Category Archives: Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon

May 05 2012

Balnaves of Coonawarra The Tally Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: In the Style of a Fine Bordeaux

Posted on May 05, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

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 … Read the rest

Dec 12 2011

Reviews for Penfolds Bin 620 Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz 2008: Australia’s most expensive wine!

Posted on December 12, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you’ve been following Cellarit on Facebook or keeping up with recent wine news, you couldn’t have missed reading about the fanfare around Penfolds official release of the Bin 620 Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz 2008 in Shaghai, China. The lavish launch was held at the opulent Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where guests were treated to a six course banquet and a spectacular light show with contemporary Chinese dancers.

The reason behind all the fuss was Penfolds’ release of a wine that was last made in 1966. “Special Bin” wines are only produced when the vintage conditions are perfect, and quantities are very limited. As former Penfolds Senior Winemaker and consultant John Bird explains: “In 2008, we tasted several rows of our Coonawarra blocks (5, 10 and 20) and realised that this had something extra, something unique. It transported me back to 1966 and the experimental Bin 620. The fruit profile is classic Penfolds. Having tasted many parcels of Coonawarra fruit it became apparent that we simply had to make this wine.”

The $1,000 price tag, of course, also attracted a fair bit of interest. It made the wine Australia’s priciest release to date, trumping Torbreck’s The Laird Shiraz 2005, which has a $700 price tag.

So, is it worth it? Well, before looking at what the critics have to say, consider for a moment its price in a global context. A 12-bottle case of Château Lafite Rothschild 1982, for example, recently sold for $US57,360 at an Acker Merrall auction in Chicago. That’s $US4,780 a bottle for a vintage of which at least 15,000 cases were made versus less than 1000 cases for the Bin 620 Conawarra Cabernet Shiraz 2008.

To date, critics have been unanimous in their praise for the Bin 620 2008. Langton’s Andrew Caillard said that it is “without … Read the rest

Nov 11 2011

Wynns Coonawarra Estate: A Back to the Future Approach to Quality Improvement!

Posted on November 11, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Coonawarra, with its famed terra rossa soil on a prized limestone base, has been recognised for decades as one of the world’s best regions for producing cabernet sauvignon. But understanding how to optimise the terroir to produce the best quality fruit has not always been easy.  Coonawarra cabernet sauvignons of the 1980s and 1990s, for example, were often criticised for being too herbal or green in character. Paradoxically, as wine critic Huon Hooke explains, they often tasted herbaceous and overripe at the same time! (Coonawarra on the March by Huon Hooke, HuonHOOKE.com)

The dynamic team at Wynns Coonawarra Estate, led by Chief Winemaker Sue Hodder and Regional Vineyard Manager Allen Jenkins, realised that getting on top of the quality issue meant taking a close look at what was happening in the vineyard.  And the way they approached the problem was interesting because it highlighted the benefits of marrying the latest vineyard management technologies with a return to some old fashioned, traditional practices like hand-pruning and hand-harvesting.

Inspired by the pure, ripe fruit flavours of Wynns cabernet sauvignons from the 1960s, Hodder knew that they needed to bring the older vineyards back into balance. Minimal pruning or imprecise machine pruning was replaced with focused hand-pruning that got rid of the dead wood and positioned the vines for more even fruit ripening. In some cases, radical surgery was required with some vines being chainsawed half way down their roots. (Who dares Wynns by Huon Hooke, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 August 2010)

Sophisticated techniques such as bud dissection analysis have made it possible to predict the next year’s crop load from the current harvest. Consequently, when yields are predicted to be high, the vines are bunch-thinned to improve fruit quality and lower the yields. Other high tech tools like … Read the rest