ALISTAIR GIBSON: Vying to be known as the best Bordeaux in Australia

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Atul Kochhar

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If you were to think about a red grape that was synonymous with Australia, it would almost certainly be Shiraz.

The Barossa Valley, in particular, produces some of Australia’s greatest red wines from Shiraz.

The valley is home to some of the oldest vines in the world and they are capable of producing some big, brooding wines of great concentration.

However, Australia can also produce some world-class red wines from Cabernet Sauvignon.

These are often referred to as the ‘king of grapes’, originating as they do from their heartland in Bordeaux.

I’m fortunate to have visited South Australia’s Coonawarra region and the Margaret River in Western Australia, both of whom vie for the title of the best Bordeaux in Australia.

It is a debate that will run and run, and let’s be honest, it is a whole lot of fun trying to decide a winner.

The Coonawarra is a narrow strip of ‘terra rosa’ soil near to what is known as the ‘limestone coast’.

It’s almost halfway between the cities of Adelaide and Melbourne.

It’s an Aborginal word meaning ‘honeysuckle’ and, before the establishment of the Margaret River as a wine region, this was without doubt Australia’s pre-eminent Cabernet Sauvignon region.

For all of its fame, though, it is a very small region, accounting for less than 1.5 per cent of Australia’s wine production.

Jim Barry The Cover Drive 2014, Coonawarra (Majestic £14.99 or, if part of a mixed 6, £11.99) is grown on a vineyard created on what used to be the Penola cricket ground.

It has been named The Cover Drive in commemoration of that historic connection.

The nose is very fragrant, dominated by intense cassis and cedar, with nuances of fennel and damson.

Wynn’s Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Coonawara (www.winedirect.co.uk £20.95) is one of Australia’s most famous wines, first produced back in 1954.

This has that classic nose of cassis, cedar, spices and just a touch of eucalyptus.

The Margaret River has only grown vines for some 50 years and in general produces a slightly more elegant style of wine than the Coonawarra.

Robert Oatley Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Margaret River (www.winedirect.co.uk £13.95, also available from the Co-operative £9.99) is great value, finely-structured Cabernet Sauvignon aged in French oak.

It has notes of blackcurrants, cherry and violets with earthy spices and a really well-balanced finish.

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