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Cool Climate Cabernet Sauvignon
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Oct 9, 2018
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Howard Park, Great Southern (Western Australia) Cabernet Sauvignon “Scotsdale” 2014 (Winebow Inc, $40):  Of all the world’s wine regions that I have visited, those of Western Australia have left some of the most indelible impressions on me.  I was struck by the remoteness of the state, eight hours flying time from Sydney; the diversity of its wine regions, from charming, maritime Margaret River 150 miles south of Perth on the Indian Ocean, to the isolated, continental Great Southern some 200 miles to the east; and the distinctive quality of the wines.  Whenever I see wines from Western Australia, I jump at the opportunity to taste them.

This Cabernet Sauvignon hails from the Great Southern region.  The largest wine region in Australia, the Great Southern encompasses a variety of soils and climate influences, which enables the cultivation of both white and red grapes with needs as diverse as those of Riesling and Cabernet.  It includes two coastal subregions on the Southern Ocean, Denmark and Albany, well-suited to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and three interior subregions.  From west to east, these interior areas include Frankland River, Mount Barker and Porongurup, all excelling in Riesling as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

The Great Southern is a cool region.  Its red wines are marked by the juxtaposition of vivid fruit flavors with generally lean, elegant structure -- ripeness of flavor in a cool-climate frame.  These descriptors are apt for the Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine comes from the Mount Barker area, and specifically from the Abercrombie vineyard, a 38-acre site that’s described as extraordinarily low-yielding, no more than 2 tons/acre, with gravel and clay-loam soil.  Under the name Hay River Vineyard, this was the first site in the Great Southern region to be planted with Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Burch family, owners of Howard Park, began using fruit from the vineyard in 2002 and in 2014, they purchased the site, with its nearly 40-year-old vines.  They renamed the vineyard in honor of Jeff Burch’s great grandfather, Walter Abercrombie.  Scotsdale Cabernet represents a declassified version of Howard Park’s iconic Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon.  (In some years, Abercrombie itself is a blend of Margaret River and Great Southern fruit.)

The 2014 Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon is a dry, lean-structured, flavorful Cabernet full of concentrated fruit.  Its aromas suggest fresh blackberry, blueberry, graphite, vanilla, fresh herbs, black pepper and a floral note.  In your mouth it is medium-bodied with enlivening acidity and firm tannins that complement the fruit.  The wine’s dark fruit, earth and spice flavors are very concentrated, vibrant and pure.  This is a juicy Cabernet that makes your mouth water, but it is built on a solid foundation of tannin that will enable it to age. 

This wine is entirely Cabernet Sauvignon.  Its winemaking regimen includes stainless steel fermentation at cool to moderate temperatures; extended maceration after fermentation for some lots, to enhance the tannins; pressing right after fermentation for other lots, to capture the fruit’s vibrancy; and aging in French oak barrels of 225 and 300 liters, 40 percent of which were new, for 18 months. These techniques foster the wine’s purity of fruit expression as well as its solid but not outsized structure.

This wine represents an expression of Cabernet that is uncommon -- a cool-climate style, moderate in weight and fresh in flavor, dry and vibrant -- just as the Great Southern is uncommon.

 91 Points