Thursday, August 12, 2010

First impressions of Coonawarra

So, after 10 months living and studying in Burgundy, here I am in Coonawarra; another exciting wine region to discover. Like Burgundy, Coonawarra isn’t the most popular of wine regions. It is surely overshadowed by the more famous region of Barossa like Burgundy is to Bordeaux. For me these regions strike more interest and excitement and I am not saying this because I just ended up in them but because you really have to dig deep into their roots to understand them fully.

Being a wine lover coming from the heart of the Mediterranean, I am obviously in love with Italian and French wines; this is why I looked for a New World wine region to conduct my 6 month internship ending my Masters qualifications. Having worked in Europe and travelled most of the wine regions in Italy and France I wanted to challenge myself further, push borders into the New World and understand first hand what’s happening down under. I was lucky enough to be picked up by a young, passionate, energetic wine producer and marketer from the region of Coonawara, Dru Reschke. I have only just arrived last Friday, yet Dru and his family immediately made me feel at home; not even a tornado could halt their warm welcome.

With Dru gone away on business for the week I was left in the capable hands of the girls at the Koonara Cellar Doors in Penola. All of them tried their best to make me feel welcome giving me tips on the best coffee shop, the best clothes shop which always comes handy and introduced me to most of Penola, which yes is not that big yet which I find surprisingly enticing. Laure, the French cellar door manager at Koonara went a step further to make me feel welcome and on Monday took me for a small tour in Coonawarra, visiting a few wineries and tasting some lovely wines.

Being more exposed to old world wines, I expected big fruity wines full of tannins and alcohol which would tire me after the first few sips. To my surprise, I found many interesting wines in all the wineries we visited. I have to say that Cabernet Sauvignon is my favourite grape of this region so far. Redman Cabernet 2004 and 2006 were simply lovely; cedar box, prunes and chocolate hints all came together wonderfully on the nose with a lovely velvety palate. Rymill’s Cabernet Sauvignon was also interesting with nice grippy tannins yet not overwhelming. It was their sparkling wine which really surprised me. Made in the traditional method and with the 3 glorious grapes used for Champagne; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this sparkling wine shows that Coonawarra really has a cool climate and great wine makers. With her French touch Sandrine Gimon managed to bring together a crisp and creamy wine way different from the sweet sparkling Aussies I tasted in the past. Unfortunately Majella didn’t have any back vintages on tasting which after Redman I was really hoping for, in fact I found the wines on tasting a bit too young to enjoy now. What I enjoyed was their 2009 Riesling with its lime, apple zesty flavours surely making it one to enjoy at the beach during a hot summers day.

Well my experience from my 4 day stay here in Coonawarra looks to be a promising one with loads of wine to taste, people to meet and oh yes work to do. Work.. I didn’t mention the exceptional wines of Koonara, well for that I will need an entire blog. So on to the next for Koonara wines!

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