Stylistically I see Margaret River cabernet at its best as intensely varietal, with blackcurrant and other dark fruits plus hints of capsicum and herbal overtones often describes as “bay leaf” or “seaweed”. While some drinkers weaned on cabernet from hotter areas regard capsicum and leaf characters as under-ripe, I disagree: they an essential part of high quality cabernet, with one proviso – that the tannins are ripe. Margaret River cabernet certainly has firm tannins in its youth, but they should be evenly mouth-coating and not grasp you around your lips and then reappear as a green, bitter finish. (Captivating Cabernet by Nick Bulleid MW, Gourmet Traveller Wine, June/July 2011)
Rob Mann, chief winemaker at Cape Mentelle, may not necessarily concur with Bulleid’s assessment of the attractiveness of herbal characters in Margaret River cabernet. Since joining Cape Mentelle in 2005, he has made significant changes both in the vineyard and the winery to minimise the herbaceous notes in the winery’s flagship cabernet sauvignon. As he told the Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman back in 2007: “The strong herbal, capsicum (bell pepper), bordering on eucalyptus and menthol flavors, is accepted in Australia as a regional trait. I want minimize that and go for ripe, more classical berry flavors.” (Getting the Green Out in Margaret River by Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, 18 October 2007)
Working with viculturist Ashley Wood, Mann has introduced new imported clones and rootstocks to create a broader spectrum of flavours in the wines, replanted vineyards at closer density to improve the flavour intensity of the grapes, and minimised as much as possible the use of artificial fertilisers.
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