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Aussie Red Wine - Coonawarra

Updated on August 5, 2012

Yesterday was a very cold day in Adelaide and I had spent some of the afternoon in town with my kids buying my wife a birthday present.

When we got home I got a fire going, turned on the TV to watch the end of the Footy and started thinking about what we should eat for dinner. Saturday nights in our family is take away or restaurant night, but with the weather so cold if was definately going to be take away. We decided on Italian, so it was my job to venture to the cellar to select a bottle of wine.

At Xmas I was given a box of wines from the Koonara Winery from the Coonawarra district in South Australia. My eye fell on the 2003 Ambriel's Gift Cabernet Sauvignon. I thought that this would complement the food perfectly and I'm glad to report that it did.

Coonawarra Region

Coonawarra, South Australia

The Coonawarra is about 250kms South East of Adelaide or about a 3 hour drive. This puts this region as the longest away from Adelaide, but still worth the trip. Other wineries in and around Adelaide are faster to gain access to – within 30 mins to 1.5 hours including:

  • Adelaide Hills (30 mins) – known for their Sav Blancs and Pinots
  • Barossa (45 mins) – world famous Shiraz wine including the Penfolds Grange and Henske Hill of Grace
  • McLaren Vale (1 hour) – renown for their Cabernet Sauvignon grapes
  • Clare Valley (90 mins) – world famous Riesling growing area

The Coonawarra is known for several grape varieties including:

  • Chardonnay: Chardonnay is the "bridesmaid" in Coonawarra, with much of the tonnage being directed to sparkling wine.
  • Riesling: The quality of Riesling in Coonawarra has never been seriously in dispute. However, it has been so completely overshadowed by the reputation of the red wines.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Whatever yardstick one adopts, Coonawarra produces much of Australia's great Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit flavours are very concentrated and luscious, covering a broad spectrum from black currant to plum to red cherry to prunes. Notwithstanding the impact of oak tannins, the wines are seldom astringent or tannic. Indeed, Coonawarra winemakers invest much effort in extracting every last grain of available tannin.
  • Shiraz: Shiraz was virtually the only wine grape grown in Coonawarra between 1900 and 1950

The area was founded in 1890, but really took off in the 1950’s when Samuel Wynn (of Wynn Estate) recognised the quality of the soil and started to promote the region with award winning wines.

The reason the area is so good for wine making is because of the soil and the climate. The region is only 60 kilometres (37 miles) inland as can be seen from the map and a predominantly maritime climate prevails, with the dry and moderately cool summers ripening most grape varieties to perfection. The soil is terra rossa, Australia's most famous soil, although it is not unique to the region (many parts of the Limestone Coast Zone have similar soils, hence its name), nor is it of volcanic origin, as some believe. Vivid red in colour, it is either friable subplastic clay or a shallow friable loam derived from and lying on top of a bed of soft limestone.

The Owners of Koonara

Koonara Winery

The name Koonara comes from the name of the property.

1906, Henry Albert and Alice Jane Reschke came to Coonawarra to build a life for their family. Nearly 100 years on, the family still live in Coonawarra. The Cattle stud on the property is still here, but the vineyards and wine have been the focused passion since 1988.

Every year since 1991, 30 Cases of Koonara has been made for family and friends. Finally in 1999, theydecided to make their wine available for the public, so they made a very limited number of cases, held back to give the wines a chance to mature in the bottle.

The vineyards are naturally kept at an average of 2 tonnes or less an acre (no bunch selection or thinning). They believe that quality is paramount in creating a wine which is not only good, but consistent and ageworthy each year.

The focus is on producing a vineyard that is low yielding, with intense, small berries, to create the highest quality wine possible.

Koonara Ambriel’s Gift 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon

Well, what a treat this wine is! At 2003 it is perfect for drinking right now, 9 years after bottling. The wine originally sat for 18 months in French barrels before being bottle aged for 12 months before being sold. This allows the wine to develop complex characters such as rich mulberry, blackcurrent and chocolate. When we were drinking this wine we finished the meal off with some chocolate and this complemented the wine very well.

The blend is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. I think that the Merlot just smooths off the finish and is a welcome addition to this wine. The other great thing about the taste is that it is smooth with a slight sourness that adds to the overall experience.

When released this wine collected a host of trophies including:

  • Silver (Melbourne Royal Show)
  • Bronze (Limestone Coast Show x 3, Melbourne Royal Show & National Cool Climate Show)

The other interesting aspect of the wine is it’s name: Ambriel’s Gift. The reason is that when wine is stored in oak barrels a percentage of that wine evaporates and winemakers call this the angel’s share. What is left is their gift to us! Ambriel is the angel of communication and general protection that guides people to truth and clarity.

So I can recommend the gift of Ambriel to you as well! Cheers and Enjoy!! Michael Kromwyk


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    • charmike4 profile image

      Michael Kromwyk 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      Thanks rjsadowski for your comment. Adelaide has styles of wine, maybe I'll write a hub in the future about this and highlight some of the world labels as well as the boutique wines that you might be able to source in your part of the world. Cheers Michael

    • charmike4 profile image

      Michael Kromwyk 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      Thanks FalconSays for reading. I think that I am blessed to be living in the best wine growing region in Australia with access to lots of different varieties of reds. I'll create some hubs in the future exploring each of the regions. Cheers Michael

    • rjsadowski profile image

      rjsadowski 5 years ago

      Great hub. I love learning abou wine from all over the world.

    • FalconSays profile image

      Karen S Falcon 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      LOVE this post and LOVE red wine! ;-) Great hub