The 2020 James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge presented by Langton’s has received 364 wine exhibits from 29 different regions across Australia for simultaneous judging on the 7th to 9th September in Coonawarra and Margaret River.

The Challenge is a true celebration of Cabernet Sauvignon and regions who champion the variety, with the Margaret River Wine Association, Coonawarra Vignerons and Yarra Valley Wine Growers Association collaborating on all elements of the competition.

Organisers of this year’s James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge are excited to announce a pre-teaser virtual tasting and chat session to coincide with the varietal day that falls a week before the prestigious national competition. “In the lead up to the Challenge, we’ve rounded up three all-star winemakers (and Cabernet Challenge judges) to join us for “CABERNET LIVE”, a virtual tasting on International Cabernet Day at 5pm AEST | 4.30pm ACT | 3pm AWST on Thursday 3rd September”, said Margaret River Wine Chief Executive Officer, Amanda Whiteland.

Despite having to withdraw from judging activities, Yarra Valley will be streaming CABERNET LIVE as part of our popular, weekly Thursday Wine Down sessions via Facebook Live, so follow @margaretriverwines1 @coonawarra or @ wineyarravalley1”, said Caroline Evans, Wine Yarra Valley, Chief Executive Officer.

Coonawarra Vignerons acting EO Heidi Eldridge is encouraging wine enthusiasts to tune in and be entertained “Our presenting judges/ winemakers will be tasting through a trio of past Cabernet Challenge Trophy winners from their states of origin. There will be plenty of insights and a lot of fun banter. It’s a great opportunity to compare tasting notes and sit back to learn from the masters, while enjoying your own favourite bottle of Australian Cabernet at home!”.

The wines that will be included in the tasting and discussion include last year’s James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge regional winners;

2017 Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra, 2018 Dominique Portet Fontaine from Yarra Valley and Trophy winner, 2018 Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River.

Hosted by wine writer and presenter Erin Larkin and featuring winemakers/ judges:
• Julian Langworthy, Winemaker at Deep Woods Estate / Owner at Nocturne Wines (Representing WA)
• Jane Ferrari, Independent Wine Consultant, formerly Yalumba (Representing SA)
• Ben Portet, Winemaker at Dominique Portet (Representing VIC)

Seasonal weather aside, drinking local cabernet – which also happens to be some of the very best wine in Australia – has never made more sense than it does right now.

By Erin Larkin.

As the weather cools off and the fires in our hearths (actual or otherwise) are lit, no doubt plenty of wines have been nobly sacrificed for the greater good of enjoyment.  For the inveterate cabernet drinkers out there the change in season won’t matter a jot, but if you drink with the weather, then autumn and winter mean one thing: red wine.  Whichever way that particular cookie may crumble in your house, one thing is for certain: the cabernets are starting to sweat right about now, for their time has come.  The cooler nights have you whispering as you walk past them, ‘your days are numbered, my friends’.

Margaret River enjoys an enviable position at the very top of the Australian cabernet tree, with wine press in Australia and further afield praising the wines from this little windswept corner of Oz for their high quality, age-worthiness, and deliciousness.  Margaret River’s most vocal proponent is undoubtedly James Halliday, describing in his article written for Winemaker of the Year 2020 (awarded to Vanya Cullen) “the Margaret River region is richly endowed with its percentage of 5-red-star wineries – to simply stay where you are is to imperil your very existence in this highly charged world.”  The cabernets from Margaret River are so good, that the last two Jimmy Watson trophies awarded to the region for 2014 and 2016 wines, were cabernets.  In fact, every Jimmy Watson Trophy ever awarded to a wine from Margaret River – and there have been six in total – have all been awarded to cabernet sauvignon or cab blends.  That paints a very clear picture of regional strength.  Labelled the ‘king of grapes’, cabernet has carved out an authoritative territory in Margaret River and has an escalating reputation on the rise that shows no signs of slowing down.

There is a well-established group of consistently terrific cabernet makers in the region, the likes of Cullen, Vasse Felix, Woodlands, Moss Wood, Xanadu, Deep Woods, Leeuwin… so here is a list of five you may not have had the chance to look at yet.

Five Cabernets To Try:

2017 Windows Estate Petit Lot Basket Pressed Cabernet Sauvignon – love this medium bodied, elegant and spicy cabernet, much more about the finesse than the oomph.  Brilliant packaging completes the already very attractive picture.

2018 Nocturne Wines Sheoak Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – pure, concentrated and pristine cassis fruit.  This is an elegant blockbuster.  From one of the glory vintages of the region. The cooler vintage 2019 rolling out very soon…

2018 Walsh and Sons Roi Cabernet Sauvignon – another beautiful wine/label combo, Roi is a step outside the box, one you will not regret.

2017 Victory Point Cabernet Sauvignon – Another brilliant cabernet in the hands of a small boutique producer.  Located about 15 ks east of Gracetown, and on an approximate parallel.

2016 Grace Farm Cabernet Sauvignon – nestled less than 3 ks from the coast, Grace Farm consistently produce wines of value, poise and charm.

The world’s most widely planted vine and Australia’s third most planted variety, Cabernet Sauvignon, is one of Australian wine’s great success stories.

Home to the world’s oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines, planted in 1886 in the Barossa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon has a long and proud history in Australia.

In its fourth year, the Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge respects this history whilst celebrating the producers of Cabernet Sauvignon, who are striving to make the best possible wines that reflect a sense of place.

Whether that is the sublime subtlety from the Yarra Valley, the elegant and balanced wines from the Coonawarra terra rossa soil, the rich and decadent signature style from Margaret River or the powerful and luscious expressions from McLaren Vale,  the Challenge provides an opportunity for a Cabernet Sauvignon varietal competition of great interest.

Whilst in Margaret River last week, James Halliday recorded the results announcing the 2019 Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge Trophy winner as the 2018 Ringbolt Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.  View video here.

Scoring 96 points and taking out the top prize from over 350 other entries from 25 regions across the country, the 2018 Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon was made from a selection of sites around Margaret River, in what winemaker Heather Fraser said was “near perfect Cabernet Sauvignon ripening conditions”.

The 2019 Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge Regional Winners are:

Coonawarra Best of Region
Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Great Southern Best of Region
Forest Hill Vineyard Highbury Fields Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Margaret River Best of Region
Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

McLaren Vale Best of Region
Wirra Wirra The Angelus Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Pyrenees Best of Region
Glenlofty Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Yarra Valley Best of Region
Dominique Portet Fontaine Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

The full results are also now available to view at

Cabernet Sauvignon of all vintages are eligible and judged by region without judges knowing which region they were officiating.  Wines achieving a Gold Medal score (95 points and over) were selected to determine the Best of Region wine, then each Regional Winner was judged again for the Trophy.

The Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge was conducted under the auspices of the Margaret River Wine Association in conjunction with the Langton’s 2019 Margaret River Wine Show.   The 2019 Judges were:

David Brookes – Wine Marketing Labs, Chair of Judges (New South Wales)
Joe Czerwinski – Robert Parker Wine Advocate, International Judge (New York)
Melanie Chester – Sutton Grange Estate (Victoria)
Sandrine Gimon – Wine Rage Consulting (Victoria)
Stuart Hordern – Brokenwood Wines (New South Wales)
Alex Hudak – Pure Wine Co (Victoria)
Lisa Jenkins – Mac Forbes Wines (Victoria)
Kate Laurie – Deviation Road (South Australia)
Robert Mann– Corymbia (Western Australia)
Kate Morgan – Ipso Facto Wines & Byron & Harold Estate (Western Australia)
Sarah Pidgeon – Wynns Coonawarra (South Australia)
Ben Portet – Dominique Portet (Victoria)
Daniel Swincer – Pernod Ricard (South Australia)