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Yalumba’s Mawson a red worth exploring

AUSTRALIAN wine labels are adorned with multitudes of landmarks, from creeks, valleys, rivers, paddocks and even mountains, but Yalumba have taken another option and have named their new release after a great countryman, Douglas Mawson.

Mawson, of course, challenged the unforgiving Antarctic early last century.

In his account of the 1911—1914 expedition, he described his awe of the great frozen southland: “We had come to probe its mystery, we had hoped to reduce it to terms of science, but there was always the indefinable which held aloof, yet riveted our souls.”

Such indescribable notions come to wine commentators, even to yours truly, when faced with a tasting glass where the contents dare narrative but some unseen, mysterious element cannot be defined.

Well rugged up in anti-blizzard clothing, the stern face of Mr Mawson adorned our $100 note nicknamed “The Snowman.” Of course this was before Tupperware-like currency appeared. But have no fear, this isn’t a $100 wine, rather it’s a reasonably priced $20 red and it comes from great wine growing regions.

Yalumba did have a connection to Mawson all those years ago and their name was part of two expeditions in the early 1900s. History proves the Barossa Valley wine company was among the sponsors of Mawson’s polar treks. They also contributed to the Project Blizzard in 1997 which saw the restoration of Mawson’s huts at Cape Denison which the explorer christened “home of the blizzard.”

Mawson’s, the wine, is a product of South Australia’s south east. From cold wine growing regions such as the famous Coonawarra and coastal vineyards nearby. A touch of irony when you think that the hero this dry red was named after certainly spent time in blizzardly cold climates.

For the army of red wine lovers who stipulate softness as a priority, Mawson’s answers your velvety plea. 1998 was a blessed vintage in Coonawarra and when this district has a good one it’s a fair punt that the wines of that era are to be sought after.

Coonawarra, of all of Australia’s wine growing regions, is temperamental and vintage variations can be vast. The climate is very cool. Occasional frosts and ripening difficulties are problems the wine growers live with.

There is ample subterranean water that lies under the limestone between it and the red soil and viticulturists have to ensure the vines can get through this barrier to the water source. Yet certainly the place should be recognised as the home of some of our finest cabernet sauvignon reds and it is this grape that dominates Mawson’s. About 63 per cent of the blend is the queen of red varieties – cabernet sauvignon.

This is accompanied by 31 per cent Coonawarra shiraz and mellowed with 6 per cent Limestone Coast merlot. Not quite Bordeaux blend but certainly an idiosyncratic Australian mixture in this initial release of Mawson’s.

The winemaking trend in Coonawarra appears to be a beefing up of reds in a search for ripeness, body and longevity. Reliance on natural herbaceous characters and on super-model like refinement is shifting. Cabernets from down there show a natural finesse and on a good vintage year the shiraz will offer some muscle and the winemakers are certainly doing some body building in their red wines.

Of Australia’s wine growing regions, this is our Hong Kong, an over crowded (with vineyards) pimple of 4,800 hectares of red soil over limestone in an empty country that winemakers have flocked to.

The big boys of Australian wine are shoulder to shoulder with strainer posts almost touching. Lindeman’s, Wynn’s, Mildara, Petaluma, Katnook, Rosemount and Penfolds

are some who have recognised this precious patch of earth that John Riddoch discovered in 1861. It does produce extraordinary reds and no doubt cabernet sauvignon wears the Coonawarra crown.

Medium to full bodied and with a wealth of easy drinking berries and herbs, pepper and spices, Mawson’s will please you with lamb and pork and perhaps bunny. Cellar this red briefly for two or three years, if you must.

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