2018 – a highly rated Coonawarra vintage
Reviews of 2018 vintage reds tasted 27 October 2020 in Canberra with Wynns Coonawarra Estate winemaker, Sue Hodder, and Winewise editor, Lester Jesberg.
Wynns rate the 2018 vintage highly. ‘We love it’, says Hodder. High winter and spring rainfall, warm summer temperatures, followed by an extended cool ripening period into March resulted in harvest time at around the long-term average. ‘The cool finish was ideal for acid retention and freshness’, Hodder concluded.
Wynns Coonawarra Estate V&A Lane Shiraz 2018 $58–$60
V&A Lane shiraz shows the floral, fresh, fruity face of early picked, cool-grown shiraz. Attempts at this style sometimes show green, unripe flavours. But the elegant, delicious V&A 2018 pulses with vibrant, ripe-berry flavours, tinged with spice and backed by structural elements and subtle flavours derived from oak maturation. It’s a plush, elegant wine with juicy drink-now appeal. An harmonious wine like this should also age for many years, but it’s hard to imagine its drinking appeal ever being greater than it is now.
Wynns Coonawarra Estate V&A Lane Cabernet Shiraz 2018 $58–$60
Vineyards on Victoria and Albert Lane produced the goods in 2018. The cabernet-shiraz blend provides a deep, dark, savoury contrast to the fragrant, buoyant shiraz reviewed above. It’s riper and fuller bodied than the shiraz, and the cabernet asserts itself with firm tannins and savoury black-olive and chocolate-like flavours. The shiraz component fattens the palate with supple fruit, balancing the assertive cabernet tannin. The finish is long, firm-but-fine, and satisfying.
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Shiraz 2018 $35–$45
Cabernet carries Coonawarra’s reputation today. But shiraz goes back to the earliest days. Indeed, says Hodder, fruit for Black Label comes from some of the region’s oldest vines, including shiraz from the Undoolya vineyard, planted 1894. While this is a riper, sturdier version of shiraz than the V&A wine reviewed above, it remains medium-bodied, in the cool-climate mould. Generous, ripe fruit flavour tinged with black pepper (another cool-grown shiraz signature) are bundled with tender but assertive tannins. This is a distinctive, satisfying red to enjoy over the next 20 years or more, depending on cellaring conditions.
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Harold Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 $75–$80
Where Black Label cabernet provides a powerful, pure, varietal expression of cabernet, sourced from a number of Wynns’ best vineyards, Harold shows the character of fruit from a single site, planted in 1971. The combination of the fruit, and sympathetic French oak, provides a more perfumed, medium-bodied expression of Coonawarra cabernet, with a particularly fine, persistent tannin structure.
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 $25–$45
If you try hard you can buy Black Label at its $45 recommended retail price. But in the real world, retailers rush to be lowest. Such is the allure to wine drinkers of one the world’s best (and best value) cabernets that it’s available, as I write, for as little as $25. The beautifully ripe 2018 delivers textbook cabernet sauvignon aroma, flavour and structure. It’s powerful and balanced, with the reassurance provided by still-drinkable vintages going back to 1954.
The geology of Coonawarra and origins of its terra rossa soils
Myths and misinformation recur in the popular discussion of Coonawarra and its famed strip of terra rossa soils. That famous strip occupies just a small part of the formally defined Coonawarra wine region, which itself sits within the larger Limestone Coast wine zone, comprising South Australia west of the Victorian border and south of the Murray River–Lake Alexandrina.
In geological terms, Coonawarra is a young landscape, certainly not part of an ancient seabed, and not overlying a limestone base, as is sometimes claimed.
Geologist–wine merchant David Farmer studied Coonawarra’s origins and soils for many years. He recently summarised:
The terra rossa soil does not overlie a base of limestone. Limestone is a specific rock type made in specific ways, mostly marine. The terra rossa soil sits on top of a hard layer called calcrete which is calcium carbonate redeposited from solution. It is tough, cemented, and brittle and is not free draining. These two layers overlay uncompacted, estuarine-lagoonal muds which are rich in calcium.
The date of the deposits at Coonawarra are well known as they sit behind a dune ridge dated at 680,000 years and are contemporaneous; though the calcrete and soils are much younger.
For interested readers, Farmer’s The red soils of Coonawarra – Part of a unique terroir provides a detailed discussion of current understanding, based on numerous field trips and scientific sources detailed in the article.
Though his maps and paper discuss Coonawarra in depth, Farmer concludes, ‘This explanation of the origin of the soils of Coonawarra is unlikely to be the final word. The discussion does, though, tighten the boundaries for future research and suggests areas for detailed investigation’.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 18 November 2020