Lately, a good friend despatched me an outdated wine checklist he’d come throughout. He believed it was from the early Nineteen Seventies (analysis and speaking to a number of the old-timers would recommend earlier, presumably 1966) and it supposedly got here from a restaurant at Melbourne Airport – it was the restaurant’s “Particular Listing.” The costs would go away you weeping (keep in mind these are marked-up restaurant costs, not bottle store costs).
The 1960 Penfolds Grange Hermitage (the “Hermitage” was solely dropped with the 1990 classic) was a mere $1.75. Similar worth because the 1961 St Henri. The worth at the moment for the newest Grange, the 2017, is round $850 to $1,000 whereas the newest St Henri, the 2018, is simply $135, a terrific cut price, although outshone by the present Wynns Coonawarra Property Cabernet Sauvignon at $45.
This was the checklist for reds:
Mildara Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz 1963 $1.85
Mildara Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1963 $1.85
Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1960 $1.75
Penfolds St Henri Claret 1961 $1.75
Rouge Homme Cabernet 1961 $1.65
Wynns Coonawarra Property Cabernet 1959 $1.50
Hardys Cabernet Sauvignon 1958 $1.50
The costliest white was Lindeman’s Reserve Riesling 1965 Bin 2464 at $1.65. The costliest wine total: Seppelt Nice Western Imperial Reserve Brut at $3.40.
To digress, there are some fascinating elements to this quick checklist. The Mildara Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1963 is among the most well-known wines ever made in Australia and even had its personal nickname, “Peppermint Pattie.” The rationale was that it had probably the most extraordinary peppermint notice by means of it (some declare it to be a tribute to the spouse of then Prime Minister Dame Pattie Menzies, however I’m assured not so). A very long time since I’ve tasted it, however our native occasional Saturday wine group not too long ago centered on Cabernet and somebody introduced a bottle (sadly, the politicians nonetheless have me “exiled” from dwelling with the border closures so I used to be unable to affix them).
It was ingesting brilliantly, I used to be tolf. No concept what a bottle would go for at public sale nowadays – I believe it’s a few years since one was bought – however I’d guess it’s now value between AUD$5,000 and AUD$10,000.
The Lindeman’s Reserve Riesling is a much-lamented wine, a Hunter Valley basic, not seen for a few years. Lindeman’s used to make its Riesling, a White Burgundy, a Chablis, and extra within the days when labeling legal guidelines had been considerably lax. The wines had been all 100% Hunter Semillon. They aged brilliantly and had been wonderful wines (I confess I by no means drank any of them younger, however they matured into gorgeous whites). Sadly, no extra.
Maybe most extraordinary of all is the Seppelt Nice Western Imperial Reserve Brut. Nonetheless out there at the moment, again then it was round twice the worth of Grange. Had it stored tempo, a bottle can be round AUD$2,000 at the moment. As an alternative, you’ll find it for AUD$7.99, so maybe lagging a contact.
The checklist, as talked about, was the restaurant’s “Particular Listing,” revealing one thing very telling in regards to the Australian wine trade on the time. Except for the 2 Penfolds wines, all of the reds got here from Coonawarra – the Hardys, I’m guessing, would possible have been a mix with McLaren Vale and Coonawarra or presumably even the Hunter Valley. There was no concentrate on Barossa, and even the Hunter (though each would have been making wines deserving of a spot). Margaret River was unparalleled apart from presumably by a number of farmers and surfers.
Coonawarra was king, and the grape inextricably linked with Coonawarra was Cabernet Sauvignon. Shiraz was merely seen as a workhorse, making every little thing from glowing reds to fortifieds (regardless that plantings of Cabernet in Coonawarra solely exceeded these of Shiraz within the Nineties– certainly, when John Riddoch allotted blocks from his subdivision, it was achieved on the settlement that anybody taking over the provide would plant two-thirds Shiraz to one-third Cabernet). Grenache was used however placing the title on a label was seen as advertising suicide. And good luck discovering any Pinot Noir or Merlot, though apparently John Riddoch did plant just a little Pinot Noir again within the Eighteen Nineties as he was a fan of Burgundy.
Regardless of all this, Coonawarra’s status was established, not on the again of Cabernet however on Shiraz (typically referred to as Hermitage in these days). Wines just like the Wynns 1955 Michael Hermitage (a one-off on the time however revived lately as a part of the annual Wynns providing) and the legendary Woodley’s Treasure Chest collection. And lots extra.
Historical past of Coonawarra
One of many causes I actually get pleasure from doing these items for Quill & Pad is that so typically I begin with one thing in thoughts however then the piece takes on a lifetime of its personal and heads off in different instructions. At the moment the intent was to have a look at a wine that has been referred to as an Australian First Development, the Wynns Black Label Cabernet, and its flagship, the John Riddoch Cabernet. Nevertheless it turned clear that with out offering some context and historical past in relation to Coonawarra that something on these great wines can be incomplete.
So, Cabernet in Coonawarra. Your entire area had a patchy historical past, however I think that from the Nineteen Fifties to the Eighties if anybody requested an Australian wine lover simply what the nation’s finest wines had been, the reply would have been unquestionably Coonawarra Cabernet or Grange.
When Margaret River first emerged within the early Eighties, I doubt any Coonawarra winemakers actually thought of that these wines would ever be a severe risk. Nor would those self same winemakers have ever imagined that Shiraz would ultimately develop into the jewel in Australia’s vinous crown. Nowadays, Coonawarra Cabernet is another arrow within the quiver of Aussie wine, providing some very good examples however now not the last word wine.
All through all of it, one producer has remained the main vineyard for the area: Wynns Coonawarra Property. In 2020, Wynns harvested 63 % of the crush (does one vineyard have such a stranglehold on a acknowledged high quality area as Wynns does right here?). Each the area and Wynns are the main focus of quite a few books, so I’ll try nothing greater than a thumbnail sketch for these unfamiliar.
This week I’ll take a look at the area and its wonderful historical past of astonishing wines. Subsequent week, a more in-depth take a look at Wynns and its finest wines. For these eager to study extra, James Halliday’s Coonawarra is a number of many years outdated, but it surely has wonderful data on the historical past and early producers (if you’ll find it). In any other case, learn Andrew Caillard MW’s Imagining Coonawarra, which may be learn on-line by means of the Wynns web site.
The Coonawarra area is within the state of South Australia round 380 kilometers southeast of Adelaide, near the border with Victoria. Given the title Coonawarra by the native indigenous individuals, which means “wild honeysuckle,” although Peter Rymill, a descendent of John Riddoch, believes it’s extra prone to imply “swan.” Whereas it appears that evidently virtually each wine area on the planet is enticing and overloaded with tourist-inducing options, Coonawarra is – and hopefully this received’t offend locals an excessive amount of – considerably drab.
The place is flat, billiard-table flat. A ridge a few foot excessive is taken into account an area landmark. Nonetheless, it’s all in regards to the wine. The place can get critically chilly. As one winemaker as soon as instructed me, “There ain’t nothing between right here and Antarctica,” though usually the local weather is described as just like Bordeaux.
What makes the area well-known is the cigar-shaped strip of terra rossa, that great pink soil that contributes its magic to the wines. The pink colour comes from iron oxide. To the west, black soil has poor drainage and doesn’t work almost so nicely. There are additionally patches of brown soil which are extra suited, however it’s the terra rossa that’s the prime actual property right here.
The terra rossa lies alongside a shallow limestone ridge, which must be ripped to permit the vines’ roots to enter the softer calcareous sandstone and the everlasting water provide. The altitude of the whole area varies between 53 and 61 meters above sea stage. It is a strip that’s mainly 27 kilometers lengthy and two kilometers large. The area has 5,700 hectares – many will keep in mind the prolonged and fairly nasty battle over actual borders, and there are many vineyards on black soil, which had been lastly included throughout the boundaries.
Vine rising dates again to 1890 when John Riddoch planted the primary vines (provided that Riddoch arrived in 1861, it appears very possible that he planted sooner than this however as with many issues, actual information are considerably fuzzy – there are information confirming he definitely thought of it), however they had been merely certainly one of many crops. The Redman household (Rouge Homme) endured with grapes over the approaching many years, principally Shiraz, however only a few Australians at the moment would have had a clue the place Coonawarra was or what occurred there.
The primary classic in Coonawarra, 1895, yielded simply 8,000 liters. In 1897, the well-known and iconic triple-gabled vineyard now inextricably linked with Wynns was constructed. One curiosity: the vines planted in entrance of the vineyard, which have appeared in 1000’s of pictures through the years, will not be Cabernet as one may anticipate. They’re, in reality, Pedro Ximenez.
Invoice Redman was the son of an area railway employee and in 1901, aged simply 14, he fronted up on the Riddoch Vineyard looking for a job. By 1908, he was prepared to start out his personal vineyard utilizing his personal grapes and people bought domestically.
At the moment wine from the Riddoch Vineyard was bought in bulk, often disappearing unacknowledged into different wines from across the nation. Sadly, a lot of this effective however unsalable wine didn’t even make bulk standing and was distilled into brandy. Chateau Tanunda from the Barossa Valley bought the place to proceed distillation. It, in flip, was taken over in 1921 by Milne & Co and till the mid-Nineteen Forties virtually all grapes went to distillation. By the top of the last decade, the curiosity in wine and grapes from Coonawarra was so low that solely 240 hectares of vines remained.
By 1945 the world was altering, even in distant Coonawarra. Woodley’s Wines can be recognized by many at the moment for its Queen Adelaide wines, very a lot represented the bargain-basement finish of the wine world in Australia. It wasn’t all the time so. In late 1945, Woodley’s MD/cellarmaster, Tony Nelson, bought the Riddoch Vineyard and 130 acres of vineyards for £9,000 from Milne & Co. The brand new firm was referred to as Chateau Comaum (the property is technically positioned within the Hundred of Comaum). Nelson beat Melbourne wine retailers Samuel Wynn and his son David to the punch. The standard of the wines made by Redman was now not a secret.
It was additionally in 1945 that Invoice Redman’s son, Owen, returned from service in New Guinea (which resonates deeply with me as I used to be named after my father’s uncle, who was killed on the Kokoda Path in New Guinea throughout World Warfare II). Owen Redman took a 35-year lease on land out there by means of South Australia’s Discharged Soldier Settlement Act. Nelson additionally took the chance to make preparations with the Redmans for them to handle the Woodley’s vineyards and to make its wine.
Woodley’s first classic in 1946 was a catastrophe, however they endured and with regional branding began to widen curiosity in, and information of, Coonawarra. As wine exhibits recommenced after the battle, Coonawarra’s success consolidated its status, however by 1951 Nelson was pressured to place the property again available on the market and for £22,000 the Wynns bought the vineyard, cellars, distillery, 54 hectares of vines, and 90 hectares of pasture.
Nowadays, Cabernet guidelines with Shiraz a worthy sidekick however it’s only some many years again that probably the most extensively planted selection was Riesling. Curious. And simply why Shiraz ought to have taken such a help position when historical past exhibits it greater than able to a star flip is a query troublesome to reply. A star flip? So most of the well-known early Coonawarra wines had been Shiraz.
Though the top of the battle noticed motion right here, issues had been powerful. By the outbreak of World Warfare II, lack of curiosity and understanding of those wines had seen vineyards retreating right down to a mere 300 acres (it could worsen). Invoice Redman was infamously quoted as saying that, “From 1890 to 1945 you may write failure throughout the face of Coonawarra.”
Nevertheless, with out the persevering with efforts of Invoice Redman proper by means of to the Nineteen Sixties wine increase, who is aware of if Coonawarra would have even survived. As Caillard says, Invoice Redman “Is credited for making each main pink wine that got here out of Coonawarra for the very best a part of the 20 th century.” Then, in 1951, Samuel and David Wynn obtained their alternative to step in and buy the outdated Riddoch cellars – these triple stone gables are instantly identifiable on the Wynns label. At the moment, it is called Wynns Coonawarra Property.
One other well-known native title was Eric Model, who married Nancy Redman, Invoice’s daughter, in 1942 and moved to the area in 1950. He labored with the Redmans till their Rouge Homme vineyard was bought to Lindeman’s in 1965. By then, he had accrued 60 acres of his personal vines and so he began his personal operation, Model’s Laira.
Earlier than this, nevertheless, there was a collection of wines made by Invoice Redman for Woodley’s that may additional rework the area after they had been ultimately launched. They had been often called the Treasure Chest collection, predominantly Shiraz, however blended with some Cabernet.
The Wynns Treasure Chest
Within the late Nineteen Fifties, Nelson discovered eight batches of Coonawarra Claret made by Invoice Redman within the tunnels of the outdated silver mines at Woodley’s Vineyard in Glen Osmond. One every from the years 1949 to 1956 (Woodley’s and Redman had a falling out in 1956, which presumably put an finish to the challenge, and it appears that evidently the wines had been forgotten). By the point Nelson discovered the wines, the Wynns owned the outdated John Riddoch vineyard.
Redman had made the primary couple of those wines there, however after the sale the following vintages had been made at his Rouge Homme vineyard. Nelson employed probably the most well-known label designer of the day, Wytt Morro, to provide you with one thing particular for these wines. Each the wines and the labels at the moment are legendary.
The 1949 label took a picture from the Atlas historique, Voyage de découvertes aux Terres australes (half 1, 1807), which was a collaboration between naturalist François Péron, engraver Frères Lambert, and artist Charles Alexandre Lesueur. Lesueur had been a part of the Baudin expedition to Australia, which was a French expedition between 1800 to 1803 to map the coast of New Holland as Australia was nonetheless recognized. The label confirmed Australian wildlife with a French château within the background.
The 1950 label was a hand-colored engraving of a sketch by panorama artist Frederick C. Terry (incorrectly named as Fleury on the unique) of Sydney’s new authorities home.
The 1951 label confirmed an engraving of the Australian coast from South Australia to Victoria primarily based on a sketch by Louis de Freycinet, additionally a member of the Baudin expedition. It was additionally achieved by Charles Alexandre Lesueur and is from Atlas historique, Voyage de découvertes aux Terres australes (half 2, 1812).
The 1952 label was an engraving of the legendary explorer Captain James Prepare dinner who claimed the southern continent for Nice Britain when he landed at Botany Bay in 1770. It’s taken from an 1800 portray by Sir Nathaniel Dance.
The 1953 label confirmed Queen Adelaide, after whom the Metropolis of Adelaide was named in 1836. This was the artwork later used for the Queen Adelaide model, an engraving by H. Prepare dinner taken from a drawing by H. Dawe.
The 1954 label is taken into account probably the most well-known of all of them. It exhibits the Bathurst Plains by Joseph Lycett within the 1820s. Lycett was a convict who turned the artist to the governor of New South Wales.
The 1955 label was a departure in that it was The Galatea, a crusing vessel, and was sourced from the entrance cowl of sheet music for The Galatea, which was a “Polka Brillante” by Frederick Ellard. The sheet music had been revealed in Adelaide in 1867 to commemorate the go to of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and son of Queen Victoria.
Lastly, the 1956 label was an engraving by a preferred artist of the early days in New South Wales, BM Chalon, from his portray of the well-known racing stallion Skeleton owned by Alexander Riley, an early pastoralist and regarded by some to have presumably imported the primary Shiraz into Australia.
The Treasure Chest collection was bought by means of a number of chosen wine shops and thru Australian commerce commissions all over the world, one thing I doubt has been achieved earlier than or since. It was additionally bought in curious combos. “The Treasure Pack,” because it was dubbed, was three bottles every of the 1949, 1950, 1951, and 1952 vintages. “The Classic Field” was three every of the 1953, 1954, 1955, and 1956 vintages. Single bottles of the 1953 and 1955 had been out there.
I depend myself most lucky as I used to be capable of attend a dinner round 20 years in the past the place our host put out the complete set. It was a monumental and eye-opening tasting. The wines then had been across the half-century mark and had been nonetheless alive and sophisticated. On the time, 1956 and 1955 had been very spectacular; 1954 superb; 1953 ethereal, complicated, and thrilling; 1952 once more fairly good; 1951 the frustration; 1950 spectacular with exquisitely candy fruit and complexity; whereas the 1949 was merely one of many biggest wines I’ve ever been privileged to drink.
Nowadays, one wonders if there are greater than a handful of units nonetheless in existence, if that. I did suppose I had hit the motherlode when chatting to an outdated good friend a while in the past, who was shocked to study of their worth and rarity given he had a few units in his cellar. Tastings had been deliberate, individuals obtained very excited. Sadly, it was solely when he went to gather them did he uncover that each units had been grabbed by his ex-wife in an unpleasant divorce. Their destiny unknown, there have been some very disillusioned wine lovers when that got here to mild.
Coonawarra from the Nineteen Fifties
Again to Coonawarra in 1952, the Redmans had been promoting bulk wine to well-known names like Thomas Hardy, Yalumba, Reynella, Leo Buring, and Woodley’s. Their model, Rouge Homme, commenced in 1953. The area was lastly making severe progress, regardless that there was nonetheless no mains electrical energy or refrigeration.
Mildara, below Ron Haselgrove, arrived in 1955 and Penfolds 5 years later, with the Redmans taking care of each. Invoice Redman had been instrumental in convincing Jeffrey Penfold-Hyland to buy what’s now often called the Sharam winery. Then in 1965, Lindeman’s bought the Rouge Homme vineyard with 75 acres of vineyards and an additional 400 acres of a number of the highest terra rossa land.
I’ll look extra intently at Wynns sooner or later because it performed an important position within the growth of the area. One of many first wines launched was a really well-known one-off Shiraz referred to as the Michael Hermitage from 1955 (named after David’s son). The revived Michael, first classic being 1990, adopted the discharge of Wynns first flagship (and begs the query of what number of flagships one can have, however that is perhaps for an additional day), the John Riddoch Cabernet. The inaugural classic of the John Riddoch Cabernet was 1982.
Producers like Penfolds, Lindeman’s, Mildara, Woodley’s, and Hardys (curiously, all however that final one named are or have been below the present TWE – Treasury Wine Estates – possession at some stage) continued to take an curiosity in Coonawarra, and a few gorgeous wines emerged. In virtually all instances in these early days, the wines had been made below contract by the Redmans. Owen Redman’s brother-in-law, Eric Model, started his personal vineyard within the mid-Nineteen Sixties – subsequent generations of Manufacturers are nonetheless making high Coonawarra wines.
And loads of different wineries have emerged: Katnook, Zema, Bowen, Hollicks, Balnaves, Leconfield, Majella, Rymill, and lots of extra. Greater than 50, in reality. Others, like Jim Barry, Yalumba, and so many extra supply fruit or have invested in vineyards. In case you are concerned with exploring the wines of Coonawarra then any of those will greater than match the invoice.
Within the early days, Shiraz had been planted at a ratio of two to at least one compared to Cabernet, and regardless of the legendary wines produced from Shiraz the area started to additionally provide some astonishing wines from Cabernet. It was additionally valued for mixing. The 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Winery Shiraz is also known as the best wine ever made in Australia.
The next 12 months noticed the 1963 Mildara “Peppermint Pattie” Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, adopted shortly by the 1966 Penfolds Bin 620 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz and 1967 Penfolds Bin 7 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Shiraz.
Extra wineries had been slowly established, and by 1970 the quantity had elevated to 6: Wynns, Lindeman’s, Mildara, Penfolds, Model, and Redmans.
The Nineteen Seventies had been massively necessary for the area. The 1976 Wynns Coonawarra Property Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon received the Jimmy Watson Trophy (Australia’s most necessary wine trophy, in these days awarded to a one-year-old pink often but to be bottled). This wine was in all places for a few years.
Coonawarra picked up one other “Jimmy” with the 1980 Lindeman’s St. George Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. On the time, this was reflecting the brand new type of lean and inexperienced herbaceous wines. When it was lastly launched, I had simply begun an curiosity in wine and greedily grabbed what I may. I keep in mind opening one, considering I’ll as nicely have spent the cash on tinned asparagus such had been the characters it exhibited. The remainder of mine had been instantly despatched to public sale. I hated it. Fortunately, that type is a factor of the previous.
There have been pruning points some time again, which did result in some greener characters, and within the early Eighties present judges richly rewarded these wines, for some cause assuming that they had been Bordeaux replicas and due to this fact should be good. We are able to all be grateful that these days are nicely behind us.
The Nineteen Seventies additionally noticed an explosion of boutique wineries. Whereas Coonawarra has not been overwhelmed by them, it has its share, many talked about above. Whereas there are some great smaller household operations, this can be a area largely dedicated to the massive producers. Maybe its isolation has merely not attracted the boutiques in the identical manner that different, extra continuously visited wine areas have.
By the Eighties, Coonawarra was in the course of its glory days, choosing up a complete of six “Jimmys” that decade. This was additionally the last decade that noticed the discharge of what has develop into its most well-known wine, the Wynns John Riddoch Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, the primary classic being the 1982.
Sadly for the area, it was right now that Margaret River was rising. As I’ve mentioned earlier than, I doubt anybody, together with winemakers from each areas, ever actually thought that this upstart would critically problem Coonawarra’s supremacy.
The truth is, it didn’t take lengthy in any respect. Though Margaret River is much more remoted than Coonawarra, it has a number of benefits. Whereas the aesthetics of Coonawarra are mainly flat and boring, Margaret River is an exquisitely stunning wine area. In addition to wine, this can be a getaway location for individuals from Perth and a world-class browsing vacation spot – not all the nice whites from the area are available a bottle!
Margaret River could be very a lot floor zero for the small, high quality household operation. The massive boys are noticeably absent – not fully, however you’d hardly discover them. Toss in the truth that whereas nowadays Coonawarra is seen as a little bit of a one-trick pony (Cabernet with a sideline in Shiraz), Margaret River additionally does a number of the biggest Chardonnays seen on this nation, plus many different varieties.
Whereas Coonawarra is on the viticultural edge and good vintages are removed from assured, it appears that evidently many locals in Margaret River wouldn’t know what a foul classic was – they’d most likely should google it.
Whereas Coonawarra won’t maintain the identical magic for wine lovers that it has up to now, keep in mind that that is due to the emergence of different areas – in Australia that may be Margaret River particularly – moderately than any diminution of high quality in its wines. There are nonetheless some really very good wines being made on this distant and remoted area with its cigar of terra rossa soil. Subsequent time, I’ll take a look at one of many highest from right here, a world-class Cabernet.