Bright new era as Balnaves legend hands reins to Jacinta Jenkins

Pete Bissell of Balnaves has called time on a winemaking career spanning more than 40 years all up – and including a run of 25 years for the Coonawarra icon whose winery he designed back in the mid-‘90s.

During that time, Pete has won several accolades, including Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year and Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology Winemaker of the Year, and even snagged a Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy on the side. He’s turned the Blend into one of Australia’s most-consistent top-value Bordeaux blends; put The Tally in the Langton’s Classification as an Outstanding wine; reinvigorated Coonawarra with his Entav wines; defied expectation with a brilliant Chardonnay year in, year out; and made this estate’s Cabernet Sauvignon an Australian benchmark for this variety.

We’d like to just say what an utter pleasure it’s been to work with Pete. He’s one of the nicest people you could hope to meet, a fount of knowledge who’s extremely generous with passing it on. And that stands his successor in good stead, too. Her name is Jacinta Jenkins – henceforth JJ – who’s been working alongside Pete for two years now. Even better, she even has Riesling in her veins, having worked at Pikes in the Clare Valley and Dr Loosen in the Mosel.

JJ will be supported by Pete, who’s offering his services as consultant for the near future. Plus, of course, brother-and-sister act Pete and Kirsty Balnaves have 30-plus years operating this family business, Pete from the vineyards and Kirsty from the office. The future for Balnaves looks bright indeed.

2018 Balnaves Chardonnay $32

Vintage 2018 started with cool and frosty weather, then turned warm and dry. Whole bunch pressed juice was barrel fermented on solids in new (25%) and seasoned Louis Latour Burgundy barriques. A balanced mix of stone fruit, citrus to nougat, creamy lees, lemon curd and oak spices.

Pete Bissell, Balnaves

2017 Balnaves ‘The Blend’ $23

The Blend this year consists of Merlot (68%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Petit Verdot (2%). Deep red colour, the nose shows soft round satsuma plum and blackberry fruit aromas with a spicy vanillan 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.

Pete Bissell, Balnaves

2017 Balnaves Entav Cabernet $23

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, July 2019

2015 Balnaves Cabernet Sauvignon $43

Deeply coloured, this is classic Coonawarra Cabernet with cassis, mulberry, mint and dried bay leaf coming together with fine but firm tannins to present and intense, earthy wine that doesn’t even flick the needle of dead fruit/high alcohol. It thus has a certain austerity of the kind you once found in classed growth Bordeaux from good vintages such as ’70. 96 points.

James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2019

2012 Balnaves ‘The Tally’ Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $107

Hits up immediately with flavour. A luscious gravity. For all the fruit, there is tannin, a spread of it, a curling wave. Seductive and impressive at once. Rich with blackcurrant and dark chocolate. Outstanding. 96 points.

Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front October 2015

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