Raft of vintage rolls as Coonawarra icon sails forth

Exciting times at Balnaves as the reign of winemaker Jacinta Jenkins steamrolls on! We’ve always loved everything about this venerable grape-grower, terra rossa cheerleader and all-round fab family.

And with summer in the air, the sense of renewal adds a thrilling frisson to the mix.

Departing legend Pete Bissell left things in great shape, and the wines have continued to find favour throughout 2020, to the point where we have another spate of vintage rolls to convey.

The CellarHand team had a great catch-up with JJ at the end of November, and she’s settling in beautifully. Well, to be fair, she served under Mr Bissell for two years prior to Pete’s retirement, plus she’d already worked the ’15 vintage with the family.

Plus, of course, viticulturist Pete Balnaves has been in the vineyards here since the founding of Balnaves back in 1990, and sister Kirsty has been involved in the running of the business since then, too.

So, we welcome new editions of Shiraz (2018), Cabernet Merlot (’14), Cabernet Sauvignon (’16) and The Tally (’13). The line-up looks fantastic, and the family’s in fine form!

Classic stuff from great Balnaves mob. What a brilliant wine this is – such ease and charm.

The Wine Front’s Mike Bennie on ’17 Blend

2018 Balnaves Shiraz $32

Vintage 2018 was warm and relatively early. Made entirely from our 1973 planted Old Paulownia Shiraz vineyard, fruit for the 2018 Balnaves Shiraz was picked and fermented with 20% whole bunches, followed by 15 months in 45% new and seasoned French oak.

Juicy raspberry and blackberry, creamy vanilla oak, a little spice and mint. Medium-bodied, gentle and sweet uptake of small berry flavour, the oak folding in some cream, some tobacco and coffee, fine-grained tannin, and a clean fresh finish of good length, gentle grip of tannin as it goes. Supple. Easy to like.

91 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front 

2017 Balnaves ‘The Blend’ $23

2017 was cool and long with great ripening conditions for Merlot. The Blend this year consists of Merlot (68%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Petit Verdot (2%). Matured in 30% new oak, balance seasoned French oak for 12 months prior to bottling in November 2018.
Deep red colour, the nose shows soft round satsuma plum and blackberry fruit aromas with a spicy vanillin note from the oak. Light to medium bodied with dense black fruit and a spicy firm tannin finish. Showing the plush black fruit that is emblematic of the vintage.

Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot. Classic stuff from great Balnaves mob. What a brilliant wine this is – such ease and charm. Whiffs of blueberry, green herbs, eucalyptus, white pepper. Medium bodied at perfect level, cassis and dark berry flavours, eucalyptus and pepper again, lithe and fine tannins, excellent length and a general sense of succulence. Really punches above its weight. So lovely! What easy charm! Insane value.

93 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front

2017 Balnaves Entav Cabernet $32

54% clone 412 Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% clone 338 Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petit Verdot combined in 10-tonne open-top fermenter. Cold soaked 5 days at 10°C then inoculated with BM45 yeast. Another five days on skins before pressing. Maturation in new François Frères Allier large-format barrels and in tank for five months. Bottling in October 2016.

Fresh new clones and a fresh style that’s bottled early, this has a rich array of blueberries and blackcurrants, as well as boysenberries and fresh red plums. The palate is silky and soft and the very focused flavours are well and truly in the fruit zone. A delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Drink now. Screw cap.

93 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com July 2019

2014 Balnaves Cabernet Merlot $32

Vintage 2014 was cool with very slow ripening after Christmas and cool night-time temperatures. Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) from our Dead Morris, Walker and Avery vineyards, was blended with Rise Merlot (19.5%) and Dunstan Petit Verdot (0.5%).

This 2014 Balnaves Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot spent 18 months in tight-grain French oak from Sylvain, St Martin and Seguin Moreau cooperages, before bottling in December 2015.

Deep rich red in colour, the nose is concentrated with aromas of pure cassis, violets, blackberry, combined with fine mocha-coffee French oak. The palate is rich with ripe cassis fruit and a structured tannin finish.

Aromas of eucalypt, oak-spice, vanilla, Ribena, and red plums. Still vibrant when sipped, wrapped around a sinewy spine of tannins and dried herbs. Serious and structured. Lots of life left.

93 points. Nick Butler, The Real Review February 2020

2016 Balnaves Cabernet Sauvignon $43

Vintage 2016 was warm early, with cool night-time temperatures later in the season. Cabernet Sauvignon (97%) from our Walker Block, Old Paulownia vineyard and Dead Morris vineyard was blended with Petit Verdot (3%) from Dunstan. The Balnaves Cabernet Sauvignon spent 18 months in tight-grained French oak from Sylvain, Taransaud and Berger cooperages. It was bottled in December 2017.

Deep rich red in colour, the nose is very perfumed with aromas of wild blackberry, lavender and red fruits combined with fine vanilla French oak. The palate is structured and elegant with ripe cassis fruit and a fine tannin finish. – Jacinta Jenkins, Balnaves

The more concentrated wine of the three Bordeaux-inspired wines outside of the Tally Reserve. Black olive, bay leaf, graphite and cassis swirl about, bolstered by a sheen of sexy oak, following an extended 18 months in French gear (50% new). This is a crowd-pleaser already, with ample fruit and coffee grind tannins tapering to a long finish. This said, it will age prodigiously.

96 points. Ned Goodwin MW, James Halliday Wine Companion 2020

2013 Balnaves ‘The Tally’ Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $107

Vintage 2013 produced good crops and ripened late in April producing deeply flavoured fruit with fine tannins. Sourced entirely from our Dead Morris vineyard, all fruit was handpicked and 40% of the blend received a long maceration on skins.

Maturation was for 20 months in 79% new fine-grained chateau barriques from Taransaud and Sylvain cooperages, before light egg fining and bottling in December 2014 under procork.

Hand-picked from a single vineyard; 40% long maceration on skins, matured for 20 months in new deluxe French chateau barriques (60% new). Deeply coloured, it is the quintessence of Coonawarra cabernet, with an immensely long palate, fruit, oak and tannins all contributing. Sometimes the oak on The Tally can seem too obvious in blind tastings with other top-flight cabernets, but it’s hard to see that happening here.

97 points. James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2017

2010 Balnaves ‘The Tally’ Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $107

Vintage 2010 was cool and even ripening, and vintage on normal timing in late April. Sourced from Dead Morris and Walker vineyards, all fruit was handpicked and 100% of the blend received a long maceration on skins. Maturation was for 19 months in new fine-grained chateau barriques from Seguin Moreau, Taransaud and Sylvain cooperages, before light egg fining and bottling in December 2011, under procork.

Fruit power, strength of tannin, fineness and finesse. It’s all here. Layers of blackcurrant and bay leaves, peppermint and rich dark plum. There’s a chocolatey/pencilly note here too but really, this presents as a seamless whole. The quality is outstanding. The length, the poise, the structural foundation. Tip-top Coonawarra cabernet.

95 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front

NV Balnaves Sparkling Cabernet $41

Balnaves have used Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to make this modern Sparkling red. Blended from selected parcels of more complex and elegant wines from eleven vintages of reserve wines matured as a solera. Tiraged in October 2018 and then disgorged in March 2019. Rich and very complex with cassis, blackberry and violet fruits, combined with mature Coonawarra Cabernet characters of chocolate, leather and truffle.

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