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Going Mentelle
© Sue Courtney
June 17 2002

This tasting of Cape Mentelle wines was in Auckland and hosted by John Durham, senior winemaker of Cape Mentelle. After a series of slides and commentary on the region where little snippets of trivia - such as having to have protection fences to stop kangaroos fulfilling their insatiable appetite for grapes; and the influx of bronzed-bodied peroxide blonde surfing fanatic cellarhands during vintage - we got down to tasting the wines.

Cape Mentelle Semillon Sauvignon 2001
Aromatic, lemon oak aromas with hints of peach and a nuance of herbs. Lifted bright, herbaceous with the oak quite noticeable. "Sappy American oak", says John. Vibrantly herbaceous with sweet pea and honeysuckle on the finish. Nice texture - a little grainy. Tastes like it will go quite honeyed with age. NZ$24
This is absolutely one of my favourite wines of this style from Australia.

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Merlot 'Trinders Vineyard' 2000
Deep red with good saturation. Minty aroma. Mint, cassis, vanillin oak and firm tannins with licorice emerging. Quite savoury with a touch of pepper. Long. Good. I much prefer this to the 99, tasted the previous month.
Tasted 4 days later, the wine was still incredibly sweet and juicy. NZ$26.

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Merlot 1995
Deep brown/red with excellent saturation still. Savoury, cedar, smoke and sweet charcoal aroma. Still very firm powdery tannins. Bordeaux-style. Smoky cedar, mint, cassis, leather, dried berries, savoury, smoky meats. Long and satisfying. Good wine with really nice bottle development and definitely not a big grunty Aussie style. NZ$na.

Cape Mentelle Shiraz 2000
Dark, smoky, sweet, savoury and bitter chocolate aromas. Sweet berries and spice, roses and violets, herbs, powdery tannins, vanillin oak. An interesting wine. Lots going on in the nose and now I can smell cinnamon and I can taste wine soaked bread and a chocolate berry cake - think of a Black Forest cake (without the cream but where the cherry juice has soaked into the cake itself). The finish is juicy and dry. The more I sip on this, the more I like. There were some chocolate brownies to finish off the lunch later. I went back to the Shiraz and now, there's a match. NZ$32.
So I found some more of this wine - it had been opened 4 nights earlier. It had turned into a very big meaty, savoury wine and the fruit was harder to detect.

Cape Mentelle Shiraz 1998
Nicely developed sweet fruited shiraz - sweeter fruit than in the 2000, though I detect a hint of something in the finish, some beef 'oxo' which detracts slightly from the initial pleasure. It disappears, however. Strong tannins and quite satisfying long savoury finish with minty overtones and dark plum. $na

Cape Mentelle Zinfandel 2000
Dense black-red. Spicy, savoury, licorice and fruitcake with brambly berry fruit and dried roses. Good alcohol levels and well-integrated vanillin oak. Think licorice, musk, dried red berries and spice. A touch of meatiness too. A full-bodied, flavoursome, delicious juicy wine. NZ$35

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Quite a complex spicy style of cab, good acidity, good fruit structure, flavours of cassis, blackberry, a little banana and polished oak. Good balance of fruit, oak and tannins. Savoury with hints of marmite. Long lingering flavours. Needs to develop more. Very good wine from a very good year - 1999 was superb in the Margaret River. NZ$55

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
Powdery, minty wine. Let it pass through the mouth and revel in its after glory. Minty fruit sweetness, strong cassis, chocolatey oak and powdery tannins. NZ$55

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 1996
Lovely developed wine with nuances reminiscent of a great wine from Bordeaux. The fruit is integrated into the wine as a whole and has become complex, savoury and very balanced. There's that sweet mintiness at first in the mouth. There's some creamy chocolate. There's ripe fruit, a little spice, savoury yet sweet chocolate oak, fine integration tannins, long lingering flavour on the dry finish and hints of licorice. This is simply a stunning wine on the day. NZ$52.

Go to the Cape Mentelle website for more information.

© Sue Courtney. June 2002

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