Gourmet Fare

A Gourmet Gazette Fine Wine Find: The Cabernets of Coonawarra

Winemaker Sue Hodder at the Wynns Coonawarra Estate with bottles of the sublime John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Photo courtesy Wynns Coonawarra Estate. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

Iron oxide colors the loamy and vivid red soils in the Coonawarra wine region of southern Australia. Here some of the world’s finest Cabernet Sauvignons  are produced in this swathe of land known as Terra Rossa (red earth). This cigar-shaped outcrop some 17 miles long (27km) and just 1.2 miles wide (2 km) is the most sought after vineyard soil in Australia. It is here that one finds the Wynns Coonawarra Wine Estate. It is here on this Terra-Rossa that all of the Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignons are produced in this unique soil on this unique island-continent that is Australia. Today the John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon is Wynn’s flagship wine and is produced only in years when grapes of extraordinarily high quality are available. 

These are rich red wines, aged in French oak barrels offering an intense dark color. The Gourmet Gazette enjoyed a tasting of John Riddoch wines of the Wynns estate at a tasting at the Bistrot du Sommelier in Paris where the most astounding feature was that every single Cabernet Sauvignon was unique with the growing conditions of the vintage making all of the difference. The estate was launching its John Riddoch 2019 which made its way effortlessly to the Bordeaux wine market for the growing conditions were ideal: good winter rainfall followed by a cool dry spring. Coonawarra sits by the cold southern Ocean. 

The vineyards at the Wynns Coonawarra Estate. Photo courtesy Wynns Coonawarra Estate. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

The wine was bristling with flavor akin to rich red and black forest berries one might find in a dream. Medium bodied it was perfectly paired at the Bistrot du Sommelier in Paris with sumptuous Provencal lamb chops from chef Guillaume Saluel, with the herbs offering a perfect counterpoint to the  fruits of the wine. Another great find was the spicy John Riddoch 1998. Wynn winemaker Sarah Pidgeon who was on hand guided us through the tasting, essential for explaining the ins and outs of this wine-growing region that is so far away and so unique. She had a nice surprise in store for us as well, the house’s very first Chardonnay, the Chardonnay 2021, a text-book Chardonnay perfectly paired with European pollock delightfully done with olives, an onion tart and eggplant.   

Wynns Coonawarra Estate was founded by Scottish pioneer John Riddoch, who planted the vineyards in 1891 recognizing the potential of the rich, red Terra Rossa top soil and the long ripening season of Coonawarra’s cool southerly climate. Coonawarra’s revival began in 1951 when Melbourne wine merchants Samuel and David Wynn purchased Riddoch’s original vineyards and winery. Today, Wynns Coonawarra Estate is the region’s largest single vineyard holder on Terra Rossa soil and Coonawarra’s pre-eminent winemaker. Together Wynns wine makers Sue Hodder, Sarah Pidgeon and Chris Plummer along with viticulturist Ben Harris continue to develop and curate the estate’s annual collection of highly acclaimed wines. The Bistrot du Sommelier is owned and managed by Philippe Faure-Brac, a Finest Sommelier of France and the establishment is known for its food and wine parings. ©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette. https://coonawarra.org/

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