Wine Review: 2006 Inniskillin Cabernet Sauvignon

5 08 2011

$15 Canadian Cab...don't get me started.

Oh, Canada…I had been starting to feel a glimmer of optimism about red wines from my home and native land after positive recent experiences with producers like Laughing Stock (Okanagan) and Tawse (Niagara), but just as I began to forget why Canadian reds have until recently been an endless source of frustration for me, tonight happened.  My consternation isn’t that these wines are terrible (though some are); it’s that too much of the wine industry here seems locked in to grapes and wines that we are hard pressed to make better than many other regions around the world.  Cabernet Sauvignon is a case in point.  Why take one of the most heat-loving, slow-ripening, warm-weather grapes out there and try to specialize in making single-varietal wines out of it north of the 49th parallel?  Why especially would you try to target the sub-$20 price range with your Cabs when better-situated producers with hotter weather and cheaper land from Chile, Argentina, Australia and California basically have that market covered?  Where is the global competitive advantage in that approach?  We need a new business plan.

If you, like me, have ever been inside a Canadian duty-free shop, you know Inniskillin as an almost-ubiquitous Canuck icewine producer.  I never knew them as anything else until I got this bottle of Cab as a gift and almost didn’t know what to make of it.  It turns out that Inniskillin actually makes wine in both of Canada’s top wine regions, the Okanagan Valley in BC and Niagara in Ontario, and if you’ve heard of a grape before, they make a varietal-based wine out of it:  Cab, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and even Zinfandel (!), Malbec (!!), Tempranillo (!!!) and Pinotage (!!!!) all find their way into their vinous rolodex.  Sort of a strange stamp-collector approach to making wine, but Inniskillin makes way more of it than I do, so what do I know?

Cork Rating: 2/10 (Fake plastic cork! Use a real cork or use a cork implants.)

When I found out that this bottle of Okanagan Cabernet Sauvignon retailed for less than $15, I immediately started dreading writing this review.  I will say that the wine didn’t end up as a total horror show.  I will also say that I will never buy it and have it again.  Instead of being a thick purple, the Inniskillin Cab was deep burgundy in colour with clear brick tinges, and it was not overly opaque for a Cabernet Sauvignon, both indications of age; though the wine is only 5 years old, it was likely built to be opened within 6 months of its release; in other words, sometime in 2008, maybe 2009.  There was blackberry and sour cherry fruit on the nose, but more spicy/savoury aromas were coming through, cinnamon and chocolate, mesquite and smoke, with a streak of underlying tartness running through everything.  Where the wine fell down for me was in its texture on the palate:  instead of the full, rich, silky mouthfeel common in New World Cabernet, this Cab felt sharp and gritty and had a notable bitter, metallic tinge to it.  In the foreground, it was like your standard bargain bin big red, with leather, coffee, dark chocolate and barbecue sauce flavours framing dark fruit (though not enough of it), but the textural notes in the background combined with a slight hint of greenness (celery?) in the flavour profile quickly made it lose its lustre.

When I think of some of the decent $14-$22 Cabs I’ve had recently (the Jim Barry Cover Drive Cab from Australia [luscious and minty], the Luigi Bosca Cab from Argentina [cheap, cheerful and spicy], basically any Cab from Cameron Hughes out of California [ripe and varietally correct], and the Mercer Dead Canyon Ranch Cab from Washington [an absolute knockout steal]), I simply don’t comprehend how this wine is supposed to compete, ESPECIALLY when there’s no significant hometown discount for Canadians locally buying Canadian wine.  I think there are places where Canada can stand out and shine on a global scale in the wine world, but cheap Cab will never be one of them.  This was existential national crisis in a bottle for me…my once-burdgeoning faith needs to be restored yet again.

82 points

$12 to $20 CDN 



3 responses

8 08 2011

I was actually waiting to see if you would stumble across an Iniskillin CS. We purchased this to drink back in April and I really didn’t like it nor did hubby. He found it to be too long on the nose (but he hates really long noses) and for me I found it almost too sharp and strong. There is a wine that I discovered last weekend that was quite nice although a bit fruity – when I figure out what I drank, since it was a gift, I’ll share with you the name/winery and see when it pops up in your blog.


19 12 2012

I’m curious to find out what blog system you’re utilizing?
I’m experiencing some small security problems with my latest website and I would like to find something more risk-free. Do you have any solutions?


19 12 2012

I use WordPress and haven’t had an issue to date – Good luck!!


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