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New World: Cabernet/Shiraz blends

After something of a shocker last year, Cab/Shiraz found its feet in 2012 with a decent number of cheerful, well-priced medal winners

Our attempt to give Cabernet/Shiraz blends their own section last year was something of a failure. Just three medals and no Golds was, to put it politely, somewhat underwhelming. Lots of pretty average cheap wines, hardly anything with any real ambition and not a lot for the tasters to get excited about.

This year, though, was not bad at all. Perhaps because we saw rather more wines from single regions such as the Clare and Eden Valleys, and fewer South Australian blends. Prices, too, were higher on average than in 2011, which might be partly explained by the strength of the Aussie dollar, but also made for rather better wines, too.

Congratulations to Penfolds Koonunga Hill, which picked up a medal for the second year on the trot. ‘It wasn’t as intense as some,’ said consultant Richard Bampfield MW, ‘but I liked the freshness, and at the price I thought it was great!’

With two grape varieties and a range of climates to play with, styles unsurprisingly shifted around a lot. But however they were made, they were nearly all well received.

‘One or two came across as cool-climate, some warm; some Cabernet-forward, some Shiraz. Even the ones we had to put out – at least one person would have had them in,’ said Bampfield.

Price-wise, the medals came from a narrow range – £7-11 – but for a relatively small category to pick up two places on the Gold List was impressive. That, incredibly, is more than Australia managed in the far bigger Shiraz category. Maybe tasters are just looking for simpler, more cheerful wines…

‘The Willunga is a wine that makes you remember what Aussie Cab/Shiraz was all about,’ said consultant Caspar Auchterlonie. ‘It had lovely primary fruit flavours and no over-extraction or confection.’

Majella, meanwhile, continued its impressive performance in this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards with another Gold. ‘The Musician just took that whole style to another level,’ said Auchterlonie. ‘It had real layers of flavour.’

‘There’s a roasted pepper, not spicy, note to these wines that’s brilliant with medium rare grilled and barbecued meats.’ Jan Konetski, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay