Posted by: Dallas Lawrence | March 26, 2010

G’Day Mate! Two Great Cab Blends For Under $14 From The Land Down Under

Greetings from down under! For the past several days we have been enjoying a much deserved vacation in Sydney and, needless to say, the fantastic wines from this part of the world have played a big role in our “holiday”.

Much to my surprise, Australia is not particularly known for its super value wines. There are literally dozens of superb pinots to be found in the $20-$30 range, but finding a value red for under $15 is about as tough to corral as a Tasmanian devil (which we also did today).

With a few days of outback wine tasting under my belt, I set off to the local wine store yesterday to track down the elusive value reds that I knew must inhabit this incredible country. I picked up a great variety case of cabernet, shiraz and pinots and began popping corks (or in this case, screwing off caps) this afternoon.

One of the first things you begin to notice from Australian wines is the lack of a cork. Regardless of the price, Aussie wine makers seem to have abandoned the cork and embraced the screw top. Australia has multiple wine producing regions two of the better known areas, Coonawarra and Margaret River, have been vying for top recognition as the premier Cabernet producing region of the country.

Long considered the country’s primo Cabernet region, Coonawarra has slipped a bit in the eyes of many oenophiles in recent years as Margaret River surged to prominence as the new golden child of Aussie wine. In today’s review we will take a closer look at a great blend from each of these regions.

Despite the slightly dulled luster of Coonawarra, I was thrilled with a recent bottle of the 2008 vintage of the “The Musician by Majella” Cabernet Shiraz blend. For $13 (US) this is one of the best wine values in the country in my opinion. The cabernet leads the initial impact of the wine as it first hits your glass. The Musician hits just the right note with a superb nose right from the bottle and the first glass featured tight tannins with hints of vanilla. Ten minutes later the shiraz began to emerge with a light peppery and boysenberry flavor.

One important lesson for those new to Australian wines we learned early on: these suckers are meant to breathe. The wine merchant mentioned to me during our buying spree that a good Aussie wine should breathe for 3-4 hours. This really surprised the heck out of me as I am usually on to my third bottle three hours in.

As the wine opened more the fruity flavor came close to overpowering the blended dry cab, but it managed to hold together and still rates in my book as a great buy.

The second bottle we opened hales from the popular Margaret River region. A tip for those searching for a nice value red back home in the states is to keep an eye out for the “Margaret River” label. Much as we have all become familiar with Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs of late (and know we can trust the region for good sauv blanc), it is a pretty safe bet that a label carrying the Margaret River stamp will have a leg up on other Aussie wines.

The 2006 Juniper Crossing Margaret River Cabernet Merlot was truly a superb wine. For $13, this wine drinks like a $25 Cab. Much like the Musician, the Juniper had a superb nose right from the bottle. As the wine opened up in the glass the differences became immediately clear. Where the Musician trended fruitier, the Juniper held together tightly with a nice dry tannin taste with a light kick of plum and berry.

Both of these wines were entirely enjoyable, however the Juniper Crossing was the clear standout. It was a pleasant daily drinker offering a nice balance of fruit while still holding true to the character and depth of a nice Australia cabernet. Cheers mate!



  1. Nice find on the Majella. I visited their vineyard last April, and fell in love with their cabs, in fact, I brought back a few bottles to Los Angeles…alas, only one left. I preferred their Cab Sav to their more upscale named wines, and you’re right…suckers do need to breathe. Coonawarra cabs were a revelation to me, I actually prefer them to many high-end Napa cabs I’ve tasted, brambly and accessible, but still with finesse. I missed Juniper Crossing in Margaret River, but tasted a bunch of other good cabs while there.

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