All the colours of the rainbow: Cobaw Ridge Lagrein, an Aussie first!
Lagrein is native to Northern Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol region so it thrives in cooler climes. No surprises then that Cobaw Ridge, who produced Australia’s first commercial release of Lagrein in 1997, is located in the Macedon Ranges, Victoria. It’s serious cool climate territory which owner/winemaker Alan Cooper put in perfect context for me when he explained:
“we pick the Lagrein and Syrah at the end of April and into early May (early days it did go into the end of May !! ) Heathcote , 25 minutes drive to the north would be picking Shiraz around 6 / 8 weeks earlier and at 2 extra Baume. Even the “cool” Yarra Valley is around 5 weeks earlier.”
That said, he says working organically and, perhaps, global warming has resulted in progressively earlier harvest dates. He says “2005 was for us “normal ” and 2006 warmer overall, 2007 the first ever frost effected tiny crop but still warmer, 2008 slightly warmer again…As things generally change and continue to warm we really are sitting in the box seat !!”
The estate’s Syrah vines are now 25 years old and the original Lagrein plantings 17 years old. The vineyard has been fully organic since the winter of 2005 and Cooper has been using biodynamic preparations for just over a year. As for winemaking, Cooper is leaving the red wines (he also makes a Chardonnay) in oak longer (the 2008 was in oak for just under 2 years) because he says “it really has given all the red wines just that more gloss.” But the overall trend is very much towards paring back on the winemaking. In 2010, he’s only adding sulphur and says “the vintage chemical bill was nice to see!! All a bit of a leap for me ,but every thing is looking fantastic in oak so far …”
Cobaw Ridge Lagrein 2005 (Macedon Ranges) – a deep glossy aubergine hue, with an attractive sappy, spicy nose of dark chocolate, black and red cherries and eucalypt. Tight acidity on the attack with plenty of sour cherry, fleshy damson and kahlua to the dry (as in unfruity, not dry tannins) finish which sports chocolatey tannins. My first single varietal Australian Lagrein and it shows great varietal character with an Aussie twist – eucalypt instead of the raddichio I’ve found in Northern Italy’s Sudtirol Lagrein. Like its Italian counterpart, it’s very much a food wine too.
Cobaw Ridge Lagrein 2006 (Macedon Ranges) – deep aubergine with a little more ruby to the rim and sweeter vanilla oak notes to its mocha-edged red berry (raspberry) and cherry fruit on the nose and palate. Really quite different though, once again, it’s distinctly dry in flavour profile. Here the tannins are sinewy and a little vegetal – tea or tobbacco-leaf-like – on the finish, which also shows dark liquorice. Again, a wine to have with food.
Cobaw Ridge Lagrein 2007 (Macedon Ranges) – inky with a sweet sappy black-fruited nose and eucalypt and violet top notes which follow through on the juicy palate. Those dark, chocolaty tannins close down the finish which shows tobacco-leaf, but not abruptly, so there’s nice balance, line and length with linger morello cherry and chocolate. An intense, vital wine. Very good.
Cobaw Ridge Lagrein 2008 (Macedon Ranges) – dark chocolate violets with toast, more strident, mouthcoating tannins on this youthful wine but no shortage of concentrated, chocolatey red fruits with a distinct edge of chicory. Again, really good balance – just needs time – say 2 years to hit its stride. Very good.
Both Shiraz vintages were co-fermented with 3-4 % Viognier. Though my tasting notes don’t suggest it, 2006 was the warmer vintage.
Cobaw Ridge Shiraz 2006 Syrah (Macedon Ranges) – bright ruby with a white peppery lifted nose with spicy, fresh liquorice-edged red berry and cherry fruits beneath. In the mouth, a silky mid-palate is very cherry, red cherry, with anchoring with white and meatier black pepper grunt to the finish; violets make for a delicate counterpoint. Lovely intensity, balance, mouthfeel and length. Very good.
Cobaw Ridge Shiraz Viognier 2005 (Macedon Ranges) – older but a deeper colour and shows more black than white pepper on the nose. In the mouth, the fruit is less red than black and seems riper/sweeter. Still, I’m being super picky because I liked the 2006 so much! The 2005 does have nice lift and elegance, with that peppery (black pepper) finish, here spicier, szechuan style.