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Wine review: Happs Three Hills Cabernet Franc, 2009.

It is now drinking beautifully.  Good news:  ’09 vintage is the current release, available from the winery at a very fair price for a carefully cellared, truly premium Margaret River red.


Very rarely do I buy or recommend a wine with a cork; contrary to the assertions made by incurable nostalgists, by those who prefer to ignore evidence and those who resist even beneficial changes, red wines do mature properly under screwcaps.

Sound screwcaps are much more reliable than corks, most especially for those of us – which, in Australia, means most of us – who do not have access to “ideal cellaring conditions”.

That said, this wine’s cork was selected and inserted carefully; all three bottles I have opened were in perfect condition.

This blog rarely reviews Margaret River wines.

Even though I enjoy many Margaret River wines, I am acutely aware that far too many Australians only think of Margaret River when contemplating WA wine.

In much the same sad, silly, sheeplike fashion, many routinely revere/revile the Barossa over/below all other South Australian wine regions.

The Barossa’s wines are much more diverse than is generally recognised, and the Barossa is just one part – and in fact not the biggest part – of SA’s wine world.

Many wonderful WA wines come from places other than Margaret River, and not all of Margaret River’s remarkable ones are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, or the regional avalanche of SB/SBS/SSB.

Margaret River’s “specialties” – and “generous” Barossa Shiraz – occupy a disproportionate share of wine media space.

I like some examples of all the aforementioned.

Their “chorus”, however, has more than enough voices already; I can more usefully deploy mine to sing the praises of under-recognised gems.

Happs has long been one of Margaret River’s most rewarding cellar doors.

You may or may not also love their pottery, but any wine lover would surely enjoy the location, the uncommonly wide range of wines (poured generously, into fine glasses), the fair prices and their always-pleasant, unpretentious, well-informed staff.

The cellar door – and their original plantings – are well north of Margaret River the township;  Happs’ much nearer town is Dunsborough.

But most of Happs’ best wines come from their Three Hills Vineyard – well south of “Margs”, and rather closer to Karridale and Augusta…and to the Southern Ocean.

Their premium range – Three Hills – uses only fruit from that site.

Quality is reliably high.

That said, on almost every visit, one current release provides a nice surprise…and I can never guess which one it will be.

Malbec, Grenache and Sangiovese have previously “ambushed” me; most recently it was the ’09 Cabernet Franc.

In my experience, “smooth” and “easy drinking” are often code words for “boring, bland, one-dimensional, jammy, overripe”.

This wine is smooth, very easy to drink, but anything but “boring, etc”.

“Harmonious” is the key word;  unmistakably fine fruit is fully integrated with oak, tannins are discreet but crucially present; the wine is not “big”, but is beautiful, with a long, lovely finish.

It is fragrant, gentle, but complex (from “rose petals” through berries to tobacco), very food-friendly, but delightful by itself.

So many Margaret River reds are sold long before they are ready to drink; exceptions generally require the punter to pay a hefty premium.

Hats off to Happs for holding this one for seven years, then selling it for $38, rather than twice that price.












Published in West Australian wines Wine


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