After working 39 vintages, including nine in Europe, I’ve spent plenty of time in vineyards and wineries to ponder: Why do I love wine? Why do I love making wine? What is it exactly that makes a great wine? I think that all great wines obey a set of rules, and the most important of these is that wine should have a sense of place; the best possible expression of where they are from. Put simply, a wine should taste like it comes from somewhere specific; unique, discrete and impossible to replicate. And with this being the case, it gives a winemaker greater direction and purpose, and drives everything that you do. With the attention on place, the protection of regional, vineyard, and even single block characteristics become the most important factor in the winemaking decisions. The focus is on growing the wine and working the vineyard to reduce the need for winemaking tricks, such as acid addition, excessive oak, over ripening etc. The vines are pruned hard, reducing the need for excessive irrigation and resulting in a lower yield but a more balanced vine, and a better expression of place. The best of all possible results is a wine that reflects location, accent and the circumstances of the seasons throughout that particular vintage – it should be a faithful record of what has passed and still endures, rather than an attempt to project any particular image, taste or shape.
The Koomilya vineyard is wedged between the original Upper Tintara vineyard, which was planted by the famous Doctor Kelly in 1862, and the Hope Farm or Seaview vineyard, which was established in the early 1850s by George Manning. It is hidden away at the dead end of Amery Road and includes 13 hectares of vineyards and over 15 hectares of native bush and scrub; with a creek line that flows through the heart of the property. The scrub and creek line have a moderating influence on the microclimate of the property. The cool air from the 161-hectare Hardy scrub which sits above the property flows down the creek line in the evenings, keeping the nights cooler. The native bush hills to the north and west protect the vineyards from the strong and often hot winds in summer.
We do not know exactly when the property was first planted, but our neighbour Colin Kay says it’s been here as long as his family can remember, and so that would give it an estimated timeline back to the 1850s. I first stepped foot in the Koomilya vineyard in December 1994. I had just started working with BRL Hardy and was responsible for the Tintara winery – one of the premium vineyards contracted to Hardys. Twelve months into my position at Hardys, a 1995 Eileen Hardy Shiraz I made won the Jimmy Watson. A major component of that Shiraz was sourced from our Koomilya JC Block.
Yes, the vineyard can grow amazing fruit, but funnily enough it’s the land and its beauty which has an almost spiritual attraction for me. Out of the hundreds of vineyards I have visited around the world, this was the vineyard I fell in love with and most wanted to own. In 2004 I advised Don Cant, the then owner, that if he ever considered selling the vineyard, I would be interested. In late 2012, Don agreed to sell the 35-hectare property to my wife, Fiona, and me. Our chance had come!
These wines have strength, intensity, and glorious grape tannins, which wind the palate together, almost like a double helix. This complex structure pulls you straight through the wine and settles you in the heart of the vineyard. They illustrate what I’m hoping modern McLaren Vale Shiraz will be, which harks back to a tradition of what it looked like in the 1960s, without all the artifice of winemaking. Above all, these wines look and taste, ‘Koomilya’.
I get immense satisfaction spending time there, and find it calming and cathartic. I hope you enjoy these wines as much as I enjoy the current journey I am on in bringing them to you.
A warm, dry spring and early summer preceded an abnormally cool January and February. This allowed the grapes to develop intense fruit flavours, and with a hot and dry harvest came excellent colour and tannin. The result is red wine that is precise, fresh and vibrant.
“One of Pannell’s greatest talents as a winemaker is his blending, and this is a shining example of a deft touch.” – Nick Stock
“So pure and expressive, with real finesse. Tannic yet pure, linear and elegant. A classic.” – Jamie Goode
2015 Koomilya Shiraz RRP $71
A blend of three Koomilya Shiraz blocks, the majority of which is sourced from Shiraz grafted on Gewürztraminer, the GT Block. This block was planted in 1970, and grafted in the early 1990s. The remaining Shiraz was sourced from the Mulberry Block & Spider Block, planted in the early 2000s with clones sourced from 130+ year old Hardy Shiraz (Upper Tintara), the neighbouring vineyard. Hand harvested between 9th and 11th February. The fruit spent 19 days on skins in open top-fermenters, before being pressed off, with the hard pressings removed. The wine was naturally fermented, which is the key to this style, giving greater complexity. Transferred to stainless steel tank for 28 days, then racked into two 2500-litre French vats where it undertook malolactic conversion and maturation. Bottled on 8th June 2016, after spending a total of 12 months in oak. Alcohol 13.2%; pH 3.8; total acidity 6.2g/L.
Concentrated, pure and fine with lovey raspberry and black cherry fruit. Structured and very fine. Backward and tannic but pure and primary with lots of finesse, even though there’s good structure here and some floral perfume even at this early age. Thrilling wine. 95 points. Jamie Goode, wineanorak.com
2015 Koomilya Cabernet Shiraz RRP $71
The classic Australian blend: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon off our 70-year-old CP block and 20% Shiraz off the GT block. Hand harvested on 26th February. The fruit spent 14 days on skins, before being pressed off, with the hard pressings removed. The wine was naturally fermented in open-top fermenters, which is the key to this style of wine, giving it greater complexity. Transferred to stainless steel tanks for 28 days until completion of malolactic conversion, and then sent to 2500-litre vats. Bottled on 8th June 2016 spending a total of 10 months in oak. Alcohol 13.2%; pH 3.56; total acidity 6g/L.
One of Pannell’s greatest talents as a winemaker is his blending, and this is a shining example of a deft touch. The vintage has delivered superbly vibrant red and blue fruits, cassis, blueberries, red plums, raspberries and blackberries. The palate has silky textural appeal, gliding and building layers of fine velvety tannins that hold layers of bright fruit. Deceptively long, powerful and elegant. Drink now or hold. 95 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com
Brooding blackcurrant fruit nose with some fine floral notes. Lovely freshness and purity here with good acidity. So pure and expressive, with real finesse. Tannic yet pure, linear and elegant. A classic. 96 points. Jamie Goode, wineanorak.com
2015 Koomilya JC Block Shiraz RRP $115
A single-block Shiraz from 80-year-old vines. Hand harvested on 14th February. The fruit, which spent 14 days on skins with the hard pressings removed, was then transferred to stainless steel until early May. The wine was then moved to puncheons for malolactic conversion and maturation. Bottled on 28th June 2016, spending a total of 14 months. Alcohol 13.2%; pH 3.63; total acidity 6.4 g/L.
A slightly firmer and more fragrant style than the ultra-rich DC Block bottling of the same vintage. This has impressive depth and concentration. Aromas are in the spectrum of dark, red and purple berries. There is an astutely handled, spicy oak influence courtesy of the 2700-litre French oak vats. The palate carries on with a wealth of fine, long and sleek tannins, which deliver a fresh plum-stone finish. Try from 2023. 99 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com
80-100-year-old vines from a block that used to be a core component of Eileen Hardy Shiraz. Intense brooding nose of sweet raspberry and cherry fruit with a subtle tarry edge. Concentrated but very fresh with firm tannins and more red than black fruits. Dense and subtly tarry. Fine, but needs a lot of time. 96 points. Jamie Goode, wineanorak.com
2015 Koomilya DC Block Shiraz RRP $115
A single-block Shiraz from 80-year-old vines. Hand harvested on 10th February. The fruit, which spent 10 days on skins with the hard pressings removed, was then transferred to stainless steel until early May. The wine was then moved to puncheons for malolactic conversion and maturation. Bottled on 28th June 2016, spending a total of 14 months in oak. Alcohol 14.1%; pH 3.68; total acidity 5.6g/L.
A captivating wine that marries the best of the region’s supple, approachable Shiraz style with a wealth of detail and astutely assembled tannin structure. The nose is bathed in ripe red berries, delivering a very nicely curated array of earthy and sweetly spicy complexity. The palate has a seductive allure as it is very supple and packed with fleshy, ripe red plums. The tannins are suspended in helix-like form and wrapped around a long core of plush, deep blackberries, red and dark plums. Deeper chocolate and plums to close. Superb. Drink or hold. This will cellar nicely. 97 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com
Highly aromatic with brooding black cherry and raspberry fruit. Really concentrated with amazing depth and a hint of spicy richness. Burly and tannic but still very fresh and pure. Has massive potential for development. 95 points. Jamie Goode, wineanorak.com