I write today’s piece on the day (October 6) that I completed my tasting of this year’s Wynnsday Collection, and the same day Allen Jenkins announced his retirement as Wynns’ viticulturist. He and senior winemaker Sue Hodder have worked together for 20 years, and been widely recognised individually and as a team. Neither have sought the limelight, none more so than the quietly spoken Jenkins, but he has given Hodder the rapes that have produced this stellar range of wines.
To be fair, Wynns corporate owners have poured a lot of money into the business, a small batch winery erected within the portals of the main big capacity winery, and rejuvenated the old plantings (dating back as far as 1894) and used cutting edge techniques in measuring the performance of the entire vineyard holdings.
Explains Jenkins ‘We have a profound respect for our heritage, each other, and the precious environment that is Coonawarra. There is an intense focus on the needs of the vine, on implementing new and courageous viticultural techniques, and on unravelling the endlessly complex web of interactions involved in growing the perfect grape.’
Every wine in the collection shares the drive for elegance and purity, from the magnificence of the ’18 Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon and Michael Shiraz (at $150 each looking absurdly underpriced) to the ’19 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon and Black Label Old Vines Shiraz ($45 each) mainstays of the marque.
It’s true that ’18 and ’19 are the best pair of Coonawarra vintages on record, but the Wynns red wines so far released are emblematic of both years and of the courage of Sarah Pidgeon (and Hodder) in making the V&A Lane wines. Alcohol only 12.3% in a TWE red wine? (Penfolds locked into 14.5%) A shiraz with the inclusion of whole bunches in the ferment?
Jenkins is going to renovate his 1840s farmhouse, spend more time with his grandchildren, and ‘go bush’ in central Australia where he and wife Jane started their working lives.
2018 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Michael Limited Release Shiraz
Brilliant crimson-purple. First up is the oak: 16 months in 28% new French oak, the balance used. The Michael of old often needed time for the oak to be integrated. Not here. The fine spun tannins, too, are masterful, giving the dark cherry fruit great line and length. And a pristine finish.
98 points, drink to 2044, 14% alc, Screwcap, $150
2019 Wynns Coonawarra Estate V&A Lane Shiraz
Its bright crimson colour is a signpost, its alcohol even more so; 50% whole bunch ferment, matured for 14 months in used French puncheons. A striking cool climate style, with spice, black pepper and briar notes adding both flavour complexity and structure.
97 points, drink to 2034, 12.3% alc, Screwcap, $60
2018 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Johnson’s Block Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Matured for 14 months in French hogsheads (24% new), the bouquet a floral burst of red and black currants. Freshness is the wine’s signature, reflecting the moderate alcohol; earthy tannins are key to its length and future.
97 points, drink to 2040, 13.3% alc, Screwcap, $80