Judge’s opinion: Jonathan Pedley MW
Thinking back over recent editions of the Cabernet Sauvignon Masters, my thoughts are positive. There were fewer green/sappy/vegetal/unripe notes in the wines in the 2019 competition. There was less reduction. The oak was competently, and in most cases subtly, handled.
The main negatives were: hot alcohol in quite a few wines, and tough dry tannins that will not resolve themselves over time. Reconciling the need for ripeness (to eliminate the green notes) with keeping the alcohol level under control is clearly one of the challenges in making great Cabernet Sauvignon.
Managing the tannins should be a bit easier. I am yet to be convinced that many of today’s super-premium reds, with their thuggish tannins and fiery levels of alcohol, will ever reach a state of harmony regardless of how much bottle age they receive.
We managed a reasonable spread of Gold medals in the price ranges. We had no joy with the dwindling under-£10 bracket (rising costs and taxes make it harder to produce something interesting), but there were two wines in the £10-£15 category that were given Golds.
We experienced the usual dip in the big £15-£20 flight, with many wines showing over-extraction (probably a case of too much fancy winemaking with fruit that is nothing special), although we awarded one Gold in the £20-£30 bracket. A Gold rush came at the higher price points.
On a personal level, while there were plenty of powerful concentrated wines I did not find many that had the elegance and harmony to get me thinking about a potential Master.
In terms of origin, Australia seems to have achieved the highest hit rate, with Coonawarra doing particularly well.
That said, California, South Africa and Chile all picked up Golds, with the latter doing better than usual.