia is a lucky country run by second-rate people who share its luck.” –Donald Horne

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Richard Calver
Richard Calver walks, talks, thinks, drinks and writes passionately about wine, especially the wines of the Canberra region.

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