Saturday, May 14, 2011

2003 Cape Mentelle Zinfandel

Oh my freakin’ goodness. Do these wines still get made today? Apparently so, according to the Cape Mentelle website (quite possibly the most frustrating of any wine producer on the planet). The current vintage is 2008 and makes no mention of alcohol strength, but I’m gonna say right up front this 2003 is badged with 16% and shows every freakin’ bit of that. Read on...

The colour is dense and dark and brooding, with brick red hues and even a slight purpling around the edges. The first thing that hits you on the nose is the alcohol – no surprises there. There’s a whole lot going on in the glass than that, but it’s hard to escape the over-awing sweetness of high-octane rocket fuel. But I’ll have a go. To make it easy I’ll simply list the characters and descriptors that sprung to mind as I took my first look at this beast.

Cracking oak
Cane basket (yeah I know, weird, but I'm guessing oak-derived character)
Brambly red fruit drive
Boysenberry jam
Savoury black olive
Shoe leather
Star anise, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg
Xmas trifle where grandma spilled the entire contents of the sherry bottle in the cake mix

Often when tasting wine I try to delineate the berry fruit characters between black, blue and red but this one covers all of them with equal intensity. You can smell the alcohol, and quite a VA lift. I felt a little woozy after merely smelling this wine in the process of writing the above notes. I sat down to regain my composure.

The palate follows a similar theme, and it’s lush and viscous – full of fruity richness, xmas pudding, candied oak – well-integrated after all this time in bottle. There’s a bit of an ethyl acetate bite. The alcohol and oak drive this animal but thankfully there’s some other stuff going on. Like florals – lavender and violets – and some intense fruit-weight – marzipan, spice, coconut and cherry ripe. In fact imagine a cherry ripe chocolate bar soaked in sherry.

Shit, I really dunno. It’s a brute. Too porty for red wine, too winey for port. I only managed one glass before succumbing. If it was made to look like this, then it was cleverly made. Is it a good drink? I can’t say. Maybe I’ll try it tomorrow night and let you know. With food? Well, the food tamed it slightly.
Value: I don’t know the price because the Cape Mentelle website doesn’t offer such things. And I can't remember where I got this bottle from.
Tasted: May 2011
Closure: Cork (an excellent example)

Producer: Cape Mentelle Vineyards – – Established in 1970 by David Hohnen and friends, the winery is considered one of the elite producers of Margaret River. Hohnen later went on to develop Cloudy Bay in New Zealand and then sold his winery interests to the massive LVMH Group. He now runs pigs and sheep while keeping his toe in the wine industry by way of McHenry Hohnen Vintners.
Region: Margaret River, Western Australia.
Site: Gravelly loam and some sandy soils over a clay base.
Vintage: A dry winter, mild spring and summer. February was hot and sugars accelerated, but a cool change in March created some difficulties with phenolic ripeness. Average year for the region.


  1. That's the problem with these Cape Mentelle Zins - they are hard to drink. Don't get better as they get older either. Yet they persist....

  2. Will take another look tonight and see if the sherry-ness has washed off.

  3. On night two: If anything the alcohol was even more pronounced as the fruit intensity had faded slightly. Didn't want to drink it again so I opened the Hillcrest Cab (coming soon).

    There's obviously a market for the Zin, and I suppose this style is not uncommon in the Barossa. There you go..

  4. Why is CM possibly the most frustrating wine producer on the planet?

  5. They're not, but the website is/was. Probably a bit harsh, but I remember I couldn't find anything when I first went there. Looks like they've done some work on it since last I looked, but where's the price-list or ordering details? That always frustrates me ;) (or maybe I'm blind).