Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon is a true icon of Australian wine. First produced in 1954, it was the first commercially labelled cabernet sauvignon in Australia. It has a reputation for ageing gracefully and displaying excellent varietal and regional characteristics and is one of Australia's most collected and cellared cabernets. The release of the 2015 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon in 2017 celebrated the 60th vintage of this historic label. The quality of Wynns Black Label rests on the company's vineyard holdings in Coonawarra. 450 hectares are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and the Black Label is drawn primarily from 240 hectares of vines over 35 years of age.
"The wine has never looked better from this exceptional Coonawarra vintage. It’s classic Coonawarra, medium bodied with delightful regional and varietal characters. Leafy and slightly chalky tannin overlay to the vibrant blackcurrant fruit characters. The tannins are super fine and the oak so well played. Perfumed and alive, this is a wine for extended cellaring if you wish." Ray Jordan
"Deep crimson. Beautiful cigar box, blackcurrant aromas with underlying roasted chestnut notes. Classically structured with plentiful cassis, black cherry, cedar flavours, fine grained savoury tannins, attractive quartz-like acidity and well-integrated roasted chestnut/ vanilla oak. Finishes chalky firm and minerally. Archetypal Coonawarra Claret with superb vibrancy, and cabernet bloodlines. Deserves a year or more cellaring time to allow all the elements to unfold. 13.4% alc Drink 2024 – 2038." Andrew Caillard MW – 97 points
"One of Australia’s favourite wines and deservedly so, especially in such a fine vintage. Cracking value, whether in comparison to other top Aussie reds, other fine Coonawarra Cabs, or even in comparison with others in the Wynns range. We first saw this wine from the 1954 vintage. The latest comes from a selection of 25 of their top vineyards. Opaque maroon in colour, this is a classic Coonawarra Cab. Still youthful, it is tight, taut and with coiled power, just waiting for the release by time. Cassis, blackcurrants, chocolate, coffee beans, tobacco leaves and mint all shine with early complexity already evident. The palate is more plums and chocolate, especially cocoa powder notes, with quality oak integration. Showing very fine silky tannins, the wine is also well balanced with serious length. A hint of cinnamon from the flick of oak on the finish too. Well structured, this will sail through fifteen to twenty years in good cellars. A great Coonawarra Cabernet and surely one of the finest of this line, ever released. Drink: 2023-2043." Ken Gargett, Wine Pilot - 96 points
"Such fine-grained tannin, such even-handed fruit, such a lengthy finish. This is a beautiful Black Label cabernet, elegantly medium-bodied, blessed with blackcurrant, forest berry, cool mint and cedar characters, and tempered by tobacco-like leaf notes. This will be a gorgeous drink with a few extra years on it. Drink to: 2046." Campbell Mattinson, Halliday Wine Companion - 96 points and Special Value Wine ★
"This is the 66th vintage of this Australian classic. The first of these was made in 1954 and I am honoured to say that I have been fortunate to have tasted every one of these vintages through various verticals to celebrate milestones. The wine has never looked better from this exceptional Coonawarra vintage. It’s classic Coonawarra, medium bodied with delightful regional and varietal characters. Leafy and slightly chalky tannin overlay to the vibrant blackcurrant fruit characters. The tannins are super fine and the oak so well played. Perfumed and alive, this is a wine for extended cellaring if you wish. Drink: 2023-2053." Ray Jordan, Wine Pilot – 96 points
"A wine dear to the Australian heart. Mid-weighted and taut. Astringent and savory. Currant, menthol, black olive and bay leaf. The oak, well appointed. The tannins, inky graphite and streamlined. The feel, one of poise, grace and trustworthiness, despite the strong sense that it really needs a few years to reveal its marrow. A wine that will grace many a cellar on domestic shores, just as it will be consumed en masse; albeit, somewhat prematurely. A very good wine, belying its relatively modest price tag. Drinkable now, but best from 2026." Ned Goodwin MW, JamesSuckling.com - 93 points
"Deep, dark, brooding red with a tint of purple, a fraction more evolved than the V&A Lane Cabernet Shiraz, but still a very good colour. Aromas of cassis, tobacco leaf and mulberry, the fruit leading and the oak coming in behind, nicely balanced. The wine is elegant and intense, with some attractive savoury elements vying with the fresher fruit flavours, the finish lip-smacking dry with savoury tannins and well-judged grip. Long and harmonious carry. Drink: 2023 to 2041." Huon Hooke, The Real Review - 92 points
Special Value Wine - Halliday Wine Companion ★
The black label
Wynns Coonawarra Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon is a true icon of Australian wine. First produced in 1954, it is one of Australia's most collected and cellared cabernets. The release of the 2015 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon in 2017 celebrated the 60th vintage of this historic label.
Wynns Black Label Cabernet has been in top form since about 2006 due primarily to the hard work put in by Chief winemaker Sue Hodder and her team. Viticulturist Alan Jenkins has worked with Sue for about 3 decades, and winemaker Sarah Pidgeon joined them 23 years ago. Sue says the Black label Cabernet is still the most important wine they make in Coonawarra, even though her team has created a number of much more expensive labels.
Over the last 20 years the team have overseen a program of revitalizing and replacing the old vines damaged by excessive machine pruning - around 25% of the vineyards have been replanted, and in some cases, vines were chainsawed down to their trunks to stimulate growth. Wynns have also purchased the best winemaking equipment available, including an optical grape sorter that had "shocking" results, according to Hodder. "The main result is brighter fruit," she says.
These improvements, together with a move to open fermentors in the winery and 100% French oak, have resulted in a more elegant and consistent style. Recent Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon vintages display precise Cabernet expression, bright lifted fruit, seamless oak integration and are elegant medium-bodied wines with great line and length and fine tannins on the finish.
The following article by Huon Hooke in The Real Review discusses the modern style of Wynns Coonawarra Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon with Chief winemaker Sue Hodder:
Chief winemaker Sue Hodder shared some insights into the modern style of Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 'black label' during the recent 60 vintages tasting. It's my belief that this wine is better than ever these days, or at least more consistently excellent. This is due to improvements in the vineyard and winemaking as well as better understanding of the region's natural style.
"When I came to Wynns there was not quite pressure, but an expectation that we should try to make big wines,” Sue said.
In the 1990s and early noughties, medium-bodied red wines were not as well accepted as they are today, and even in regions that naturally make medium-bodied wines, winemakers were trying to make them as full-bodied as possible. This sometimes involved adding tannin and using too much oak, as well as picking riper grapes with the corollary that acid additions were necessary.
"One thing I have learnt is to have confidence in making medium-bodied wines, which are what the region naturally produces. Earlier picking is part of that, and consequently less acid addition, but also viticultural changes have meant the vines are in better balance and are taking up less potassium, which means we have lower pHs.”
Alcohols these days are a fraction lower than in the '90s and early noughties, if not as low as the 1950s and ‘60s when the alcohols were mostly well under 13%. By contrast, the wines of the early noughties were 13.5 to 14%. Today's wines do however show typical characteristics of modern Australian reds: juicy, ripe and fresh, with lots of clean, ripe primary fruit – never overripe nor underripe.
In the cellar, a variety of fermenter types are used, and barrels are sourced from various coopers, but there has been a trend towards larger formats, with some puncheons and hogsheads as well as barriques. The move towards all French oak happened progressively during the Hodder era.
The biggest improvements have been in the vineyard, where viticultural guru Allen Jenkins has been pivotal. He says Wynns has re-planted around 25% of its vineyards in the last 10 years. When he arrived a lot of the trellises were falling down and needed renewing. Much vineyard was renovated to remove the hedge-like mass of wood that had been accumulated during the era of mechanical and minimal pruning. Vineyards were mapped in order to identify areas of low and high vigour, as this has ramifications for uneven yields and ripeness levels.
"It's also meant rejuvenating old vines and establishing new cordons, putting the correct varieties on the appropriate sites, with cabernet on the best cabernet soils, and also using the best clones and matching them with the appropriate rootstocks.”
He has re-planted with material from selected vines on Wynns' own vineyards, as well as new Entav French clones, and heritage clones such as the Reynell selection and the Houghton clone.
With a view to getting the pruning levels right (which has direct implications for crop level the following season), thousands of bud dissections are performed – between 5000 and 10,000 a year – before the pruners are sent in, and this has been going on for nearly 20 years. Bud dissection tells them what the crop-level will be in the coming year so they can prune accordingly. Hence pruning is more precise. To that end, all old vines are pruned manually, while younger vines are pre-pruned by machine and then ‘cleaned up' manually.
Harvesting the best possible fruit at the ideal moment is probably the area where the biggest strides have been made, and also where there's the greatest potential for even more improvement.
Dr Cath Kidman, a viticultural researcher (and daughter of local wine producers Sid and Susie Kidman) is working on primary bud necrosis, which is a serious problem that has only been identified in recent years. This is where the primary bud dies for no apparent reason, then the secondary bud bursts and produces a shoot, leaves and fruit, but the ripening is delayed by up to a fortnight (with 2 degrees Baumé less sugar ripeness), which means it will add green flavours to the wine if harvested at the same time as the ripe bunches.
So, if we think the current Wynns reds are good, it's likely the future will bring even better things. It's a very exciting time. Huon Hooke, The Real Review (Aug 2017)
Sue Hodder is one of Australia's best-known winemakers. Sue grew up in Alice Springs and began her wine career as a viticulturist before moving into winemaking. She joined Wynns in 1993 as a winemaker under the guidance of Peter Douglas before being appointed senior winemaker in 1998.
Sue celebrated her 30th vintage at Wynn's in May 2022 in the same year that the winery celebrated 40 years of the winery's John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon, named after the pioneer who first plated the vineyards back in 1891.
After 30 vintages, Hodder said: "I still have great joy in walking out the back door to our historic triple-gabled winery. While this beautiful building remains largely untouched, we do now use smaller tanks, oak fermenters, different oak barrels, and an optical berry sorter. These winemaking tools just enable us to be more confidently creative. Our winemaking team has had remarkably few changes over the years – we are a family at Wynns, and our house style remains clear.”
Sue Hodder has been the guiding light for Wynns since the nineties, supported by viticultural guru Allen Jenkins and winemaker Sarah Pidgeon. Over the last 20 years the team have overseen a program of revitalizing and replacing the old vines damaged by excessive machine pruning. Since 2002, 300 hectares of vines have been rejuvenated. They have also purchased the best winemaking equipment available, including an optical grape sorter that had "shocking" results, according to Hodder. "The main result is brighter fruit," she says.
In addition, Sue has initiated a move to open fermentors in the winery and 100% French oak, which together with the viticultural improvements, have resulted in more elegant wines with greater fruit purity and very bright, precise fruit flavours and aromas.
Sue and Allen were joint winners of the 2010 Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year Award, among many other accolades Sue has picked up in her esteemed career. In 2021 Sue became a Fellow of the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) for her outstanding and meritorious contribution to Australian wine
What is now Wynns Coonawarra Estate was founded by Scottish pioneer John Riddoch. He planted vineyards in 1891 and built the famous three-gabled winery. By 1897, 89 hectares of vines had been cultivated. After a promising start, the Coonawarra Fruit Colony (as it was called then) failed to prosper due to its distance from major markets and poor economic conditions. John Riddoch died in 1901 at the age of 73.
In 1951, Melbourne wine merchants Samuel Wynn and his son David purchased Riddoch's original vineyards and winery and renamed the property Wynns Coonawarra Estate. The Wynns family recognised the intrinsic qualities of Coonawarra wines – their richness and intensity of fruit character – and set out to build an independent identity in the region. David took over the winery operations in 1953, and commissioned Melbourne artist Richard Beck to produce a woodcut of the winery facade. This illustration has appeared on every Wynns Coonawarra Estate label since, making it one of Australia's most recognised wine symbols.
Michael Shiraz (then called Hermitage) was a one-off from the 1955 vintage. The outstanding quality of the shiraz in one particular 2,300 litre vat was recognised for its quality, and bottled separately as Michael, named after David's first son. The second release of Michael Shiraz followed many years later in 1990.
Wynns increased its holdings in Coonawarra over the next two decades. By 1981, it was the largest grower in the district with 440 hectares under vine. The first wine bearing John Riddoch's name, the Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet, was produced in 1982.
David Wynn sold Wynns in the early seventies to focus on the Mountadam Venture with his son Adam. Over the last 50 years, Wynns has had many owners and in the new millennium, the company ended up in the vast portfolio of Treasury Wine Estates.
Today, Wynns Coonawarra Estate has 500 hectares of vineyards in Coonawarra and is the region's preeminent wine producer and largest single vineyard holder with the best and longest established vineyard sites in Coonawarra. Its wines are regarded as benchmarks for the district, lauded for their consistent quality, and depth of flavour.
South Australian is responsible for more than half the production of all Australian wine. It is home to more than 900 wineries across 18 wine regions. The regions are Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Plains, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Coonawarra, Currency Creek, Eden Valley, Kangaroo Island, Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale, Mount Benson, Mount Gambier, Padthaway, Riverland, Robe, Southern Fleurieu, Southern Flinders Ranges and Wrattonbully.
Many of the well-known names in the South Australian wine industry established their first vineyards in the late 1830s and early 1840s. The first vines in McLaren Vale were planted at Reynella in 1839 and Penfold's established Magill Estate on the outskirts of Adelaide in 1844.
South Australia has a vast diversity in geography and climate which allows the State to be able to produce a range of grape varieties - from cool climate Riesling in the Clare and Eden Vallies to the big, full bodied Shiraz wines of the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Two of Australia's best-known wines, Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace, are produced here. There is much to discover in South Australia for the wine lover.