After Coldstream Hills was acquired by Southcorp Wines in 1996, I attended the London Wine Trade Fair and managed (solo) a small table which offered the new-release wines of Coldstream Hills and Wynns Coonawarra Estate. Lunch was out of the question, a quick dash to the toilet the only relief. I thought it was strange that Wynns didn’t have separate representation, and was not given any point of sale leaflets. Upstream company takeovers were part of the reason for the relative disinterest in the far-away outpost of Wynns.
How things have changed. The duo of winemaker Sue Hodder, who this year celebrates her 30 years at Wynns, and recently retired viticulturist Allen Jenkins, turned Wynns into a gold standard performer. Year after year, expenditure saw the old vines (the largest holding in Coonawarra) rejuvenated, and new plantings initiated using newly-developed airborne or sub-ground technology. Selectiv’ harvesters eliminate leaves, cane fragments, diseased bunches and don’t damage the vine canopy.
Winemaking expenditure saw an entirely new multi-million dollar open fermentation cellar constructed in 2008. This small batch winery allowed the winemaking team to make small scale trials every vintage, those which led to improvements in wine quality were adopted in following years. An optical berry-by-berry sorter was installed, oak (rather than stainless steel) fermenters made available, and different sized/shaped barrels for maturation introduced. The three 2019 vintage luxury portfolio wines released on October 5, headed by John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon, and supported by Michael Shiraz and Davis Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, encapsulate these improvements. The fourth wine in the release is the 2020 Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon.
It is extraordinary that the alcohol levels range between 13.5% and 13.9%, and that the percentage of new French oak ranges between 15% and 31%. The outcome is the elegance these wines possess, making them eminently drinkable now, with none of the fearsome cabernet tannins of later picked, more extractive styles.
This isn’t change for the sake of change.
2019 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Michael Limited Release Shiraz
Hand-picked or Selectiv’ harvested, matured for 14 months in French oak (15% new). After the waves of flavour that penetrate every corner of the mouth, every odour receptor of the nose, the finish and the aftertaste are impossibly elegant and fresh. The fruits are led by cherry and followed by blueberry.
98 points, drink to 2049, 13.8% alc, Screwcap, $150
2019 Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon
The grapes represent 1% of the total Wynns cabernet harvest. It spent 16 months in French oak (31% new). This is a wine of extraordinary quality. It is medium-bodied, and so agile in the mouth, no one flavour dominates at any stage of its consumption.
98 points, drink to 2054, 13.5% alc, Screwcap, $150
2019 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Davis Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
The vines are 65yo, second oldest in Coonawarra. It’s medium- to full-bodied, blackcurrant leading the glittering parade of the other facets of great cabernet, including black olive, bay leaf and firm but integrated tannins. Small wonder it’s Hodder’s favourite vineyard.
97 points, drink to 2049, 13.8% alc, Screwcap, $80