Meet your Maker: Cape Mentelle

Cape Mentelle is one of the pioneering wineries of Margaret River. Owned by LVMH, the world’s largest luxury goods company which also owns brands like Moet & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot. I spoke to Cameron Murphy, Estate Director about the Cape Mentelle story.

Cameron Murphy, Estate Director, Cape Mentelle
Cameron Murphy, Estate Director, Cape Mentelle

FG: Tell me the history of the winery

CM: Well it’s the story of Hohnen family’s pioneering spirit. Margaret River was a hippy surfing town back in 1970. The Hohnen family had some land interests which they had sheep on. David Hohnen convinced his father to move the sheep on and plant some vines.

David and his brothers experimented and planted a wide range of varieties including Shiraz, Cabernet, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon to see what worked best.

He ran the vines from east to west rather than from north to south like the European tradition because he wanted to take advantage of those breezes coming off the ocean. Less scientifically he set the rows further apart than they did in Europe. They were measured to the width of his tractor!

Things really took off when Cape Mentelle won the 1983 Jimmy Watson Trophy for Best Young Red. Cape Mentelle won again the following year and is in fact the last winery to have taken the trophy on consecutive years.

At the time The Swan River dominated the Western Australian wine scene and Margaret River winemaking was scarcely a teenager. The wines really put Cape Mentelle on the world wine map and we developed from there.

Cape Mentelle had some distribution arrangements with Veuve Cliquot in the 1990s. The President of Veuve Cliquot at the time, Joseph Henriot was so impressed with Cape Mentelle (and Cloudy Bay in Marlborough also founded by David Hohnen) that he told the board “If you don’t buy Cape Mentelle I will.”

This has been a great platform to help Cape Mentelle to continue to develop.

FG: Which wine would you recommend from your range?

CM: David Hohnen really popularised the Sauvignon Semillon style of which Cape Mentelle is now the market leader. David took some inspiration from the French and added some barrel fermented Semillon which adds texture and flavour.

Cabernet and Chardonnay are the BMW and Audi of Margaret River but Sauvignon Semillon is the Toyota. It’s by far the biggest seller.

Cape Mentelle Vineyard
Cape Mentelle Vineyards

Three To Try:

Cape Mentelle Walcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2016

On tasting the Sauvignon Blanc takes the floor first with it’s tropical fruit nose and flavours. The Semillon fills out the palate and provides some weight. Highly drinkable indeed. Doesn’t require contemplation but once you get started you will find it hard to stop.

RRP $25         Rating: 3 stars

Cape Mentelle Walcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014

Walcliffe is a big step up in in quality. An intriguing drop the Semillon provides citrus and chalkiness. The Sauvignon is there but less apparent than in Cape Mentelle’s entry SBS. The oak a touch of class. Tastes of green apples and has a healthy lick of acid to refresh. Classical and elegant it’s picked from the Estate’s oldest vines. One of the finest examples in the region.

RRP $45         Rating: 4 stars

Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2015

Everything on song peach, grapefruit, nutty and oak flavours. In an opulent, full bodied Margaret River style. Completely different interpretation to the lean, mineral Chardonnay style of Chablis. None the less it is bright and fresh. Cape Mentelle barrel ferment the wine for extra complexity. It is pure enjoyment and my favourite of the Cape Mentelle whites.

RRP $45         Rating: 4 stars

This is a modified excerpt from an article, which appeared in the June/July edition of PRIMOLife Magazine. For more Wine Reviews read and follow  Drink and be merry!


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