Alan and Nelly Cooper set up Cobaw Ridge in 1985, having bought the land in 1981 as a place from where they could commute (quite lengthily) to Melbourne. Their original plan had been to sell the grapes, but they were smitten and decided to make wine before the first crop was off the vine, which was in 1989.
They are high up in the Macedon Ranges, with their 5 hectares of vineyards ranging from 610 to 635m above sea level. Shiraz was planted in 1985 and 1985 on granitic sandy soils.
The vineyards are also planted to chardonnay, pinot noir and lagrein, that little known red Italian grape variety from Alto Adige. Indeed the Coopers were there first people outside of Italy to commercially produce lagrein. They had planted a little cabernet sauvignon but it only ripened one year in three so they grafted it over to lagrein. “The site and soil match Bolzano” Alan said, so he had to give it a go. The first vintage was in 1997, with the first commercial vintage one year later.
Elevation gives a good degree of cooling and Alan, a fifth generation farmer, said “shiraz can ripen 7-8 weeks behind central Heathcote, yet you can drive there in 25 minutes.” And there’s not so much disease pressure because it’s a windy place, and it dries out quickly, he added “the predominant winds are from the south east, and they can up to 65km/hour.” This has no doubt helped with the conversion firstly to certified organic, in 2009, and more recently, in 2011, to certified biodynamic farming.
Cooler climate shiraz is a very different beast to classic Barossa shiraz, and Alan calls his syrah, as though to distinguish the cooler from the warmer. He said cool climate shiraz is “spicy, savoury, minerally, earthy. It could be spicy on the nose and peppery on the palate, or the other way round – black pepper and graphite.” His is attractively redolent with piquant black pepper spiciness.
The Coopers have also been working on a couple of so-called natural wines, where, effectively, additions in both the vineyard and the winery are kept to a minimum, though a strict definition is hard to come by. Alan said “The move to being ‘natural’ to us really is a natural progression from chemical farming to organic then to biodynamic. I guess all about letting ‘here’ speak a bit clearer,” allowing the place to have first voice in the expression of the wine.
Tasting notes, in situ, October 2010
Cobaw Ridge, Chardonnay 2008
14% 100% barrel, 20% new barrel fermentation.
Creamy vanilla nose and very smooth texture. Rich, sweet creamy, nougat, Good sweet spot, nicely balanced, alcohol seamless.
Alan: “it’s richer than we’d like to see – 2008 was warm”
Cobaw Ridge, Pinot Noir 2008
Aromatic smoky tar nose; sweet palate attack, cherry and soft berries. Gaining suppleness amid sweet fruit and fleshy body, auguring well for a bit more bottle age.
Cobaw Ridge, Syrah 2007
Cooler vintage than 2008
Medium deep, bright ruby colour. Spicy, black pepper, rich intensity, with freshness, and depth of flavour, nice concentration, big intensity, layered flavours. Vg.
Cobaw Ridge, Syrah 2008
Medium deep ruby colour; warm cherry pie nose, fruit taking on rich and sweet notes, ripe and supple, and still with attractive freshness. Supple and mouth-filling wine. Good.
Cobaw Ridge, Lagrein 2006
13%. Dark cherry nose, smooth attack, dark and ripe, chewy tannins. Fine-grained dark, brooding sort of wine.
Cobaw Ridge, Lagrein 2007
Sweet, dark cherry fruits, sweet core, plum and cherry, good and chunky, with juicy core of fruit.
Cobaw Ridge, Lagrein 2008
Juicy plum and dark cherry fruit nose and attack. Fine bit of grip is just softening into the fruit nicely.
My research visit to Australia in October 2010 was sponsored by Wine Australia.