How long does a Coonawarra Cabernet age?

We often hear that a Coonawarra Cabernet will age, but how long can we expect to keep a bottle in our cellar?

In my opinion a Coonawarra Cabernet will almost age better than any Cabernet in the world. A big call, but here is the reason why.

Coonawarra has a perfect even cool climate – which allows us to ripen cabernet successfully every year. This is because Coonawarra is very flat, so we get an even ripening of our grapes, whereas a lot of other wine regions have hills. Although hills look pretty, they tend to mean a less even ripening because these vineyards will have shadows on one side and lots of sun on the other.

And if you head further south from Coonawarra, vineyards tend to be too cold and struggle to ripen cabernet consistently every year. I know of vineyards just 40 minutes down the road in Mount Gambier and vineyards 30 minutes in Nangwarry that struggle to ripen cabernet consistently each year.

Therefore Coonawarra (with exceptions like 2011 which was a really wet year) is the last cool climate wine region in Australia where you ripen cabernet consistently year on year.

The longer growing periods allows us more time to develop complexity of flavours in our fruit, which means we get some lovely natural acids. Natural acid in wine is a key component for ageing.

The more natural acid that you can get from the fruit the better – rather than ‘fake acids’ that are added in the winemaking process. If a winemaker adds these acids later there is a chance the wine in time will become ‘porty’.

It is very rare for an aged Coonawarra Cabernet to look porty. They will instead have nice leather spice notes. This is what makes Cabernet King.

We tend to forget in Australia that Cabernet is by far the largest planted and drunk red variety the world, especially in Europe and America, whereas in Australia we love Shiraz.

However, in my opinion, tasting a great aged cabernet will convert even the most loyal shiraz drinker.

So when should I drink a Coonawarra Cabernet?

Take our 2016 Wanderlust Cabernet, 2016 was a really good year in Coonawarra and a perfect example of a year that should age well.

Currently our latest release 2016 Wanderlust is looking ‘tight’ – if you want to drink now try decanting it which will really help open up some of the flavours.

I would describe it like a bunch of flowers that have not opened up yet. At this stage it needs some age or decanting, but if you can leave it a little bit longer (3-10 years) you will see some chocolate and cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) notes develop.

Wanderlust’s ageing ability (like so many good Coonawarra cabernets for $25) is unique at its price in that it will get better over 10 years. For our premium cabernets, like Ambriel’s Gift and Head Honcho, you can expect it to get better for 20 years.

If you have not experienced an aged Coonawarra Cabernet – buy a 6 pack and open a bottle every 2 years for the next 10 years, believe me you will thank me.

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