Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet, 2008

Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet may be the last of the inexpensive yet sturdy and ageworthy Aussie reds. Big conglomerates have been buying up smaller Australian wineries for many years; yet Penfolds has resisted efforts to commercialize and internationalize at least some of its traditional labels. You'll see the Koonunga Hill name on Cabernet, Shiraz and Chardonnay, but the original (Koonunga Hill Claret) was a Shiraz Cabernet, introduced in 1976. We spent 1976-77 in Australia, and Koonunga Hill Claret, selling for $1.79 a bottle or less, was one of our every day favorites. The Koonunga Hill vineyard was a fine one, but the high-volume wines bearing that name today are "named after" the vineyard and the sturdy type of wine it produced. This 2008 Shiraz Cabernet comes from vineyards in Padthaway, Barossa, Wrattonbully, Langhorne Creek, McLaren Valey and Coonawarra--all excellent appellations for Shiraz and Cabernet. The price suggests, of course, that few, if any, of the grapes were the pick of the lot.

The Shiraz Cab blend produces unique aromas and flavors, different from those of either grape. I smell black plums, berries and other dark fruits along with brown spices and maybe a hint of dark chocolate. Small parcels of this wine were matured in small oak barriques with the rest in stainless steel. The result is a wine focused on fruit rather than oak but with firm tannins. It's ripe enough to enjoy now, but it should age nicely until 2016, according to the winemaker. From my experience, the bouquet and flavors of a Shiraz Cab are at their best with that kind of medium term aging.

The Koonunga Hill line is selling for about $8 to $9 a bottle right now, marked down from the usual price of $10 to $12. Whether you're interested in cellaring wines or not, it's a good buy.

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