Before joining Balnaves of Coonawarra from Wynns Coonawarra in 1995, winemaker Peter Bissell had stints working in New Zealand, Bordeaux, and as a flying winemaker for Penfolds in Russia and the South of France. But it was his time in Bordeaux that most influenced the style of the Balnaves long-ageing premium reserve cabernet sauvignon, The Tally: “One thing I picked up from Bordeaux is that structure and balance are more important than any particular flavour you might see in the wine…When I came to Balnaves we started doing more time on skins and making wines with a more obvious tannin structure. When you taste our wines you get the flavour but also the mouthfeel and texture from the tannin structure.” (Tallying up the Wins by Anthony Madigan, Wine Business Magazine, November 2010)
Bissell’s first task upon joining Balnaves was to design the new winery. It was the first winery in Coonawarra to install stainless steel open-top fermenters and also included eight, eight-tonne static fermenters. According to Bissell, “It’s like something you’d find in a small chateau in France.”
Since the release of the first 1998 vintage, The Tally Reserve has consistently won high praise and a string of awards. James Halliday scored the current 2008 vintage 97 points:
Vivid crimson-purple; Like a rich little boy, has everything he wishes; a fragrant dark berry bouquet with notes of French oak, leather and spice, then a full-bodied palate with a dazzling array of flavours; however, it is in the supple texture, perfect balance and line that the greatness of the wine finally takes shape. (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2011)
Doug Balnaves and his wife Annette were among the earliest to recognise the potential of Coonawarra’s famed terra rossa soil. In 1970, Doug sold his first Coonawarra property to Hungerford Hill but stayed on to develop the vineyards. Balnaves was established in 1988, and within ten years Balnaves and Bissell knew they had successfully cultivated the right raw material for a super-premium wine.
For the record, The Tally is sealed under ProCork – a specially engineered cork that has a five layer membrane or skin that controls the micro-aeration of grape and oak tannins and blocks bitter cork tannins and taints. (The Red Bigot describes it as the cork with the little condom on each end!) Bissell prefers the ProCork closure because it lets in more oxygen than a screwcap, thus promoting slightly faster tannin integration. The closure suits the style of The Tally, which needs time in the cellar to soften the tannins.
Photo Credit: Balnaves Winery