Grapes Shape Fresh Tactic
The Cowra wine region covers about 1250sqkm in the Lachlan River Valley at the southern end of the Central Ranges zone in NSW. Unsurprisingly, the district is amongst the lowest altitude and warmest parts of the Central Ranges region.
And while the oenological offerings of the area have risen to prominence in recent decades only, historians tell us that early records show viticulture in the region as early as 1865.
In the early 1970s, commercial wine production really took off in the region and it was chardonnay that put Cowra on the national viticultural map.
Through the 1980s, some well-known chardonnays were produced from fruit grown in the region; such as those made by Brian Crosier of Petaluma. But in recent times, it has been organic, biodynamic and minimal intervention wine-making that has made the region the envy of its peers.
In 2007, the region developed the Wine Sustainable Wine Partnership, with its mission simply “to produce wine of regional character with the least environmental impact of any region in Australia”.
Such is the region’s commitment to sustainability and biodynamics, more than half the wine-producing members of the partnership are certified as both organic and biodynamic.
And perhaps the leader in this drive for sustainability and minimal intervention is the O’Dea family, who own Windowrie Estate.
It’s a family-owned and operated venture that has grown from its original 24ha to having the largest wine production facility in the district. While their chardonnay is the stalwart of the stable, these days, varietals such as verdelho, cabernet, shiraz, merlot, petite verdot, cabernet franc and tempranillo are expected to be the future superstars of the side.
And having the ability to process their own fruit locally within 15 minutes of harvesting the grapes gives them an obvious, if not significant advantage.
The viticulturalists at Windowrie are committed to minimal intervention and use no insecticides whatsoever in the vineyard.
They say that the combination of the natural soil, climate, topography and water and careful management practices allow the growth of clean, fresh, full-flavoured grapes.
And having recently tried their Family Reserve Shiraz (2016) and cabernet sauvignon (2015), I can attest to the fact that their statements about fresh and full- flavoured grapes are undeniably true.
Despite the trend towards making reserve wines at the pricey end of the spectrum, the Family Reserve Windowrie reds are not aimed at the super premium end of the market, but rather in the comfortable middle where quality is high but the price point not out of reach.
With a price of about $35, both the shiraz and cabernet offer excellent value and a guaranteed palate-pleasing experience.
Cabernet sauvignon is not a grape which has been widely planted in the Cowra region but the Windowrie is sure to be a winner.
A very bright crimson colour of the wine in the glass telegraphs the freshness and intensity of the fruit to follow. It came from a vintage that had low yields due to frosts, but the intensity of the fruit once on the palate is undeniable.
It’s herbaceous, layered with currents, raspberry notes and a clove-like edge, but it’s the influence of French oak that delivers the wow factor on the conclusion.
On the other hand, the Family Reserve Shiraz has enjoyed its share of the headlines after winning a gold medal at the Royal Sydney Wine Show, and recently going on to win the Winewise Championship.
Ironically, despite the perfumed nose, plum and black cherried characters through the middle and its sweet ripe fruit, I prefer the cabernet. It just goes to show that what impresses the judges doesn’t always resonate with every palate.
Cowra may once have been synonymous with Chardonnay, but with these new-found biodynamic and organic practices in play, the star of their red varietals is seemingly on the rise.