Simple palates, Seriously

Coonawarra Roadshow 2010 - Melbourne

The annual Coonawarra showcase steam-rolled had into the Melbourne Town Hall and I was present in an attempt to re-invigorate my tastebuds to the offerings of the famed Red Earth (Terra Rossa). Previous offerings, specifically the frost-damaged 2006 vintage, had left a bad taste in my mouth. The growing ease of obtaining cheaper Chilean and South African Cabernet Sauvignons has put slight pressure (not significant yet) on the local producers and it is very strange that consumers are not yet embracing alternative sources for their everyday drinking cabernet fix.

Stylistically, the Coonawarra region produces wines of distinct flavour and character. I believe that compared to their Western cousins in the Margaret River region, there is more value-for-money to be sought out. However, premium level wines that punch at the same level of their price-tag are perhaps few and far between. Do not be put off by the recent difficult vintages; these wines are proven to be age-worthy and one should always keep an eye out for bargains to be had within this region.


Vintage reports

Overall, the 2006 and 2007 vintages were very challenging even for the tried and tested winemaker. The progressive combination of drought conditions, spring frosts and heat led to loss of crop, small berry size and high sugar levels in the fruit. The wines have turned out to be deep in colour with lean flavour profiles and varietal characteristics. Consume these wines over the next few years.

The 2008 vintage was boosted by early Spring rains and excellent budburst gave hope for good vine health and fruit development. February was cool but followed by 2 weeks of extreme heat mid-March. This was partially offset by cool nights but sugar levels undoubtedly skyrocketed during this period. A cool end to March prevented things from getting out of hand and slowed down the rate of ripening. Wines benefited from excellent colour and flavours. The mid-pocket drinker should look to this year for value-for-money purchases. Good value is present at the $20-40 range.

The 2009 vintage saw the region enjoy decent winter rains, a dry spring season with minimal frost, but a lack of sun replaced by cloud and wine in November prolonged the flowering period and there was decreased fruit set for the Cabernet fruit. This also increased the incidence of disease in the vineyards resulting in some loss of fruit. The heat picked up in January with several hot days (4 days above 40C) and fruit damage was avoided only with careful canopy maintenance. A slow ripening season with harvest starting in mid-March and lasting until early-May. All black grapes show typical varietal characteristics and the whites have lower alcohol levels due to early picking. A good vintage considering the difficulties in previous years.  


The wines

Balnaves Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Lovely bouquet of cherry, plum and spiced oak. Very young sappy tannins. Rich red berry and plum skin flavours that dribble out into a soft finish. A well made wine with balanced acidity. Drink 2012 - 2020. 92/100.

Balnaves The Tally 2008
Dense, unyielding aromas of red currants, blackberry and plum skins. Massive tannins, dry and even, with a concentrated fruit load of savoury raspberry, red cherry and blackberry and hints of stalks. The fruit is rather overwhelmed at the moment since this wine is in its infancy but there is no denying the potential. Drink 2015 - 2030. 93+/100.

Bowen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Lovely focussed nose of sweet blackcurrant, hint of strawberry and mulberry leaf. Dry, full-bodied wine with young, even tannins. Rich blackcurrant and dark berry fruit. A well-structured finish. Very good. Drink 2015 - 2025. 92+/100.

Highbank Coonawarra 2004
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (65%), Merlot (30%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). $55/btl. An earthy, herby nose with blackberry notes and a hint of white pepper. On the palate, sweet blackberry, herb stalks and white pepper. Easy finish. Drink now - 2015. 89-90/100.

Highbank Coonawarra 2005
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), Cabernet Franc (10%) and Merlot (10%) which is "just like Chateau Latour". A cool, refreshing nose of blackcurrants, white pepper hints and black cherry stalks. Rich dark berry fruit, black berry but the bulk of these fade off quickly on the main palate. Still manages a long lingering finish. Drink now - 2017. 90-91/100.

Jim Barry Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
The current release, an initial nose of baked plum cake with blackcurrants and a hint of herb stalks. Young dry tannins paired with concentrated blackcurrant fruit flavours. Easy drinking. Drink now - 2017. 88/100.

Jim Barry Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
A weak nose and I'm sure there is some fruit hidden in this but I struggled. Still, rich sappy plum fruit flavours jump out at you. 2000 bottles produced. Drink now. 87/100.

Jim Barry Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
A blossom in the glass, purple flowers after the rain, mist weighted blackberries and currants. A load of young dry tannins that need time to align themselves. Nice blackberry fruit flavours, but somewhat weak on the finish. Drink 2012 - 2017+. 91/100.

Katnook Estate Odyssey 2006
$95. A soft, restrained nose of plum and blackcurrant. The tannins are fine and grainy. Light blackberry fruit and plum flavours.  Easy finish. Drink now - 2017. 91/100.

Katnook Estate Barrel Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
A delicate oaky nose of blackberries, black currants and crushed, dusty river stone. Youthful fine tannins, a developing wine that is 3-5 years away from drinking. Wolfberry, blackberry and salted plum flavours. Drink 2013 - 2025. 90/100.

Ladbroke Groove Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
$28. Soft blackberry aromas with tex-mex beans and herbs. Dry tannins with ripe rich blackberry fruit. A finish that tingles. Drink now - 2017. 89/100.

Ladbroke Groove Killian Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
$45. Rich perfume of blackberry fruit, herb stalks and liquorice. A maturing dry wine with even tannins, but the fruit weight is lacking for this premium level. Drink now - 2017. 91/100.

Leconfield Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Matured for 19 months in 17% new French oak. A youthful nose that is very condensed with notes of cherry fruit and chewy cedar oak. Even, soft chewy tannins with flavours of cherry and sweet red berries. Good structure and balance. Drink now - 2017. 91/100.

Parker Coonawarra Terra Rossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Deep ruby colour with cherry candy nose and chewy raspberry flavours with a hint of white pepper on the finish. Drink now - 2020. 89/100.

Parker Coonawarra First Growth 2006
Youthful aromas of blackcurrant and black cherry aromas. Rich dark berry fruit flavours are propped up by grippy tannins. This is obviously a young wine, and I suspect that the tannins will take ages to resolve. So I wonder whether the fruit profile will be able to hold for that long or will it become one-dimensional? Only time will tell. Drink 2013 - 2025+. 91/100.

Parker Coonawarra First Growth 2001
Nose containing sweet black cherry, raspberry candy and a touch of menthol. Soft resolving tannins, silky texture with flavours of dark berries and black cherry. This is a cool, dark wine. Drink 2012 - 2020. 92/100.

Patrick of Coonawarra Homeblock Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
A tight restrained nose that is unyielding. Dark berry core, herbaceous notes with a hint of tar. A load of dry tannins which by the time it dissipates, the fruit is gone too. Drink? 86/100.

Penley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Nose of smoky blackberries, ripe black fruit flavours and ripe acidity that rips at the fruit. Drink now. 86-87/100.

Penley Estate Shiraz 2005
No tasting note. 89/100.

Petaluma Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Screwcap. Lovely perfume of red berry fruit, sweet cherry and a sense of berry stalks. Even grainy tannins are present with a youthful swirl of red berries and red/black cherry fruit. Certainly not a bold wine and should develop into an elegant offering given time. Drink now - 2025. 91-92/100.

Petaluma Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Cork. Only recently released, the 2003 was not deemed ready for market until now. A solid, oaky nose despite the age, youthful with notes of spicy plum, blackberry and cherry. Rich vibrant flavours of red fruit, sweet spice and a bitterness of stalks. This has good structure, there is balance of acidity and fruit load. Drink 2013 - 2020. 92/100.

Reschke Vitulus Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Nice blackberry characteristics but doesn't have the power to punch all the way through. 87/100.

Reschke Vitulus Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Frosted out, still a palatable drink. 86/100.

Reschke Barrel Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
A smoky, cloudy nose, muddle of blackberry fruit and spicy plum. An easy wine, linear in flavour, weak finish. 88/100.

Rymill Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Almost a French-styled nose on this one. Blackberries, black cherry with definite herbaceous notes. Sweet chewy tannins with rich black berry fruit flavours. A good 'easy-to-get' wine. Drink now - 2017. 91/100.

Rymill Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
A bit of a hot, toasted nose. Developed nose of dark berry fruit. The tannins have resolved nicely, this has good structure with flavours of rich dark cherry and blackberry. Drink now - 2015+. 91+/100.

Rymill Cabernet Sauvignon 1995
A fully developed nose, this is an old school wine with good structure and balance after 15 years. Drink now - 2015. 90+/100.

Rymill Shiraz 2005
A restrained nose of red berry fruit and freshly steamed jasmine rice. Spicy plum, red cherry fruit and stalks. Good weight of youthful tannins, lovely finish. Drink now - 2017. 91/100.

Wynns Coonawarra Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
$33. Warm perfume of blackberry fruit. This has easy tannins with rich dark fruit flavours. Drink now - 2017. 90/100.

Wynns Coonawarra Glengyle Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
$43. A dusty nose of concentrated small dark berries and a splash of blackberry. Even dry tannins give way to youthful blackcurrant and black cherry flavours. A well-structured wine given the tricky conditions. Drink now - 2017. 92/100.

Wynns Coonawarra Barrel Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Fruit from the Alex 84 vineyard planted in 1984. Cool fermentation lasted 9 days during which the ferment was racked and returned, pumped over and plunged for maximal colour and flavour extraction. Maturation for 13 months in new French oak. Lovely perfume of rose water, blackberry and red cherries. Even, sappy tannins with youthful, rich red currants and blackberries and cherry stalks. Pleasing fade out on the finish. Drink 2012 - 2022. 93+/100.

Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
$42. Generous aromas of floral strawberry and cherry fruit. Youthful sappy tannins with rich red berry fruit, plum skins and baked spice. A balanced wine that is easy to understand. Drink now - 2020. 91/100.

Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (tank sample)
Lovely bouquet of blackberry, spiced plum and black raspberry. A restrained wine with big chewy sappy tannins that cover a buffet of blackberry fruit with plums and hint of black pepper on the finish. Excellent wine. Drink 2012 - 2027+. 93-94/100.

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