Home Block: new 2016 vintage release
I try to release a new vintage of our signature Home Block Cabernet Sauvignon every year, but I also have the luxury of being able to pick and choose the best vintages to make into our top wines.
Home Block is a wine that I harvest every year, then one or two years down the track, I’ll have a look at the wine in the barrel and assess if the quality is there to make a superb Home Block. After about 12 months I know if it's going to be a Home Block-worthy vintage or not.
The 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages of Home Block have all consecutively been released. They have all been excellent wines in their own right, but quite different.
2016 was a uniquely warm and dry season, making for a rich, sensational wine.
2016 was a lovely rich vintage which suits the Home Block style really well. It is fruit-forward with red berry fruit on the front of the palate, the oak and fine tannins build out the mid-palate and finish the wine. It is well-rounded compared to the 2015 vintage, which had more spice and medium-bodied character.
In 2016 I had a head start with a dream vintage. It made my job as a winemaker a lot easier. The 2016 vintage had a great foundation of fruit ripeness and tannin structure, allowing me to enhance with oak and build around that initial structure and fruit-forward character, adding layers to an already great wine.
2016 also spent a little bit more time in oak, as the wine could carry a bit more structure.
The biggest thing that stands out with the 2016 vintage is the richness on the palate, and the fine tannins that are so well integrated. It is not as fruity or as perfumed as you might get from a younger release, but it makes up for it on the palate structure, weight and roundness that Coonawarra Cabernets can have. It is not a typical Coonawarra Cabernet, as we had a significantly warmer year and earlier harvest than usual. This is not common for the average Coonawarra harvest, making the 2016 vintage quite unique.
COMPARING VINTAGES OF SINGLE VINEYARD WINES
I encourage you to explore the differences between the 2016 and back vintages of Home Block. Comparing the vintages of a single vineyard wine is a unique experience to understand how Coonawarra changes each year with the climate and other factors. As a single vineyard, with the same soil and the same limited area, you can see how the wine develops different expressions over different years.
In wine we only harvest once per year, therefore the biggest difference in the wine industry year to year is the climate, with the ripening period (between November and April) being pivotal. This defines whether a vintage is going to be a good vintage, an average vintage, or a poor vintage.
Making a wine in the same style from the same vineyard every year, removes the number of influential factors, for example blending vineyards to average out the wine. As a result, you can really see the climate and vintage variation in the bottle and how that translates into the wine.
With cooler vintages, there are usually more savoury characters, and with warmer vintages we see more richness and fruit. As a winemaker, having the historical knowledge of vintage and growing season helps me understand why the wine tastes the way it does.
Springtime for the 2016 vintage came early, warm and dry around November - December. The warm weather pushed everything forward a little bit, bringing forward the flowering and the ripeness of the fruit, making for an earlier, short and sharp vintage. We ended up picking the 2016 Home Block nearly three weeks earlier than usual.
The flowering period is one of the biggest differences between the vintages. For the 2016 vintage, flowering in November (2015) happened fast and evenly, which is fantastic because all the berries ripened roughly at the same time. There was an even ripeness of tannins through the whole bunch and through the vineyard, leading into the autumn. That's a positive for the wine - balance in the fruit bunches means balance in the wine.
Luckily after the early and warm summer, we had cooler nights in March. Weather in March is also very important, as it is the final leg of the grapes ripening.
2015 vintage was a bit more predictable and easier to manage. It was one of those classic years in Coonawarra where we had a long slow ripening period.
The 2014 vintage was a surprisingly challenging one. I remember trying to make decisions around picking, dodging weather and rain, and the weather pushed us into picking in May. After two years in oak, it surprised me how well the medium body-structured Cabernet performed. For that reason, the 2014 vintage is one of my favourites out of these three vintages.
VINTAGE 2014 - 2015 - 2016
As the 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages are within the same style and from the same block, they are all a version of that classic Coonawarra character. However 2014 was quite a cool late harvest, which resulted in a more savoury wine. The 2015 season was more traditional for Coonawarra, and then 2016 was early and warm, leading to a richer style.
Rolling from 2014 to 2015 into 2016, the intensity of the wine is dialling up.
All of them spent a minimum of five years in the cellar prior to release - this is our benchmark for all our Single Site wines.
Time in the cellar softens and integrates flavours. Cabernet is world famous for its ability to age in a way that other varieties can't, and Coonawarra is particularly well known for impeccable ageing abilities.
Purchase our new release of vintage 2016 of Home Block Cabernet Sauvignon here.