A quiet revolution is under way at Wynns Coonawarra Estate, one of Australia’s top wineries whose fabled terra rossa soils produce some of the world’s great cabernets.
Unproductive vines at Wynns are being culled because they have poor genes, the nation’s leading female winemaker, Sue Hodder, says.
Hodder has just completed her 23rd vintage at Wynns, describing her work there as a creative privilege. She and her viticulturist, Allen Jenkins, tread carefully with their “reinvigoration” of the vineyard because they are aware of the heritage values placed on many of the vines.
“Nevertheless, we have begun a replanting program,” Hodder says.
“We’ve taken out some riesling, pinot and cabernet.’’
Some of the cabernet vines planted in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s are prone to a middle-age virus she likens to arthritis.
The cull will cover several hundred hectares, and new clones and rootstock will be introduced in the hunt for plusher, more healthy fruit.
Cabernet clones from France will be introduced.
“It’s all about balance. We want to protect our heritage while trying new things,” Hodder says.
Balance is the key word also to describe the recent release of the 2015 collection from Wynns.
The line-up includes Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($150), Wynns Michael Shiraz 2012 ($150), Childs Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($80), V&A Lane Shiraz 2013 ($60), V&A Lane Cabernet Shiraz 2013 ($60), Black Label Shiraz 2013 ($50) and the popular Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($45).
The wines are finely structured with a clearly defined “Wynns style” of balanced fruit expression.
“They are both current drinking and ageworthy expressions of a truly great Coonawarra vintage,” Hodder says.
I road-tested the new vintage V&A Lane Cabernet Shiraz (76 per cent cabernet, 24 per cent shiraz) a wine of dazzling force behind silky tannins.
It’s a welcoming crimson colour with a nose of mulberry and spice.
On the palate there are hints of tobacco, tar, fig and black pepper.
It will be even better in five to 15 years, Hodder says.