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Coonawarra Cabernet - elegance, identity and drinkability

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14 Sep 2023 Virtual event Watch replay
14 Sep 2023
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Virtual event

Famous for its vivid red soil and age-worthy red wines, Coonawarra makes some of the world’s purest Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a small region, but with a big reputation. This year, a wine from Coonawarra was crowned the world’s best Cabernet Sauvignon.

Located halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne on South Australia’s Limestone Coast, Coonawarra has 5,600 hectares of vineyards, with 62 per cent devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon. This late-ripening variety is Coonawarra’s undisputed star, producing wines that are elegant, vibrant and drinkable in their youth, yet will age wonderfully for many years.

In a conversation hosted by Sarah Ahmed, six winemakers discuss what makes Coonawarra the perfect spot for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Explore the region’s ancient landscape, its special terra rossa soil and the influence of the ocean, and find out how the wines differ from the rest of Australia and the world. Get to know the region’s community, old winemaking families and fresh new talent, and hear how wineries are combining tradition with innovation.

Australian Cabernet Sauvignon is firmly in the spotlight, after picking up a haul of medals in international competitions this year.

Australia beat 20 other countries in the International Wine Challenge 2023 to claim the International Cabernet Sauvignon Trophy, which was awarded to Riddoch The Pastoralist Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2021. This is one of the wines that will be discussed in the session.

The winemakers will be discussing these wines:

  • Balnaves Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
  • Majella Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
  • Leconfield Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
  • Reschke Vitulus Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
  • Redman Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2021
  • Riddoch The Pastoralist Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2021

Moderator and speakers

Sarah Ahmed

Wine Writer and Educator

Sarah Ahmed is a UK-based wine writer, blogger, educator and judge, specialising in the wines of Australia and Portugal. As well as publishing her own blog, The Wine Detective, she also writes for numerous publications and has contributed to many leading wine reference books. Sarah started her wine career with wine merchant Oddbins in 2000, managing their flagship Fine Wine Store in London between 2003 and 2005, before striking out on her own with writing and in education. Sarah was awarded ‘Honorary Australian Woman in Wine’ at the Australian Women in Wine Awards 2017.

Jacinta Jenkins

Winemaker, Balnaves of Coonawarra

After completing a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Biochemistry at Monash University in 2012, Jacinta became immersed in the world of wine by working vintages in Coonawarra (Wynns Coonawarra Estate and Balnaves of Coonawarra), Hawke’s Bay (Craggy Range), the Mosel Valley (Dr Loosen) and the United States (Ch. St Michelle WA and Penner-Ash Wine Cellars OR). In 2016 Jacinta completed a Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Adelaide, and then worked two vintages as Assistant Winemaker at Pikes Wines in the Clare Valley. Jacinta then returned home to Coonawarra to work at Balnaves of Coonawarra as Assistant Winemaker. After two years working with Pete Bissell in the lead up to his retirement, Jacinta then stepped into the role of Winemaker in July 2020.

Brian Lynn

Director, Majella Wines

Brian Lynn, known to all and sundry as “Prof”, has been a stalwart of the Coonawarra wine industry for 50 years or so. Born in the adjoining town of Penola, he and his brother Tony started planting vines on the family’s “Majella” property back in 1968. Since then, the vineyard has expanded to 70 hectares and in the early 1990s the Majella Winery was built. As well as handling viticulture at Majella, Brian has been a leading figure in local and State viticultural organisations and lately has handled much of the promotional aspects of Majella’s wines.

Peter Flewellyn

Export Sales Manager and Winemaker, CW Wines

After growing up on a vineyard in South Australia’s Riverland wine region, Peter followed three previous generations into the wine industry, studying at Roseworthy. After completing his studies, in 1992, Peter joined a joint venture winemaking team involving Penfolds and Hugh Ryman in Moldova. This was the first of 10 years’ experience as a flying winemaker, moving between bases in Spain, France, Moldova, Macedonia, Argentina and South Africa.

In 2000 Peter returned to Australia to manage a new winery venture in Geelong. As Winemaker at Pettavel Winery, Peter played an instrumental role in the design, construction and fit out of the new winery in Waurn Ponds. 

Peter joined the Reschke team in 2021 and is based at the Stonehaven winery for vintage each year, working with winemaker Ben Wurst to monitor the Reschke vineyards and to nurture the wines through the winemaking process at the Stonehaven Winery.

Paul Gordon

Senior Winemaker, Leconfield Wines

Paul’s fascination with wine grew from researching for a school project at the age of 14. Oenology at Roseworthy College in South Australia followed, achieving his degree in 1979. Since graduation, Paul gained experience in all facets of winemaking working in the Barossa Valley, Mildura, Sydney and Coonawarra for the Southcorp group, including 12 years as winemaker and senior winemaker at Rouge Homme in Coonawarra until 2001. This period was interspersed with experience in Europe. He joined Leconfield as Senior Winemaker in December 2001. Inspiration from the wines of Alsace, Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Rhône, and the new generation of producers in Italy as well as Paul’s oenology experience in Australia have refined his approach. Based at the winery in Coonawarra, Paul is responsible for all production aspects of Leconfield and Richard Hamilton, dividing his time between Coonawarra and McLaren Vale.

Tim Heath

Chief Winemaker, Riddoch Coonawarra

Tim grew up in Adelaide and stumbled into wine almost through a process of elimination, as it seemed like an enticing mix of sensory and science. It also looked like too much fun to be a real job! 

After studying winemaking at the University of Adelaide, Tim’s first four years winemaking were at Mountadam, before moving to Cloudy Bay for the next fourteen amazing years. He has travelled extensively through Europe, engaging in technical exchanges and dialogue. This included time in Bordeaux at the likes of Margaux, Palmer, Lafite, Rothschild and Cos D’Estournel. Tim loves his career, saying “Every season is different and truly keeps me on my toes.” 

As for Coonawarra, Tim believes this is a fantastic winegrowing region because it is cooler and more reliable than many other parts of Australia. Tim loves cooler climate wines that are made with a good degree of intellect, sense of place, balance and elegance – enjoyed with flavoursome food.

Tim has been leading Riddoch Coonawarra since 2020.

Dan Redman

Winemaker, Redman Wines

Dan has 24 years’ experience in the wine industry, completing vintages across the globe and around Australia including Tahbilk in Nagambie, Charles Melton in Barossa Valley, Okanagan Valley in Canada and Sonoma Valley in the US.

Dan joined the family business, Redman Wines, full time in 2009 and he oversees all aspects of the business including winemaking, marketing, sales and cellar door.