First-rate cabernet comes in various styles. There’s the classic Bordeaux model, the muscular Napa Valley cult-wine model, the lean, herbaceous South African model — the list goes on and on.
Here’s another example that manages to strike its own special balance: a supple, rounded, sleek and seductive cab from Australia, the 2007 Château Tanunda “Noble Baron.” It’s from the Barossa Valley, a warm region largely associated with smoky-deep, powerful shiraz. But it shows none of the over-the-top qualities in which New World winemakers sometimes indulge. It’s often said that the mark of a really good wine is that it invites a second glass. I found myself pouring out the next one just after polishing off the first.
Château Tanunda looks the part — it’s a huge stone building that dates from 1890, and the estate was home to the first vines planted in Barossa in 1845. But the property fell on hard times. Businessman John Geber discovered it was for sale in 1998 and bought it with the ambition of restoring the historic estate. It now boasts a modern winemaking facility, 250 acres of vines (including long-term contracts for 100-year-old plantings), a croquet lawn, even a cricket oval.
The grapes for this cab come from a single vineyard in the Bethany district, de-stalked and fermented uncrushed. There’s plenty of dark ripe fruit here, along with lingering hints of spice and leather. The texture is mellow and smooth, framed by fine-grained tannins and good acidity. It’s a big, unfiltered wine, but a well-behaved one, tamed by 18 months in French oak. All this makes for a splendid wine at the table, pairing beautifully with grilled sirloin, shepherd’s pie, pork loin and venison. Aging profile? This could last and improve for a decade in the cellar, but I was having trouble just saving some for the cheese plate.
Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”