A dozen wines from Coonawarra reviewed


A case from Coonawarra: nine cabernet sauvignons, two merlots and a blend. Technically, Coonawarra is in South Australia but it could be in Victoria. Then again, the western part of Victoria and the south-eastern part of South Australia could combine to be a separate state. Not that I’m suggesting a separatist movement. It’s just the border was drawn where it was; it is a line in the sand, not one defined by geographical boundary.

Wine wise, Coonawarra is a fine partner for the Grampians region and I believe there is some tie-up for tourism.

Like a civil war zone, Coonawarra suffered from the 10-year battle of its GI boundary. It has settled but the scars remain.

There are some poor wines coming from the region and the bulk has pulled the rest down. But the below are top-end examples.

Why the picture of shearers? Because the region is a big wool growing area that stretches way into Victoria.

Parker Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014: Keep it simple: classic Coonawarra-style cabernet at a good price, $24. 93 points.

Mr Riggs ‘Outpost’ Coonawarra Cabernet 2014: Pure Coonawarra pedigree. Such a pleasure to taste and then drink with a rich, hearty stew. 94 points and well worth $24.

Leconfield Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014: Slightly tight and a touch raw are minor criticisms as both can be explained by youth, and should be smoothed out later in 2016. A mean 91 now but at least three more to come if kept correctly over the next five years and well worth $29.

Majella Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014: It’s not a pleasant picture for me to inflict, but I drooled when tasting this wine and somehow couldn’t find the spit bucket so swallowed. In fact, I went back for a second taste just to be sure. It’s a long, sensual beauty that at the height of pleasure metaphorically draws fingernails down the back. So much pleasure in a bottle, it is truly wicked. 95 points and worth $35.

Parker Estate ‘Terra Rossa’ Coonawarra Merlot 2014: Smart wine, though I thought the previous release had more to offer. Anyhow, let’s not worry about what has gone but what is here. What this merlot has is character. It’s nervy to start, dancing around the front of the palate, making the drinker not sure what direction it’s going before racing off to settle in the middle with sweetness and harmony that is very pleasing. It then coasts to the finish leaving a hint of savoury. 94 points and worth $34.

Majella Coonawarra Merlot 2014: Plum, mulberry and other rich, dark fruits on both nose and at the beginning of the palate. All pleasant, but the real treat comes as the wine advances across the palate. More earthy character comes into play and by the end it’s a wine that has a full story: beginning, middle and a fine ending, 94 points and worth its $30/$35.

Allegiance ‘The Foreman’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: Has the Coonawarra nose and the Coonawarra cabernet style. It lacks the depth and is just a little short on the finish, but the overall pleasure is there and the price is right at $25. 93 points.

Mezzo ‘Bool Lagoon’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014: Bool Lagoon is north of Coonawarra and regarded as “one of the largest and most diverse freshwater lagoon systems in southern Australia”, according to National Parks. Observably there are parts that are not under water, such as the vineyards owned by the Kay family, established in 1998. Not Coonawarra style, but good wine at $18 a bottle. 93 points.

St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: Light on the nose, and in the mouth it sits demure at the front of the palate before starting its journey in a lazy way. It gathers pace as it travels and opens out. Acid, tannin and fruit are all there, not fully in balance but will merge with time. It’s drinking well now, so 94 points and more to come, and it’s worth the $55 asked.

Allegiance ‘The Forman’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: Striking wine. It makes its presence known from first sip, and every sip after confirms this is a very fine wine. 94 points and worth $35.

St Hugo ‘Private Collection’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: It’s purple from centre to rim, and the nose is a complex collection of black fruits and damp, rich earth. On entry it makes its presence felt instantly. One knows one is in the company of a great wine. It did it for me, rang all the bells long and loud. 97 points, with one, maybe two, to come, and only available from the St Hugo cellar door, which is new and I understand an experience in itself, so if you’re in the Barossa call in. For this class of wine $100 is value.

Parker Coonawarra Estate ‘First Growth’ 2012: When handing over $100 for a bottle of wine one expects something special in return. Those that have the money and an interest in the world’s great wines would not be disappointed in buying this. It’s drinking so very well now, yet shows promise for the future. 96 points now and more to come.

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