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Wine

Your Definitive Hunter Valley Cellar Door Guide and Map

Plan the perfect escape to the Hunter Valley wineries and cellar doors with our carefully curated guide, list, and map to this premier wine region. 

There’s a fantastic range of Hunter Valley cellar doors to visit within a two-hour drive from Sydney or a 40-minute trip from Newcastle. To help plan your trip to this dynamic wine region , we’ve selected a collection of wineries that provide the best cellar door experience, plus we’ve included a handy interactive map below.

While the region is famous for its ShirazChardonnay and Semillon , there’s also a stunning selection of innovative new varieties on offer. You can also find out more about the region in the Hunter Valley guide we’ve put together here.

HUNTER VALLEY WINERIES LIST

With so many great cellar doors in the region, we’ve grouped our list into journeys through the region along the Hunter Valley’s iconic roads. Take a trip from Pokolbin to Broke with a sojourn along Hermitage Road to visit the world class wineries of Tyrrell’s, Margan, De Iuliis and Andrew Thomas Wines on the alluvial flats. Or you can spend the day following McDonald’s Road through the heart of Pokolbin to visit the myriad of innovative wineries for which the Hunter Valley is renowned.

EXPLORE LOVEDALE

Journey through the heart of Lovedale via Wine Country Drive.

HUNGERFORD HILL AND MUSE RESTAURANT

The Hungerford Hill winery, designed by renowned architect Walter Barda, incorporates a spectacular barrel-shaped tasting room in which you can sample exemplary wines from the Hunter, as well as from the cool climate regions of Tumbarumba and the Hilltops of Southern New South Wales. Join the EPIC Tasting Experience Wednesday to Sunday between 11 am and 3 pm on a guided tasting of their limited release wines matched to bite-sized dishes prepared by the acclaimed Muse Restaurant and Cafe (reservations are essential).

2450 Broke Road, Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley cellar door map

Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Hungerford Hill website

DOMAINE DE BINET

Domaine de Binet is leading the charge for left of centre experimental wines, alternate varieties, and blends. It is rare to call in and not be able to chat to the entertaining husband and wife duo of Dan and Nat at this family-run winery.

467 Lovedale Rd, Lovedale – view on our Hunter Valley cellar door map

Open Friday to Sunday 10 am to 4 pm

Visit the Domaine de Binet website

HOPE ESTATE

Hope Estate is a destination in its own right with a great cellar door, the Hope Brewhouse, the Harvest Restaurant, and sweeping views of rolling vineyards and picturesque lakes.

2213 Broke Road, Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley cellar door map

Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Hope Estate website

PEPPER TREE WINES

The stunning grounds, the old convent, Circa 86 restaurant and the gardens that surround the Pepper Tree Wines cellar door are an essential stop on your next visit to the Hunter Valley. With their consistently high-quality wines, Pepper Tree are a stalwart of the Hunter Valley.

86 Halls Road, Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley cellar door map

Open Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm and Saturday to Sunday 9:30 am to 5 pm

Visit the Pepper Tree Wines website

EXPLORE BROKE AND HERMITAGE ROAD

Unearth the rustic township of Broke with a stop or two along Hermitage Road. 

TYRRELL’S

This salt of the earth Hunter Valley winery is a must-see destination, so is the tour of the old oak vats and the original red dirt cellar. Tyrrell’s have won many international medals and Trophies throughout their near 160-year history. Yet, they never rest on their laurels, continuing to impress on the world stage, earning respect as perhaps the most consistently high-achieving winery in the country.

1838 Broke Rd, Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley cellar door map

Open Mon – Sat 9 am to 5 pm; Sun 10 am to 4 pm

Visit the Tyrrell’s website

LEOGATE ESTATE WINES

Just along from Tyrrell’s is this distinctive cellar door and estate. A relative newcomer to the Hunter Valley, Leogate are quickly establishing themselves as a rising star due in no small part to securing accomplished winemaker Mark Woods to lead the winery.

1693 Broke Road – view on our Hunter Valley cellar door map

Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Leogate Estate website

MARGAN WINES & RESTAURANT

This striking Hunter Valley cellar door nestled amongst the vines is the perfect venue to sample their estate grown and made wines of a fine pedigree. This local focus translates to the superb Margan Restaurant, featuring ingredients from their kitchen garden, orchard, beehives and free range produce. Andrew Margan pioneered traditional and alternate varieties in the Broke region.

1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke – view on our Hunter Valley cellar door map

Visit the Margan website

DE IULIIS WINES

This modern, architect designed cellar door matches perfectly with Michael De Iuliis’ carefully constructed wines. Given he won the 2015 Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year at the Hunter Valley Legends awards, his wines are sure to impress. As is the view over the Brokenback Mountain Range from the observation tower.

1616 Broke Road – view on our Hunter Valley cellar door map

Open daily 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the De Iuliis website

HUNTER'S DREAM

Discover the unforgettable tranquility and beauty of the estate owned and managed by renowned health care company, Nature’s Care. Hunter’s Dream is one of the oldest boutique wineries in the region first established over a half a century ago. Now, many years and vintages later the newly opened cellar doors are producing an award wining collection under the guiding influence of winemaker Kees van de Scheur. Come and taste some of the best wines the lower Hunter has to offer amidst an oasis of sprawling lavender fields, ripe olive groves and a serene Japanese garden..

149 Deasys Road – view on our Hunter Valley Winery map

Open daily 10 am to 4 pm Mon-Fri 10 am to 4:30 pm Sat-Sun

Visit the Hunter's Dream website

DAVID HOOK WINES

Set in a provincial-style sandstone building, this boutique winery specialises in single vineyard drops from the Hunter’s traditional varieties of Semillon, Chardonnay, and Shiraz, as well as emerging grape varieties such as Pinot Grigio and Barbera. While you're there, you can explore the grounds, and surrounds of the Peppers Barrel Room or enjoy a spot of breakfast or lunch at Cafe Enzo.

Crn Broke & Ekerts Road, Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley Winery map

Open Daily 10 am to 4:30 pm

Visit the David Hook website

ANDREW THOMAS WINES

This sleek, boutique and modern cellar door is the perfect place to sample Thomas Wines’ uncompromising single vineyard wines. The 2014 Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year, Andrew Thomas only produces the region's renowned varieties of Semillon and Shiraz, allowing your tasting experience to uniquely examine and note the subtle differences across a focused bracket of his medal and Trophy winning wines.

Cnr Hermitage Road and Mistletoe Lane, Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley Winery map

Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Andrew Thomas Wines website

KEITH TULLOCH WINES

The Keith Tulloch Wines estate is world class with its grand buildings and gorgeous courtyard encompassing the cellar door, winery, Muse Kitchen, and Cocoa Nib artisan chocolate cafe. The unique tasting experience out on the verandah overlooking the sprawling vineyard and Brokenback Mountain Range will make a memorable stop on your next visit to the Hunter Valley

Cnr Hermitage and Deasys Road, Pokolbin NSW – view on our Hunter Valley Winery map

Open daily 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Keith Tulloch Wines website

EXPLORE THE HEART OF POKOLBIN

Explore the stunning array of new and old names along McDonalds Road with a stop at Pokolbin Village.

USHER TINKLER CELLAR DOOR AND SALUMI

Set in the original Pokolbin church, this cellar door renovated by Usher and Ebony Tinkler, blurs the lines between a traditional and contemporary wine experience. Their approach to wine tasting incorporates the food and wine lifestyle. Usher’s excellent wines can be accompanied with a superb range of local and imported Salumi and Cheese, making it a unique social destination.

97 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley Winery Map

Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Usher Tinkler website

AUDREY WILKINSON

As one of the oldest vineyards in the Hunter Valley, the Audrey Wilkinson Cellar Door and Winery is not to be missed on your next visit. The winemaking museum, housed in the original winery, the heritage-listed open cement vats and the spectacular views over their 270-acre winery are reason enough to visit. However, the true star is the spectacular selection of fine Semillon, Shiraz, and Verdelho on offer.

750 De Beyers Rd, Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley Winery Map

Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Audrey Wilkinson website

BROKENWOOD

Next door to McGuigan wines is Brokenwood, an institution in the Hunter Valley, consistently producing excellent wines and picking up awards for their Shiraz and Semillon. The friendly hospitality and the great selection of excellent wines for tasting are superb. The ‘tour & taste’, available for their members, offers the unique chance to explore the winemaking process and taste straight from the barrel!

401-427 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley Winery Map

Open Mon-Sat 9:30 am to 5 pm, Sunday 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Brokenwood website

HART & HUNTER

Winemaking duo Jodie and Damien focus on sourcing the best fruit, letting the individual vineyards in each of their wines shine. This rustic cellar door is a great setting to experience the unique impact of the differing terroir in the Hunter Valley.

463 Deasys Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320 – view on our Hunter Valley Winery Map

Open Thur-Sun 10 am to 4 pm

Visit the Hart & Hunter website

MCGUIGAN WINES

The quality and consistency of McGuigan Wines can’t be overstated, especially given they won the International Winemaker of the Year award in 2016 for a record 4th time. Stop by their relaxed cellar door to taste the wide range of quality wine on offer, or book for the tour of the winery, which departs daily at 12 noon. It is conveniently located next to the Hunter Valley Gardens, Hunter Valley Cheese Company and adjacent to Roche Estate in the heart of Pokolbin.

Corner of Broke & McDonalds Roads, Pokolbin NSW 2320 - view on our Hunter Valley Winery Map

Open Daily

Visit the McGuigan Wines Cellar Door

SMALL WINEMAKER’S CENTRE

This Hunter Valley cellar door has been showcasing the best of the Hunter Valley for 30 years. With an enviable line-up of winemakers such as the Little Wine Company, Thomas Wines, Silkman, David Hook and Hart & Hunter, the Small Winemaker’s Centre is a must visit for anyone seeking out the best boutique producers. From iconic Hunter Valley Semillon and Shiraz, to emerging varieties such as Vermentino, Barbera and Tempranillo, there are over 45 wines on offer. This is a very warm and welcoming cellar door with uber-friendly staff dedicated to guiding visitors on a wonderful wine journey.

426 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320 – view on our Hunter Valley Winery Map

Open Daily 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Small Winemaker’s Centre website

TAMBURLAINE ORGANIC WINES

As Australia’s largest producer of organic wines, Tamburlaine is a pioneer of innovative organic winemaking and vineyard management in the region. Incorporating practical and sustainable strategies, they continue to produce a swag of award-winning wine with a relaxed and generous approach, which translates through to their cellar door staff.

358 McDonalds Road Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley Winery Map

Open Daily 9 am to 5 pm

Visit the Tamburlaine website

TULLOCH WINES

Tulloch Wines are an institution in the Hunter Valley, who continually impress with the classic varieties that made them famous through to their innovative new varieties in their unique Cellar Door Release range. Their cellar door is excellent with casual tastings upstairs overlooking the stunning vista or with their pre-booked alternate variety tastings in their stunning restaurant downstairs.

638 De Beyers Rd, Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley Winery Map

Open daily 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Tulloch Wines website

FIRST CREEK WINES

This cellar door is a hive of activity as one of the largest winemaking and bottling providers in the region. Many wineries and vineyards trust their precious drops to First Creek’s Chief Winemaker Liz Silkman, the Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year in 2011 and 2016. With this unrivalled access to the region's best vineyards, it's little wonder First Creek have amassed an impressive 14 Trophies and 29 Gold medals since 2015.

600 McDonalds Rd Pokolbin - view on our Hunter Valley Winery Map

Open Daily Mon-Sat 9:30 am to 5 pm Sun 9:30 am to 4 pm

Visit the First Creek website

 

EXPLORE MOUNT VIEW

Rediscover the iconic wineries in the hills between Mount View and McDonald’s Road.

DRAYTON’S FAMILY WINES

This iconic cellar door, rebuilt recently after the tragic 2008 winery accident, has a long history stretching back to Joseph Drayton, who arrived in the Hunter in 1853. With a great range of traditional styles through to their renowned range of fortified and stickies, Drayton’s is well worth a visit.

555 Oakey Creek Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320 - view on our Hunter Valley Winery map

Open Daily Mon-Fri 8 am to 5 pm, Sat-Sun 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Drayton’s Family Wines Website

MT PLEASANT WINES

Mt Pleasant is an iconic, family-run Hunter Valley winery with a long and superb history of producing fine wine. The future is bright too, with Jim Chatto at the helm of their winemaking efforts, producing a growing range of alternate and innovative wines.

401 Marrowbone Road Pokolbin – view on our Hunter Valley Winery map

Open Daily 10am - 4pm

Visit the Mount Pleasant website

PETERSONS WINES

Situated on a small hill surrounded by vineyards, the position is perfect, with uninterrupted views of Mount Sugarloaf and the Watagan Mountains. This warm and friendly cellar door is the ideal place to taste their delightful award-winning wines.

552 Mount View Road Mount – view on our Hunter Valley Winery map

Open Mon-Sat 9 am to 5 pm Sunday 10 am to 5 pm

Visit the Petersons Wines website

Hunter Valley Winery Map

Planning a trip to the Hunter Valley? Download our interactive Hunter Valley winery map. To save on your browser or device, click here

For more information on visiting the Hunter Valley, be sure to visit the official Hunter Valley Wine Country website or stop by the Visitors Centre in Lovedale when you're in the area. But, if you’d like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit, explore our wide selection of Hunter Valley wines and find out more about the wineries listed in this guide in our Meet the Makers section.

And, with our Hunter Valley Releases program, you can experience the best the Hunter Valley has to offer from the comfort of home. You’ll discover wines from regional icons such as Tyrrell’s and Tulloch, through to unique drops from the Valley’s leading boutique wineries. Visit our Hunter Valley Releases page to find out more!

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Life
Cellar Doors Italian style
Words by Alessandro Ragazzo on 20 Aug 2015
Like most producers in the world, Italian wineries are constantly looking at making better quality wine. In Italy in recent times, this search has become a study of the ‘fashion of form’ – uncovering the intricate concept of structure of wine to help conceive that perfect drop. This thinking has also extended to ‘Turismo Enogastronomico’ (food and wine tourism) with spectacular results. Old estates have been transformed by a collection of famous Italian architects, so that the cellar door and winery has become as much the centre of attraction as the wine. It is a union between tradition and modernity, a road map that directs guests and the curious to an unexpected and beguiling journey. These new concept wineries have been designed by architects and engineers in conjunction with Italy’s most famous contemporary sculptors, and using biodynamic principles so their designs are at one with their environment. Gone are the boring rusty tinned walls of decaying estates, ushering in is a new era of engineering that utilises the natural shape of the landscape as the centre of attraction. Buildings don’t just go up, they also flow out, around and even down inside the earth. Natural inspirations The choice of materials, most of the made from recycled or sustainable products, and the sensitivity for the surroundings have been critical elements in this architectural revolution. The most precious inspiration for Arnaldo Pomodoro, one of Italy’s greatest contemporary sculptors and designers, was a turtle, a symbol of longevity and stability. In this case, the shell of the turtle became the domed copper roof of the Tenuta Coltibuono di Bevagna , a winery in Umbria. Pomodoro had produced many sculptures in his time, but this was the first for the wine industry and the success of the project reverberated on an international scale and set the tone for the design wave to come in the Italian wine industry. Other wineries followed suit, embracing the art of the concept and seeing it as a way to reinvigorate tourism to the wine regions. Designers and architects Paolo Dellapiana and Francesco Bermond des Ambrois collaborated to conceptualise the Cascina Adelaide di Barolo in Cuneo, Piemonte. This amazing structure has been built into the hills, and from a distance it almost disappears into the countryside, perfectly camouflaged with the rest of the habitat – almost like a Hobbit house full of wine, if you will. Structure and form While many of the structures are dazzling from the outside, just as much thought and design has been applied to the internal workings. Everything from barrel halls to crushing rooms have transformed wineries’ inner workings into virtual exhibition halls. The new Antinori Cellar Door in the Chianti Classico area near Florence is a perfect example. Designed by Mario Casamonti it is a truly unique structure. With a surface area of 24,000m2, it took eight years to construct, with an investment of 40 million Euro. The structure is developed horizontally rather than vertically, with the winery hidden in the earth. The production facilities and storage are spread across three stunning levels. And the interior design is simply breathtaking with terracotta vaults to ensure perfect temperature and humidity levels.   The new world order Where Italy once had wineries they now have monuments. And while there are still plenty of the old style ‘casale’ with moulded walls and giant dirty barrels, the way forward is for large, clean, bright and spacious structures with areas dedicated to each individual phase of wine production.   This concept of wine and design seems to be resonating around the globe with architects working on amazing structures   from California to Chile, from Spain to France, from Alto Adige to Sicily, and even right here in Australia – think Chester Osborn’s big Rubik’s Cube plans for d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale. The future is now and it is an exciting time for those who appreciate design in architecture and in their wine glass.
Wine
All Pizzazz - South Australian Shiraz
Words by Nick Ryan on 18 Aug 2015
It's a good and appropriate time to undertake a tasting of good ol’ South Australian Shiraz. While Pinot Noir is strapped tight to the rocket of rapidly ascending popularity and wine lists across Australia overflow with so-called ‘alternative’ varieties, the fact remains more bottles of Shiraz are consumed across the country than any other red variety and of those bottles the majority trace their origins to South Australian dirt. A good reason for the variety’s ubiquity is its ability to grow well in just about every wine region in the country and to present a different angle on its varietal character in each of those places. It really is our national barometer of terroir, the control that gives our experiments in regionality their context. When it gives us medium-bodied savouriness we’re in the Hunter, when it’s exuberantly spiced we’re in Canberra or central Victoria. When it’s all that and more we’re in South Australia. The results of a large tasting of South Australian Shiraz throwing up 30-odd top pointed wines offers a great opportunity to assess where the variety is at – they don’t call them State of Play tastings for nothing – and the results have presented some juicy food for thought. Some key observations follow. The Barossa is still king If we include the higher, cooler and bonier vineyards of the Eden Valley along with those down on the Valley floor, then the Barossa has produced almost half of the top pointed wines in the tasting. That shouldn’t really surprise us, after all the Barossa has always been South Australia’s Shiraz heartland. But what’s really exciting is the diversity of styles across the wines that performed well. “Ten years ago you could be forgiven for thinking Barossa Shiraz was pretty much all the same,” says senior Red Winemaker at Yalumba, Kevin Glastonbury. “A lot of the Barossa’s best wines were blended from across the region and made to a certain style, but now there’s a much greater focus on capturing what’s special about great single vineyards.” That’s got to be a good thing considering the Barossa has some of the greatest viticultural resources on the planet, including some wizened, deep-rooted old vineyards that date back to the early days of the South Australian colony. Zooming in closer on the Barossa’s viticultural map has also given a deeper understanding of sub-regionality across the Barossa. Glastonbury is well placed to comment on this development, having had a significant hand in two high-pointed wines in the tasting, each one representing a different approach to Barossa Shiraz Yalumba’s 2010 Paradox Shiraz is an outstanding example of this new way of thinking about Barossa Shiraz. Its vineyard sourcing is drawn from a narrow band across the northern Barossa, primarily around Kalimna, Ebenezer and up towards Moppa Springs, and the winemaking is carefully controlled to express the character of this corner of the region. “We want something that’s really savoury and supple rather than hefty and sweet fruited,” he explains. “We also back right off on the new oak and use old French puncheons.” Glastonbury is also a big fan of the distinctly different fruit that comes of vineyards up in the Eden Valley. “The nature of the place allows us to apply a few winemaking techniques that work well with that finer fruit. We’ve started to do things like a bit of whole bunch fermentation in some Octavius parcels and it really adds an extra dimension to the style.” The Barossa is clearly in a golden age South Australian Shiraz is becoming cool and getting high. Anyone labouring under the out-dated impression that South Australian Shiraz is all big flesh and brute power should look to the impressive number of top pointed wines in the tasting coming from the Limestone Coast and Adelaide Hills. Wines from Zema, Wynns and Brands help us realise there’s more to Coonawarra than just Cabernet Sauvignon and remind us that the famous terra rossa soils can produce outstanding, fine framed and elegant Shiraz. It’s particularly exciting to see a wine from Wrattonbully – Coonawarra’s near neighbour to the north – a region that really has the capacity to produce a fragrantly spicy Shiraz style. If this tasting took place a decade ago, we’d be surprised to see a single entrant from the cool, elevated vineyards of the Adelaide Hills, but in 2015 we have five breaking into the Top 30. Where many saw Pinot Noir as the future star when vineyards began to take root in the Adelaide Hills, it’s been Shiraz that has performed best. The Hills offers a huge diversity of sites for growing Shiraz and canny winemakers have harnessed this diversity to produce some of the most impressive cool climate Shiraz in the country.  Clare is the real dark horse One of the really significant elements of this tasting has been the strong performance of the Clare Valley. Clare attracts most attention for its Riesling, and while Shiraz lovers might look closer to Adelaide for their red wine thrills, it’s clear that the distinctive, consistent and exceedingly delicious Clare Shiraz style is something very special. Andrew Mitchell has been making Shiraz in Clare for four decades and his Mitchell Wines ‘McNicol’ Shiraz 2005 was the highest pointed wine of the tasting. “When we first started this place most people in Clare used Shiraz for making port,” he says. “ Even when table wines started taking off in the 70s, the market really wanted Cabernet, but I’ve always known Clare Shiraz was something pretty special. “Clare Shiraz can give you power, intensity, depth and length, but does it all with great balance and a kind of elegance that I think defines the regional style. “And it ages really well too. That’s why we release the McNicol with bottle age. I want people to experience just how beautiful these wines can be when mature.” There is such a wide range of Shiraz styles scattered throughout the top wines in this tasting that we can safely say there’s a South Australian Shiraz to suit just about any palate. The key word in discussing these results is ‘diversity’. The one obvious conclusion to be drawn from these results is that to talk of South Australian Shiraz as one homogenous thing is unjust. There is such a wide range of Shiraz styles scattered throughout the top wines in this tasting that we can safely say there’s a South Australian Shiraz to suit just about any palate. Click here see the Wine Selectors range of Shiraz
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Coonawarra - the Cult of Consistency
Words by Nick Ryan on 29 Sep 2017
While other Australian regions may have caught up to Coonawarra in the red wine stakes, the commitment of this region’s passionate locals will see it shine well into the future. Coonawarra is an enigma wrapped in a red dirt riddle. We all think we know Coonawarra because it seems like it’s always been there. When you set out on the journey to discover Australian wine, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the first checkpoints you reach, a foundation stone for building an understanding of what this country can do with its vineyards. But does familiarity breed contempt? And where do the classics sit when the market seems obsessed with the cool cutting edge? Is it enough to continually do a few things well when the consumer has the all the loyalty of a stray cat and the attention span of a goldfish? Is Coonawarra’s glorious past impeding the region’s push into a bright future? A famously close-knit community
Coonawarra is a place where many of the names on the bottles have been there for generations. While its biggest players are corporate, Wynns most notably, the majority of producers are family owned, including names like Balnaves and Bowen Estate. Vineyards are tightly held and rarely change hands and its comparatively small size – just 5,500 ha – ensures the region’s prized fruit is all taken up by those domiciled there and virtually nothing is available for winemakers from other regions to have a crack at making Coonawarra wine seen through outsider eyes. There are obviously benefits in a strong sense of community. “There’s certainly a combined sense of purpose,” says Peter Bissell from Balnaves, a transplanted Kiwi and relative newcomer, having arrived in Coonawarra in 1989. “There’s also a long collective memory of winemaking traditions going back to the 1950s and beyond, that gives us as winemakers a real sense of carrying on something important.” Dan Redman is as Coonawarra as they come, having joined the family business exactly a hundred years after his great-grandfather made his first wine from grapes grown in the famed terra rossa soil. It’s been his nursery, his playground, his backyard, his home. “To me, this community is a source of great friendships and some pretty good times with people I’ve known all my life,” he says. “One of the real strengths of this place is the shared common goal we all have to promote Coonawarra. There’s a united front when any of us talk about the region.” But Redman is not totally blinkered. “It’s probably fair to say that some of the ideas and thinking from the wider wine world might take a bit longer to get here than some other places,” he admits.
That’s pretty understandable in a way. You can’t talk about Coonawarra without considering its physical isolation. It’s halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne, but not on the direct route to either. New blood flows through Coonawarra the way it does through a statue. Kate Goodman is uniquely placed to comment on the region’s uniquely singular focus. She makes wine under her own label in the Yarra Valley and was appointed consultant winemaker at Coonawarra’s Penley Estate a couple of years ago. “The Yarra is vast with a huge diversity of sites, while  Coonawarra is a small area with a tight focus on carefully defined vineyards,” she says. “I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m just saying the diversity of the Yarra’s landscape lends itself more easily to a diversity of winemaking approaches.” Goodman relishes the opportunities Coonawarra presents, and has quickly learned what makes the place special. “Dear God, the fruit this place can produce is just bloody sensational,” she says. Evolution, not Revolution
​ It would be wrong to see Coonawarra as a wine region trapped in amber. There has been significant change over the last decade, but those changes have been subtle and have taken place within the well-established framework of the classic Coonawarra style. Most notable of these has been the widespread reworking of the region’s vineyards, a sustained exploration of how best to manage its most valuable assets with fruit quality the singular aim. This focus certainly underpins winemaker John Innes’ philosophy and, he says, he spends time in his vineyard, “continually tasting the fruit for optimal flavour and textural ripeness.” The minimal pruning regimes that dominated the region in the 1980s have given way to practices more conducive to vine health and various flirtations with both over and under ripeness have given way to a more comfortable middle ground. A wider clonal mix is now present in the region’s vineyards, offering new angles from which to view the Coonawarra Cabernet picture we think we know so well. Coonawarra has so far been immune from invasion by hipsters who harvest while howling at the moon, so remains untouched by the outer extremes of winemaking methodology, but that doesn’t mean the place is all ‘set and forget’ when it comes to winemaking approach. But it’s all about refinement rather than re-invention. Concrete fermenters are back in vogue, larger format oak and softer fruit handling are helping shape red wines that are more medium-bodied and supple, yet still retain the region’s famed capacity for ageing. Nick Zema explains it best. “We’re always looking to improve, but we never forget what this place has always done best,” he says. “You can go chasing market trends and change up everything you do, but by the time those changes come through to the wine in the bottle, the market’s moved on and you’re just chasing your tail. When you’ve got something that’s considered a classic, you just keep polishing it.” Looking into the future
So where does the famed terra rossa fit in the Australian landscape? The status Coonawarra once had as arguably Australia’s finest red wine region has slipped – more through the competition catching up than Coonawarra going backwards – but the core of what has made this place great remains and, if anything, the future looks brighter now than it has for a long time. Coonawarra’s biggest challenge is making the market fall in love with Cabernet again, and with the ongoing refinement of the style – small, considered steps rather than radical reinvention – the region’s winemakers are set to take that challenge on. Once that’s been done, the story of the region’s outstanding Shiraz, hugely underrated Chardonnay, and affinity with other members of the Bordeaux brotherhood like Cabernet Franc can be told, too. It will always be a place of traditions and tightly woven community ties and may that always be the case. In a world that flutters on the fickle winds of fashion, some certainty, classicism and Cabernet Sauvignon can prove to be welcome respite.
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