An interview with Brian Lynn of Majella Winery in Coonawarra & Australia’s iconic wine blend
The Shiraz Cabernet blend is Australia’s signature wine. Over 40 years ago, Max Schubert, the creator of Grange Hermitage (as it was then called), set the stage for hundreds of Australian wine producers to create their own version of this iconic blend – in some way unique to Australia in enabling it to rank with the best in the world.
The Great Australian Red is a competition created to recognise that blend. Now in its 13th year, the competition is recognised as one of Australia’s key specialist wine shows. At a recent event in London, 24 gold medal winners in this competition were showcased and my take on the best of these is shown below. These wines have come from some of the biggest and some of the smallest wineries in Australia. One of these small wineries is Majella in Coonawarra, owned by the Flynn family, who graduated from sheep and cattle farming back in the 1960s, to producing some of the best value-for-money wines in the country. (BTW, they still farm sheep, no doubt to provide some iconic Australian lamb to accompany their iconic Shiraz Cabs.) Hopefully the lamb is not cooked to the grey flannel stage as my Australian brother-in-law eats it, declaring “I like my meat dead!”
Bryan Lynn, head of the family that owns Majella winery, was in London for the event and I took the opportunity to interview him to find out what makes Majella tick.
The usp of the Cabernet and Shiraz blend is the slight sweetness of the Cabernet, combining with the savouriness of the Shiraz, making it an excellent food wine – not only with grey flannel lamb (even pink lamb – as it ought to be), but beef, Game and any other meat for that matter. A lot of these Shiraz Cabernets (or Cabernet Shriazes – depending which is the dominant component) are quite heavy but what stood out in all of these Gold Medal winners I tasted, was the finesse and elegance of most of the wines.
There’s no point in giving you detailed tasting notes – it’s the scores that really interest, and on the Wine behind the label scale of ★ to ✪✪✪✪✪ (see https://www.winebehindthelabel.org/ratings for an explanation of the ratings), here are my top picks.
Lake Breeze Bernoota Shiraz Cabernet 2012 ★★★★
Lake Breeze Bernoota Shiraz Cabernet 2004 ★★★★
Yalumba FDRIA 2013 ★★★★
Yalumba The Signature 2012 ★★★★
Yalumba The Caley 2013 ★★★★✩
Majella Wines “The Malleea by Majella 2014 ★★★★
Majella Wines “The Malleea by Majella 2009 ★★★★✩
Penfolds Koonunga Hill Seventy Six Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ★★★★
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2016 ★★★★✩
Jim Barry PB Reserve Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ★★★★✩
Kaesler Wines WOMAS 2016 ★★★★✩
Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Shiraz 2013 ★★★★✩
Wolf Blass Grey Label Cabernet Shiraz 2009 ★★★★