The Rise and Rise of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon

Im always banging on about how ridiculoulsy  good Margaret River Cabernet is. I wonder sometimes if i’m a bit one eyed, because by the nature of my job as a guide, I drink predominately Margaret River wines. 

But then I read the following article by legendary Australian wine writer Tyson Stelzer who recently attended the 34th Cape Mentelle International Cabernet Tasting and realise I’m possibily understating how bloody good Margaret River Cabernet can be. 

He has written a  remarkable endorsement about Margaret River Cabernet in the Cape Mentelle newsletter. And Cape Mentelle were kind enough to let us re-publish on the MRDCo Blog. 


By Tyson Stelzer

It’s a bold and courageous thing to cast
one’s wine in a taste-off of the international benchmarks of the style, and all the more so when some of these sell for up to 20 times the price.

This is precisely the game of the Cape Mentelle International Cabernet Tasting. Now in its 34th year, this must be the longest standing international wine benchmarking of its kind in the country.

There is no harsher environment for a wine to perform than in a formal, silent, blind tasting against its peers, and while the philosophy expounded from the outset was not to attempt to identify the wines or to pick a winner, any such comparative tasting invariably becomes a competition.

With 20 wines from the 2013 vintage on the bench, 10 internationals (from Bordeaux, Napa, Bolgheri and Waiheke Island) and 10 Aussies (eight from Western Australia, seven of which were from Margaret River), the Western Australian wines predictably kicked way above their weight. And not by design. Some 70 wines were in the running for the Cabernet Tasting, and only those of suf cient merit made the cut by the rigorous Cape Mentelle winemaking team.

Of my six top wines of the tasting, five were Western Australian. I scored all five ahead of Margaux, Léoville-Las-Cases, Cos D’Estournel, La Mission Haut-Brion, Sassicaia and Ornellaia. Bang. That’s a phenomenal result.

‘Benchmark tastings like this set Margaret River cabernets in their rightful lofty position in the world of wine.’

Granted, 2013 was no rock-star season in Bordeaux, but herein lies the unique blessing of Western Australia, shared by no other wine region in the country and perhaps the world: a glorious straight, uninterrupted decade of idyllic vintages.

Benchmark tastings like this set Margaret River cabernets in their rightful lofty position in the world of wine. When I was recently asked for a future prediction on any one thing in the wine world by Gourmet Traveller Wine, I had this to say:

‘The rise and rise of Margaret River cabernet sauvignon will see these wines rise to global prominence and command prices commensurate with their standing in the great world of cabernet sauvignon.’

And I am not the only one with this opinion. In his concluding comments following the Tasting, President and CEO of Moët Hennessy Estates & Wines (owner of Cape Mentelle) Jean-Guillaume Prats made the shock prediction.

‘I have no doubt that when we do this tasting in 20 years time, the Margaret River wines will be as expensive as the Bordeaux.’

This might seem predictable from one representing a Margaret River estate.

But don’t forget, Moët Hennessy Estates & Wines is also the proud custodian of the uber Bordeaux estates of Château Cheval Blanc and Château d’Yquem, both of which sell for four digit sums.

If there’s one lesson to emerge from this exercise, now is the time to stock up on Margaret River cabernet sauvignon.

Wine commentator Tyson Stelzer has won numerous awards for his writing, including International Wine & Spirit Commentator of the Year 2015. He’s also got a soft spot for Champagne.

About Margaret River Discovery Tours
Sean Blocksidge is the owner operator of the Margaret River Discovery Company, an avid photographer, blogger and South West WA ambassador. In 2010 he won Western Australian Guide of the Year and his tours have been rated the #1 thing to do in Australia on the Tripadvisor website for the past two years.