Voyager Estate Project North Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Margaret River, WA)
A new wine in the Voyager lineup, this was served at the end of what was a typically fantastic Voyager Estate masterclass held today (notes on that to follow).
Following in the footsteps of the last project wine (the Project 95 Chardonnay), this is sourced from a single vineyard planted to the ‘Houghton’ clone in 1995, the vines in which are deliberately worked hard to lower yields and ensure consistent fruit – think leaf plucking, shoot thinning, green harvesting, fruit sorting and the like, with such techniques deliberately employed to produce quality with less regard to cost.
You can see the commitment in the wine too, as it tastes like the absolute distillation of Voyager Cabernet – the beating heart of the standard Cabernet Merlot, laid bare.
What I like most about this wine is the definition. It screams Voyager Cabernet, with a pencilly, sharply detailed nose of cedar and briar and savoury black Cabernet fruit. There is an almost regal Cabernet-ness here that is translated on the powerful, ripe, fully filled tannic palate, the style obviously quite big, yet stiil lso varietal and plenty crisp to finish.
Actually the sense of rawness here is perhaps the only downer, a suggestion that, whilst all is in place, the lines are just a little jagged and warmish. Still, this is special Cabernet that couldn’t be anymore Margaret River-ish if it tried, a wine built precisely and perfectly in nearly every way. Plus it tastes pretty good too.
Score: 18.7/20, 95/100
Would I buy it? Yes. Cheaper than Moss Wood and twice the detail.
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Good to see them laying their beating heart on the table for all to see.
There is a fair bit of mis-information/understanding about historical Cab clones in WA. Often it is poor or lazy use terminology on the part of some within the industry which leads to this. Specific Houghton clones (where every vine is directly reproduced from a single source vine) haven't been generally available as planting material until very recently (the last year or two). These are the ones identified as superior through a long process of trials and elimination by the WA Dept of Ag using panels of local winemakers for tasting feedback. Any vineyard planted to vines descended from Houghton's early plantings in time to produce a 2009 wine would be really from a Houghton's Massale. As I understand it, this was the case for pretty much all the Cab plantings in WA up until sometime around the early 90's when various 'SA' clones were approved (125 and 126) as well as some others which were never widely picked up on from UC Davis ++.
As Coonawarra was then the more famous Cabernet region, the SA clones were whought to be superior, but didn't really set the world on fire in WA. They did have one advantage – the vineyards didn't have a lot of rogue Cab Franc and Malbec vines spread through them. You'd be amazed how long some of these rogue vines have lasted. Field blends are cool, but only when the varieties all work well and ripen at around the same time!
The Houghton's Massale (minus rogues) has the track record of making WA's best CabS and we look forward to wines made from the specific clones selected out of this but it may be a while before anyone has decent vineyards with enough vine age to do so.
Cheers Simon B