I spoke to Frederique Perrin who has been the Technical Director (Head Winemaker) at Cape Mentelle since 2014 about their new releases. Frederique has worked at different outposts of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy wine empire such as Chateau d’Yquem and Champagne Krug in France as well as in California, New Zealand and Argentina before arriving in Margaret River.
Frederique’s approach to winemaking is to take a risk and showcase the fruit of the year. Don’t try to please everybody!
Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2016
A full bodied chardonnay, the power of the fruit providing complexity. More peach than grapefruit in its flavours. There’s generosity galore with the citrus fruit and oak. It’s a powerhouse that will improve from 12 months onwards when everything settles down.
Cellar Door Price: $45 Rating 4 Stars
Cape Mentelle Semillon 2016
Lemon and lemongrass flavours. Normally Cape Mentelle blend their Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc but Frederique picked out this particular parcel for individual treatment. Available from the cellar door only, a mere 200 dozen made. A little expensive for Semillon but reflects the tiny production. Plenty of flavour going on for young Semillon, much more than in a young Hunter Sem. Fermented and matured in French oak this has the characteristic oil and linoleum flavours along with a hint of honey. Highly age worthy.
Cellar Door Price: $60 Rating 3.5 stars
Cape Mentelle Trinders Cabernet Merlot 2015
A complex and attractive bouquet immediately made me thirsty. As I worked my way through the bottle I couldn’t resist sticking the glass under my nose frequently so appealing was it. You pick up the dark brooding Cabernet Fruit immediately. Tannins are smooth but the wine has a bit of grunt. Over delivered on my expectations. It’s hard to believe that this an entry level wine for Cape Mentelle.
Cellar Door Price: $31 Rating 4 Stars
Cape Mentelle Shiraz 2015
“I didn’t come here for the Shiraz” Frederique acknowledges “But Margaret River Shiraz is awesome. It is real, true Aussie Shiraz but not overboard. You must let it express itself. People have been guilty of trying to make it to a fashion- making it floral and elegant. This is a departure because it’s not based on an idea but it is an expression of the fruit. The tannins pack a punch. It is not like the Rhone Valley it is Australian Shiraz in a good way. It’s distinctive.”
Cellar Door Price: $41 Rating 3.5 stars
Cape Mentelle Walcliffe Merlot Petit Verdot 2015
This one stopped me in my tracks. Walcliffe allows Frederique the flexibility to choose varietals that perform best to suit the vintage. 2015 sees the novel pairing of Merlot and Petit Verdot, Bordeaux fellow travellers that seldom meet. The nose suggested fruit but also structure. Merlot provides soft plummy appeal, the Petit Verdot violets on the finish. All add up to an excellent medium bodied wine.
Cellar Door Price: $49 Rating 4.5 Stars
Cape Mentelle Zinfandel 2015
Zinfandel is a hero grape in California so this is a special one for Frederique. “It’s very hard to grow. It’s a teenager that won’t do what you want it to do. Cabernet is a distinguished gentleman, the guy in the suit. Zinfandel is unruly, grown on gnarly bush vines. I take a hands off approach despite the acidity and sugar, which are off the chart”
The nose knows with this wine. Plum pudding, ripe fruit, vanillin oak all in abundance on the palate but it’s all balanced and refreshing. Australia’s oldest and best known Zinfandel from early ‘70s plantings. It’s liquid pleasure that only a curmudgeon could object to.
Cellar Door Price: $65 Rating: 4 Stars
What I love about the current crop of Cape Mentelle releases is that they are not just polished, high end wines they show a derring-do and originality. My picks from this release are Trinders for quality & value, Walcliffe for elegance and the Zinfandel for pure pleasure.