The Cabernet Sauvignon Masters – Asia 2020 results

While Australia and Chile are well known for the quality of their Cabernet Sauvignon, other countries are snapping at their heels, with China and Israel in particular impressing in our annual blind-tasting competition, writes Alice Liang.

Robust yet approachable, Cabernet Sauvignon has long been a staple in consumers’ cellars. “In Hong Kong, Cabernet Sauvignon has become a brand name for people to go after,” said judge Jessica Ochoco, senior sales executive at Altaya Wine. “Most of them encountered the grape variety because of Bordeaux, but thankfully, after getting on with the first growths, they are willing to explore the same variety made in other regions.”

The dbAsia Cabernet Sauvignon Masters brought together entries of 100% Cabs along with blends made up of at least 50% of the grape variety from popular New World countries, such as Australia and Chile, to up-and-coming gems, namely from China and Israel. The panel was able to explore the potential that the grape variety can offer.

As one of the world’s biggest producers of Cabernet, Australia showed how good it is as a producer. Penfolds, the powerhouse of Australian wine, achieved a Master with its exceptional Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2017.

The Cabernet-dominant blend impressed independent wine educator Rebecca Leung with its “supple concentration of vibrant fruit and floral flavours”. Leung said the wine was ready to enjoy now.

The panel also raved about the wines from Wakefield Taylors. Priced under HK$100, both Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 and Taylors Reserve Parcel Cabernet Sauvignon won Gold as they proved to be outstanding value for money.

According to Derek Li, Group Sommelier at JIA Group, the former has a “juicy and firm tannin structure topped with mint and herbal notes”, while the latter offers “an intense fruit flavour with a hint of cedar wood”.

Moving upscale, the winery’s costlier wines were awarded Silver medals. Hugo Poon, head of sourcing at Quintessentially, said: “The Wakefield Taylors St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (HK$250) boasts an impressive iintensity. The acidity integrates with the sweetness perfectly. Meanwhile, in Wakefield Taylors’ The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, I spotted rich scents of coffee, vanilla and cherry with a nice finish.”

Chile is another country well known for good-value Cabernets. A couple of New World Cab stars are produced in Central Valley regions such as the Maipo Valley and Colchagua Valley. In our competition, Luis Felipe Edwards Family Selection Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, costing less than HK$100, took home a Gold medal. Li said:

“The wine exudes rich and intense flavours of plum, violet, nutmeg and cinnamon. This is an easygoing wine that I find very enjoyable.” Meanwhile, Luis Felipe Edwards Doña Bernarda 2015, a Cabernet blended with Carmènere, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, was awarded a Silver medal in the competition.

Other hightlights in the competition included Silver medallists Viña Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 and Viña San Pedro Tarapaca Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon 2019. Both wines are good value, having a price tag of less than HK$100, showing the value of Chilean Cabernets.

As an emerging wine-producing country, China shone in the competition by showcasing the graceful development of its wines. Hailing from Tianjin, Dynasty Fine Wines received Silver and Bronze medals respectively for its Premier Royal Selection – Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008 and Wisemenship Collection – Ravissantia 2010 respectively.

Carrying a price tag of HK$301 and above, the panel preferred the former as “it offers a lot of tertiary notes such as espresso coffee, caramel, toffee, and dried plums, while being powerful in style,” said Ochoco.

The Upper Galilee region in Israel has started to gain a good reputation for the wines produced there. Situated at a high altitude, Barkan Vineyards is located in the cooler northern part of the region. The high performer stood out in the competition by winning two Gold medals. Named according to the height at which the grapes are grown, The Altitude Series achieved recognition from the panel.

In particular, Gold medallist Altitude Series 624 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 delivered “a fantastic body and richness,” according to Vincent Chue, beverage director at Tapa Room. He added: “The use of oak is apparent, but it is well balanced, and shows high drinkability.” Meanwhile, Cabernet Sauvignon Superiore 2016, which also won a Gold medal, showed a totally different profile. Li said: “The wine is pleasing and elegant. I am attracted to the intense characters of cassis, roasted coffee beans and nutmeg.”

Unoaked – 100%

Winery Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
HK$<100
V.E.S.A. Birds of Paradise Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Vinedos Emiliana O Reserva Central Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
V.E.S.A. Gamma Reserva Central Valley Chile 2018 Bronze

Oaked – 100%

Winery Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
HK$<100
Taylors Taylors Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Taylors Taylors Reserve Parcel Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Viña Carmen Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Vinedos Emiliana Indigo Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2017 Bronze
HK$101 – HK$200
Tempus Two Pewter Series Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Silver
Vina San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Viña Santa Rita Santa Rita Floresta Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Nepenthe Altitude Cabernet Sauvignon Adelaide Hills Australia 2017 Bronze
McGuigan The Shortlist Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Bronze
Katnook Estate Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Bronze
HK$201 – HK$300
Barkan Winery Altitude Series 624 Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Israel 2016 Gold
Allegiance Wines The Artisan Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Australia 2014 Silver
Barkan Winery Altitude Series 585 Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Israel 2016 Silver
Barkan Winery Altitude Series 720 Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Israel 2016 Silver
Taylors Taylors Wakefield St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2017 Silver
Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Tarapaca Etiqueta Negra Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Katnook Estate Katnook Founder’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Bronze
HK$301 – HK$400
Dynasty Wisemenship Collection – Ravissantia Tianjin China 2010 Bronze
HK$401 – HK$800
Dynasty Premier Royal Selection – Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Tianjin China 2008 Silver
Taylors Taylors Wakefield ‘The Visionary’ Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2016 Silver
Allegiance Wines Unity’ Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Australia 2015 Bronze

Oaked – Blend

Winery Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
HK$<100
Luis Felipe Edwards Family Selection Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Chile 2018 Gold
Vina San Pedro Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Vina San Pedro Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon- Merlot Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Viña Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley Chile 2017 Bronze
Taylors Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2016 Bronze
Vina Chocalan Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Vina San Pedro Gato Negro PeRRRfect Red Blend Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Alpaca Alpaca Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Alpaca Alpaca Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
HK$101 – HK$200
Vina Chocolan Gran Reserva Origen Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Tarapaca Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Viña Carmen Carmen Delanz Alto Jahuel Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
HK$201 – HK$350
Luis Felipe Edwards Doña Bernarda Colchagua Chile 2015 Silver
Vina El Principal El Principal Metropolitana Chile 2015 Silver
Vina El Principal Memorias Metropolitana Chile 2016 Bronze
HK$351 – HK$500
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz Barossa Val Australia 2017 Master
Barkan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Superiore Galilee Israel 2016 Gold

The Sparkling Masters – Asia 2020 results

Sparkling wine, in all its forms, is amazingly popular. In our annual blind tasting, we look at fizzes from all over the world, and discover some gems, occasionally from surprising locations. By Alice Liang.

The year-round popularity of sparkling wine has never subsided. The editorial team of drinks business Asia gathered with a panel of judges, comprising wine professionals from different sectors in Hong Kong, to give a verdict on flights of the versatile wine in various expressions, including Champagne, Prosecco and Cava.

When seeking out a good sparkling wine, acidity is always the key to upholding the freshness and structure. A flabby sparkling wine tastes like an alcoholic fizzy drink, or even worse, a soda water, as Tersina Shieh, wine marketer and independent wine judge, said during the judging process.

Champagne, a synonym for celebration, has been facing a tough time during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, for the reigning king of sparkling, the quality of the wine held its own in the competition. Champagne Castelnau was founded 1916 and underwent a rebranding in 2017.

Champagne Castelnau Brut Réserve – the flagship wine of the house – took home a Master, thanks to panel being impressed by its “mesmerising” character. Shieh said: “It is so fresh and lean, with attractive brioche notes. It benefitted from lees contact, as the tension is well delivered.”

And Champagne Castelnau Millésime 2006, the vintage expression of the house, won a Gold medal. As Anty Fung, wine specialist and manager of Hip Cellar, noted: “It is another vinous example with lots of autolytic character, grip and acidity that lingers.” Both wines are priced between HK$400-HK$800, meaning they offer exceptional value.

English fizz has been attracting attention from professionals. The emerging category has even been spoken of as ‘the new Champagne’. Catching up with the Champagne, it was Gusbourne from Kent that shone from this sector.

Made from a blend of estate-grown Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, Gusbourne Estate Rosé 2015 was another Gold winner, with a price tag in the HK$300-HK$500 band. Fung said: “I can taste the fresh red fruit quality wrapped in a Comte cheese rind. The sparkling wine has good length and balance, and is a great example of what a rosé sparkling wine should be.”

Meanwhile, the layered and balanced profile of Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs 2014, predominantly made with Chardonnay from a Burgundian clone, caught the eye of Eva Ma, senior marketing executive of EMW Fine Wines, who said: “The wine illustrates a New World-style méthode traditionnelle; it is slightly oaky but well integrated.” The wine was awarded a Silver medal.

Looking at the Bronze winners, we saw the presence of organic sparkling production, which is also growing strong around the world. Emiliana, the Chilean winery from the Central Valley, is one of the dedicated vineyards practising organic and biodynamic agriculture in the country; its Etnico Sparkling Wine NV “exudes a lovely white floral and lychee scent with lean structure” commented Ma.

Moving back to the Old World, Vilarnau Rosé Delicat Brut Reserva NV is an organic Cava that showed a high price- to-quality ratio. Shieh described the fizz as: “Bubbly and zesty, the wine is brilliant for the price.” It is worth mentioning that both wines bear a favourable price point between HK$100 and HK$200.

The panel tasted a variety of sparklers from around the world, including Joseph Vallet Splendid Blanc de Blancs Brut from Bourgogne, Dynasty 5° Sparkling Wine from China and Andreola Mas de Fer Rive di Soligo, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG 2018 from Italy. The tasting proved that no matter where in the world you look, there is something sparkling being made that will appeal to the most discerning of consumers.

White Sparkling Brut

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
$100-1500HKD
Dynasty Wines Dynasty 5° Sparkling Wine Tianjin China NV Bronze
Viñedos Emiliana Etnico Sparkling Wine Casablanca Valley Chile NV Bronze
Domaine Pierre Labet Joseph Vallet Cuvée Splendid Blanc de Blancs Brut Bourgogne France NV Bronze
$200-300HKD
Azienda Agricola Andreola Mas De Fer Rive Di Soligo Valdobbiadene DOCG Extra Dry Veneto Italy 2018 Bronze
$400-800HKD
Champagne Castelnau Brut Réserve Champagne France NV Master
Champagne Castelnau Champagne Castelnau Millésime 2006 Champagne France 2006 Gold
Champagne Castelnau Blanc de Blancs 2006 Champagne France 2006 Silver
Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs Kent UK 2014 Silver
Gusbourne Estate Brut Reserve Kent UK 2015 Bronze

Rosé Sparkling Brut

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
$100-150HKD
Vilarnau Rosé Delicat Brut Reserva Cava Spain NV Bronze
$300-500HKD
Gusbourne Estate Rosé Kent UK 2015 Gold
Champagne Castelnau Rosé Champagne France NV Silver
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