’71 Grange. ’65 Lindemans Hunter Burgundy. Most of the real Maurice O’Shea wines. Penfolds Bin 60a.
Australian wine legends, all of them. Old, glorious Aussie reds that, even at forty-plus years old (or much more) have a timelessness – a sense of majesty that age will not weary.
You can add the 1979 Petaluma Coonawarra to that list.
I’ve had this twice now and it remains an outlier. A reminder that Coonawarra’s greatest offerings are Shiraz and Cabernet blends, despite straight Cabernet’s reputation.
It’s the exception that proves we’re (mostly) doing Coonawarra premium wine all wrong (and let’s not mention how Brian made the Petaluma Coonawarra a Cabernet Merlot blend in ’83).
Even in amongst storied wine company at the 40th Anniversary of the Tiers Vineyard (that I was talking about here) this Petaluma original was a standout – especially when placed up against other fancied rarities like the (surprisingly modern and almost Australian-esque) Chateau Palmer Historical XIX Bordeaux/Hermitage blend.
For mine, the singular element that makes the 1979 Petaluma Coonawarra memorable is that silken texture. Many Australian wines of recent decades remain dogged by excess. Too much oak, fruit and alcohol. Too much! Or, just as annoyingly, wine hobbled by a lack of the important bits – like tannins, sufficient acidity and gracefulness. All of which translates into palate profiles that are more ‘when ripe fruit attacks’ than harmonious drinks.
But this blend of 60% Shiraz and 32% Cabernet from Coonawarra (with 8% Clare Valley Shiraz) remains a silken mouthful. Perfectly resolved and moderate, it’s an essay in easy, charismatic old Aussie red wine flavour – brick dust, caramel chews, coffeed gentle fruit and perfectly smooth. Effortless. Ripe. Coonawarran. I imagine this would have been ripe and perhaps quite oaky in its youth, but now all the flavour dominoes have fallen into place. There’re still residual tannins, still some cedary and plums and fruit, if all aged and earthen and seamless.
You want evidence of the glory of Australian wine? Here.