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Bag a Bargain from Coonawarra

By Alex Russell on October 10, 2018 in Food

The Balnaves family back in the day, by Viti Kulcha

Coonawarra is famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon and its blends, and in the whites you’ll see a bit of Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay getting about. There are some bloody good drops and if you’re clever you can certainly bag a bargain. Here are a few of my favourites that won’t break the bank…

Bowen Estate’s Cabernet and Shiraz are amazing value at $27 per bottle direct, and you have
the choice of cork or screwcap on these. When I was there, I was sur- prised to discover a Chardonnay was available too, for $24. Made in small quantities, it’s worth grab- bing a few to bring home.

Balnaves is right next door to Bowen. They’re famous for their ‘Tally’ Reserve Cabernet, which is outstanding. It’s the perfect wine to pop in the cellar for a special occasion in 10-15 years. Their regular Cabernet is also a pearler at about $40, and their Chardy at $30 is also worth stocking up on. The surprise for me is their $35 sparkling Cabernet. I’ve had a few sparkling reds in my time, but I really enjoyed this. Take a moment to enjoy the scenery, too.

Parker’s ‘First Growth’ is one of the more expensive wines from the region, clocking in at $110, but
it’s made them their name. Their regular wines, known as the ‘Terra Rossa’ range (after Coonawarra’s famous red soil) are a much more reasonable $34. This represents cracking value. There’s a Cab, a Shiraz and a Merlot, and they’re also starting to release some small batch wines.

Yalumba is based in Angaston near the Barossa, but they also have a foot in Coonawarra. Their ‘Cigar’ (~$30) and ‘Menzies’ (~$50) reds are outstanding. They are a couple of reasonably priced additions to the cellar that are worth exploring.

The first Zema wine I tried was the ‘Cluny’ blend, which is a Cabernet- based blend. I fell in love with the blackberry aromas of the vintage I tried many years ago and it hasn’t let me down since. We’ve recently opened a few bottles from our trip and they are outstanding, both the Shiraz and Cabernet (both ~$25). Get there at the right time of year and you’ll get to see the sculptures they make from their vine cuttings.

DiGiorgio make some top wines, but it’s worth stopping in at the winery just to check out the cutting out the back, where they’ve excavated between the vines to show the profile of the red soil on limestone.

If you can spare some time, check out the events at Wynn’s. Just about everyone knows their ‘Black Label’ Cabernet (~$30) and many cellars are built on it, but you can also go there to partake in a workshop if your timing is right. Be sure to book ahead though.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Wayne Stehbens from Kat- nook last year. I went to a tasting with him a few years ago, where he opened up a 20 year-old Sauvignon Blanc, and was amazed that he had the guts to even bother keeping it that long given that Sauv Blanc generally doesn’t age well. But this guy knew his wines, and made amazing stuff. There are plenty of Katnook wines in my cellar.