The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Masters revealed

Judge’s opinion: Patricia Stefanowicz MW

Judging the Cabernet Sauvignon Masters gives a most enlightening picture of the world’s most prominent red grape variety, and the 2019 Masters was no exception.
There was much to like. Medal-worthy wines generally showed high quality: they were juicy, well-balanced and delicious, whether inexpensive or ridiculously expensive.
The exciting wines came from all over the globe. Australia performed well as expected, as did the US. Chile seems to have gotten to grips with ripening the grapes, and the vegetal, green pepper notes of yore were less evident in the wines.
There were also some intriguing examples from Lebanon and Turkey, and some rather special versions came from Argentina.
What makes the best of these wines delicious is the vibrancy and delightful expression in the varietal Cabernets and the fleshiness across the mid-palate in the blends.
The blends showed especially well at £15-£30, where Merlot gave fleshiness and Cabernet Franc a floral lift.
Elegance across the range seems to be improving, with beautiful freshness and velvet-textured tannins balanced with concentrated fruit and a well-judged use of oak.
Alcohol levels also appear to be a little lower, poised gracefully with fruit, oak and structure.
Probably the most consistency came in the £15-£20 price band, with at least one stellar wine and no disasters. And the same could be said of the £20-£30 bracket, where we were panning for gold regularly.
Above £30, the wines performed as they should: delectable, absolutely beautiful, concentrated and lingering with a gorgeous expression of Cabernet Sauvignon flavours and well-integrated oak.
They are expensive but mostly worth the price. In particular, the ultra-premium wines of Sonoma County were really rather special indeed.
If there were minor disappointments, South Africa was occasionally a little too robust, exhibiting charred meat and full body (and high alcohol) but perhaps not enough depth of blackcurrant fruit. Are they trying too hard? When in balance though, a wine could work well.
It seems a little daft to make unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon; those we tried appeared to be missing something to fill the mid-palate.

About the competition

The Drinks Business Global Cabernet Sauvignon Masters is a competition for all styles of Cab from around the world. This year’s event saw over 150 entries judged blind by a panel of highly experienced tasters. The best wines were awarded medals which ranged from Bronze through to Gold as well as Master, the ultimate accolade given only to exceptional wines in the tasting. The wines were tasted at Beach Blanket Babylon Restaurant and Bar in London’s Notting Hill on 17 April. This report features only the medal winners. For further information on the Global Masters please call +44 (0)20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: or visit the Global Masters website.

Judging the Cabernet Masters 2019