Ah, the famous Coonawarra wine region over in South Australia… only a leisurely four-and-a-half hour or so drive away from here, and there you are, slap bang in the middle of Australia’s cabernet heartland.
You can instantly see why the original land surveyors like the famous John Riddoch were so impressed at the promise of this region for growing fruit: dead flat, rich red soil, a mild cool climate and plenty of water – ideal. Underneath the (at times) thin layer of this justly famous rich ‘Terra Rosa’ red earth is a limestone base – again, perfect for wine production. Thus, the legend that is Coonawarra grew from these very characteristics.
Trivia buffs might be interested to learn that “Coonawarra” is an Aboriginal word meaning “Honeysuckle”, but what we all know well as wine buffs is that Coonawarra is synonymous as the home of some of the best Australian Cabernet Sauvignon on offer, having staked its claim on the noble red variety for a great many years.
The founder of Coonawarra – John Riddoch – a Scottish born migrant, who having landed in Australia at the age of 23, went on to have some luck on the gold fields in the early 1850’s, moved to South Australia in 1861, and purchased a property – ‘Yallum’, near Penola – that he eventually expanded to 50,000 hectares.
Later, having been a member of Parliament and a major player in the district, he was heavily involved in opening up the south east region via the establishment of a railway network which enabled him to subdivide his prime holdings of valuable ‘Terra Rossa’ soil in 1890, thereby establishing Coonawarra. He also planted some vines and went on to produce wine and built a winery (now known as the famous Wynn’s Winery).
Coonawarra’s history is an important chapter in Australian winemaking and their future participation even more so. Here are a couple of great examples worth exploring.
WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE ‘THE BANKER’
CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 ($20)
So the story goes that back in the early 1920s, Wynns founder Samuel Wynn was saved from a ruthless property shark by the good nature of his bank manager, who – without hesitation – rescued this struggling Polish immigrant from inevitable financial ruin. Wynn never forgot his bank manager’s support (based on kindness and not financial logic) and went on to found one of Australia’s best known wineries, all the while remaining loyal to his banker for the rest of his life.
Like everything in life, it’s not what you know but whom you know!
‘The Banker’ is an entry level Coonawarra Cab-Sauv brimming with ripe crushed berries, typical of the freshness and generosity that is the 2013 vintage. Bright, lustrous and surprisingly dark in color with pure, even blackcurrant and mulberry fruits to the fore and a softness and rounded easiness suggesting “drink now” approachability. Good value.