Every year the cream of Coonawarra (with a few exceptions) goes on the road to spruik their wares at a series of tastings all around the nation. I attended the Sydney version, as usual, which is a consistently enjoyable even, even if it is overshadowed by the feeling that Coonawarra is rather uncool these days, with Margaret River streaking ahead as our premium Cabernet region.
Speaking of generalisations, I’d like to start with quick ones about Coonawarra vintages. In my opinion, I think that the 2004 vintage is one of the best that Coonawarra has enjoyed for some time, with wines that are bold, stylish, full flavoured, yet still retaining that trademark herbaceous, cedary Cabernet nose, with a well defined, savoury, yet honestly ripe palate. In comparison, the 05 vintage wines (and I am talking about reds here, Cabernet mostly) are more open knit, opulent and approachable, with a riper, yet softer palate profile. Many 05 ‘s are thus suitably delicious and certainly less restrained than their 04 counterparts. But I still rather prefer the 04’s style and indeed my highest pointed wines of the tasting where all 04’s – (and 04’s are the ones I would be buying for myself).
Finally, the 06 vintage wines are now current release for many makers and to my mind this is by far the weakest of the three vintages. It is bloody rude to make this sweeping judgement so early in the piece, but many wineries 06 vintages really struggled to make an impression – there is a sourness to the fruit & an imbalance between acidity oak & fruit that showed many wines to be one dimensional and full of holes. Time will tell, but mark me down as ‘not as keen’ for the 06 Coonawarra vintage.
As always, there will be exceptions and I will happily stand corrected if possible
Anyway, on to the wines (These are all just rough notes in a very rough, red wine stained notebook)
It’s artisan Coonawarra production and I like it. These wines have a bit more complexity than some peers.
Highbank Coonawarra 2003 – Meaty, leafy, well defined, richer style with good grunt, Very nice. 18
Highbank Coonawarra 2004 – Lovely varietal characters, cedar, dark berries, more obvious Merlot richness in this one, excellent definition. I was thinking more Margaret River than Coonawarra with this more complex style. Very good. 18.5+
No notes here, but I was less than bowled over by the 05 reds, no Ravenswood open
A huge range of wines and I know that some of the cheaper stuff presents as bloody fine value for money. Can’t say the same for the top wines though
Katnook Merlot 2005 – Meaty nose, palate follows suit with sour fruit and a flash of menthol. Palate has nice enough fruit, but shot with holes. A less than inspiring Merlot. 16
Katnook Cabernet 2005- Herbal, Sour and unbalanced, it has the varietal punch, but the whole package lacks fruit. Considering the vintage & the quality of previous labels, its quite a dissapointment.16
I’m happy to say that Leconfield has definitely turned the corner – its wines of 7 or 8 yrs ago defined Coonawarra greenness. The latest Merlot, Cab and even the Riesling where all varietally correct, defined and very tasty. Good to see.
Only tried the 05 Limestone Ridge – its a cracker. Again, another label on the way back up.
Balnaves of Coonawarra
I am normally a lover of this range (like many) but the 06’s are just not up to the standard of the previous vintages (though the Tally is still very fine) . Interesting that Halliday gave these such a big wrap.
Balnaves Shiraz 2006- Jubey fruit, obvious big oak, redcurrant and raspberry marshmallows here. The palate however seems stretched and lean. It will improve, but not a patch on several previous vintages.16.8
Balnaves Cabernet 2006 – Minty nose, chewy, firm palate with grainy oak tannins dominating. The astringent finish here is quite a let down, though this may well integrate back into the wine. Or maybe not. 17.3
Balnaves The Tally 2006 – An absolute beast of a wine. The nose is hugely concentrated with obvious oak and intense black fruit. Its not a wine that has ever done anything by halves and the palate is suitably massive & blocky. A huge wine with real power and tannins, this will go for the long haul and its absolutely delicious – in the massive opulent style. It really needs yrs though. 18++
Doug Bowen’s reds don’t seem to receive the same sort of reception as they once did and there remains serious question marks about the longevity. I have very much liked the previous couple of Cabernets though.
Bowen Estate Shiraz 2006 – Sweet fruit, lovely rich textural Shiraz in the mouth, but the heat on the finish derails the whole package. 14.5% making itself felt here. 16.5
Bowen Estate Cabernet 2006 – Lighter, leafy redcurrant nose, sweet oak and that same textural palate. Again there is some heat on the back palate that I’m not a fan of. 17.0
The label has had a bit of a makeover, the wines are still sound. No 04 Patrons Reserve though (which is meant to be bloody glorious)
Brands Blockers Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 – Festooned with medals, this looks like the goods and the wine follows suit very well. I think I am a bit of a points miser, but it really just needs some time. Good, ripe, contemporary Coonawarra Cabernet with great balance. Great value. 18.0+
A label for the future I think, initial results are good
DiGiorgio Coonawarra Cabernet 2004 – A lighter, leafy style with a sour edge to the fruit, but definitely well balanced and enjoyable enough. Needs some more intensity for higher notes. 16.7
DiGiorgio Emporio Cab Blend 2004 – A ripe and well balanced style, its again framed in a lighter shade of Coonawarra red, its very drinkable, but again it needs more intensity. Nice drink all the same though. 17
I always appreciate the Rymill style – a more restrained and leafy take on the Coonawarra mould, they used to hold back their wines for longer than they do now. Memo Rymill – The wines really need the extra time in bottle to show their best.
Rymill Shiraz 2004 – Its a peppery, licoricey sinewy style, but its not unripe, the palate has some jubey fruit and sweet vanillan oak. The fruit is nice, if again sour. Not a bad Shiraz, but it needs a sleep for a few yrs in the cellar. 16.8+
Rymill Cabernet 2002 – Ahhhh the definition: Unquestionably Cabernet with its herbaceous nose and lovely accentuated palate. A medium bodied palate, with a green edge that is a long way from unripe. Its almost a Cabernet caricature and its delicious. 18
Rymill Cabernet 2005 – Suffering after the open aromatics & precision of the previous wine. The nose is closed, with chocolate oak dominating, the palate ends astringently with sappy oak tannins that detract from the palate. All arms and legs at present, it doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as Coonawarra Cabernetish or perfumed as the previous wine. 16.8+
On song, back in the game and ticking all the boxes. Sue Hodder is also friendly and articulate. Lets hope Fosters doesn’t f**k it up.
Wynns Michael Shiraz 2005 – The oak treatment is very Micheal – ie there is alot of it. Again this is in a very ‘big’ style, though this does have the guts to carry it through. Redcurrant, cranberry and strawberry and cream lollies. The palate is brutish with a massive wave of sour red fruit and big tannins. Its good, but damn its needs some time. 17
Wynns Messenger Cabernet 2005 – Kudos to Wynns for running with the single vineyard releases. This comes from a vineyard at the south of the strip and is very impressive. The nose is herbaceous, drenched in Cassis and dark chocolate – Its clearly varietal and leafy and all the better for it. The palate again is drenched in oak, with a rich mid palate and firm tannins. A great drink and good value to boot. 18
Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet 2005 – Again its a monster of a wine with a rather impenetrable nose of choc fruit. The palate is a window into what the wine will be, but its bound up too tightly in oak and tannins at this stage. I much prefer the more leafy (and even more closed) 04 vintage of this wine, though they are both very very good. I’d rather take 2 bottles of Messenger though instead of this, after gladly stocking up on the 04. 18+
There where 3 vintages of Menzies on tasting, but I only tasted one. I’ll take signature over this thanks.
Yalumba Menzies Cabernet 2005 – A choc savoury nose, the oak is at the forefront, but integrated into the wine. The palate is leafy & well drawn out but there are some mid palate dips and troughs. The varietal characters take a good stand here, but those holes are a worry. Good wine all the same. 17.6
With some slightly older releases these where more impressive than some contemporaries. They seemed riper on the day than previously though.
Zema Cabernet 2005 – Dense nose, rich rich ripe palate. its a big block of ripe fruit & oak in a mono dimensional framework. In the future it may well be a stunner. 17.5+
Zema Family Reserve Shiraz 2004 – A bit of a disappointment actually. The nose is all red berry, purple ‘grape flavoured’ Hubba Bubba and something weedy. The palate is thin, simple and dominated by the oak. It may fill out, but at the moment its all thin & front palate focused. 16.8
Zema Family Reserve Cabernet 2004 – Its a massive, opulent wine and it really needs time. Definitely a bigger style than previous releases, it has the the struture for serious ageing. Leave it in the cellar. 17.9
I am happy to admit that I am a big fan of the Majella wines. Prof Lynn is a grand entertainer and his wines are suitably crowd pleasers. yes there is lots of oak, yes they are rich and sweet, but they also have concentration and style.
Majella Musician Cab Shiraz 2007 – Such a young beast, but its an absolutely lovely drink right now. Made in a ‘joven’ style with minimal oak and lots of fruit, the vibrant, lifted, youthful fragrant fruit is moreish and delicious. Don’t come looking for structure and intensity here, just drink and enjoy. 17.1
Majella Cabernet 2006 – It has a trademark lovely opulent nose, but the palate is resoundingly tight and seems leaner than previous vintages. I’ll take the 04 or 05 over this, but it’s still a generous, rich style of Coona Cab. 17.5
Parker Coonawarra Estate
I really wish I had more of this stuff in the cellar – Consistently good and currently well served by the Rathbone family.
Parker Coonawarra Merlot 2002 – This is quite a standout Merlot – its leafy & lighter but backed by good mid palate richness. There is a green olive edge to the whole wine that is clearly varietal and just avoids greenness, though it may polarise tastes. Good. 17.0
Parker Terra Rossa Cabernet 2004 – Deliciously tight, with just hints of real Coonawarra Cab glory. Whilst it may not have the absolute intensity of its brother, it has superb style and the framework is set for a long future. Great value when placed next to its brother. 18
Parker First Growth 2004 – Top class. This was wine of the tasting and will be a 20yr wine without question. The nose is just perfect Coonawarra Cabernet. The palate just has this perfection of structure and texture that I always associate with Moss Wood Cab and to me is a sign of greatness. Its on the blocky side, yet its utterly moreish. Keeper. 19/20