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Cobaw Ridge, Macedon Ranges

 Cobaw Ridge, Macedon Ranges – “ Benchmark Chardonnay and Shiraz/ Viognier, rated 96/100 by James Halliday in his book, Best of the Best of Australia wine 2006. The 1999 vintage of these two wines were the launching pad for Whirly wine in 2003 when I first started importing wines from Australia, yes with just two wines!! These wines were amazing though. I still remember clients faces as they tasted it and their profile formed a smile of wonder and delight. So I have much to thank Alan and Nelly Cooper for in helping me launch Whirly wine and build it up from two wines to what it is today ( 66 at last count.)

Established and owned by Alan and Nelly Cooper in 1985 when the first vines were planted. The soil is Granitic and sandy on warmer northern slopes on the cusp of the great divide, 610 metres above sea level. Positioned in a natural amphitheatre backing onto the Cobaw State forest in the pristine heart of the Macedon Ranges. The wines produced are of an individual character and style. All wines are 100% Estate grown and bottled. Hand picked, pruned and tended. Wines made with passion and crafted with care.

I am indebted to Alan Cooper who gave me the opportunity to import his wines and launch “ Whirly wine” in February 2004. Their 1999 Chardonnay and Shiraz is now finished but his 2003 vintage of Shiraz-Viognier is still available here in the UK. Halliday raved about these wines giving the 2003 Shiraz-Viognier 96/100 in the 2006 edition of his book, the same rating as Grange. Alan Cooper has been the pioneer of La Grein in Australia, which I hope to obtain small parcels of as well as some Pinot Noir for 2007.

For awards and terroir please see

Shiraz Viognier 2003

“ To say that Shiraz loves heat is an understatement. If this is global warming bring it on. Full, but not fat, rich, opulent and dark coloured, filled with spice and minerals. Plush ripe tannins and brooding power but still in balance with our great natural acidity. This is the eighth Shiraz-Viognier we have made and we keep thinking “ we are onto something here!” After such a tough year for the vines to throw up a wine like this it must have something to do with wine age. Maybe it’s the shout of the last teenage year. Blended as fruit with 4% Viognier then co-fermented.”  Cellar 5-8 years.

Alan Cooper, winemaker and co-owner

Rated 96/100 James Halliday, “ Australian wine companion 2006”

In the category, “ Best of the best of Australia wine 2006”

“ Best of the best by variety Shiraz”

“ vivid purple-red; gloriously scented example: vibrant black cherry, raspberry and spice: lively and long; oak eaten by fruit”

Remington Norman, MW London, Author of Rhone renaissance and great domains of Burgundy

“ Deep, firm, opaque youthful colour. Fine, complex, spicy nose-youthful but very promising. Ripe, tight, elegant flavours- long, complex and finely wrought. Little obvious new wood. Well balanced and not over extracted. Mouthwatering flavours and considerable potential. Lovely quality.”

Alc 13.5% vol

Mr Whirly says:

“A wine that continues to amaze, bewilder and excite people. Quite simply, as quirky and Whirly a wine as one should hope to come across. Fresh blackberries, Damson, toffee fruit, tobacco, lemon piff, wild hedgerow fruit, wild black cherries with discreet essences of wild herbs and flowers and medicinal notes. These are a few comments I have gathered together about this wine. It’s not for the unadventurous but it’s definitely for the passionate wine lover. Cool climate Shiraz. Not Australian Shiraz in any way and certainly more European and in particular Cote Rotie in style, from that wonderful appellation in Northern Rhone. Thanks Alan!”

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Passing Clouds, Bendigo

I visited this vineyard in 2000 and also a few years ago with Alan Cooper, as touched upon already on the Cobaw Ridge page. When I arrived here, one afternoon in February 2006 the Shiraz vines were literally hanging in the heat. They were so flacid and past help that to me there was no chance they would survive the remaining summer months. But as Graeme Leith, the wonderful, crystal eyed winemaker tells me, Shiraz vines love heat and no water. These vines are un-irrigated, hence the name “Passing Clouds”, which promotes the fact that the vineyard simply relies on the passing clouds for its water, and they love the lack of water: their roots  delve down deep into the soil and ensure that if there is any moisture down there the vine will somehow grab it.

These people, like Alan Cooper further south, know how to make wine. They are also fabulous people since they are wine lovers, full of passion, organic and wholesome, setting up their vineyards with their own hands, sweat and toil and blood three decades ago and now seeing their hard work pay dividends.. They did it themselves, they lived their dream and for that reason alone, and there are many others too, I admire them wholeheartedly.

Passing Clouds, Bendigo

This is red wine country and in particular Shiraz which accounts for 65% of the red wine crush total.

Winemaker Graeme Leith, has a superb reputation in Victoria for producing wonderful wines. They started planting their vines in 1974 at Kingover, 60 kms northwest of Bendigo. Sheltered by the hills of Ironbark Forest, the valley offers an ideal growing climate for premium red wine. Low rainfall and no irrigation combined with well-drained deep soil, produce small intensely flavoured berries with a richly coloured juice. Passing Clouds is a small, hands on operation using traditional winemaking techniques.

Mr Whirly says:

Graeme’s Blend 2004

This is Graeme Leith’s variation on one of the first and therefore classic blends of two grapes that Australian winemakers like to dabble in: Shiraz predominates and Cabernet follows very quickly behind. I introduced this wine with the 2002 vintage a few years ago in 2006 and it went down a storm. everyone loving that honest, up front taste of fruit that was mature and not overpowering in anyway but voluptuous and rounded in the mouth with a velvet finish in the mouth. Lovely Autumn berry fruits, no tannins, perfectly rounded, this wine epitomises what a Cabernet Shiraz Blend should taste like from Australia. Now almost five years in the bottle this wine is drinking with perfection and after the long wait after the 2002 Vintage sold out a few years ago I expect this wine to also sell though pretty quickly.

” Low yielding, 30 year old dry land vines produce fruit of great intensity. Hand pruned, hand picked and fermented in open vats before maturing in new and one year old oak barrels for 12 months to maximise flavour and complexity.”

Graeme Leith, winemaker


New vintage arrives 2014

Alc: 14.0 %  vol

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TRAVEL PHOTOS FROM 2003-2007 267

The Macedon ranges

Victoria is the smallest yet by far the most exciting and diverse wine state of Australia. The wine regions are numerous and dotted all over the state, very rarely are you not within sixty miles of some vines. I was lucky enough to spend about six weeks in total here in 2000, staying with winemakers and friends I met along the way. I loved the higher regions of the Pyrenees and the Grampians, vineyards like Summerfield and Redbank  (Sally’s Paddock is a particularly good wine) spring to mind as being a little bit special. Mix these in with the more hilly Yarra and Macedon, and the warmer regions of Beechworth, Bendigo, Ballarat and the western Victoria zone where Bee Thomson and her father John make some stunning wines at Crawford river near Condah in the middle of nowhere, and you have a really diverse landscape of wine country. I shall always remember visiting this lovely homestead and meeting the Thomson family. Another wonderful man was Norman Latta at Eastern Peake,  a top Pinot maker at Coghills creek near Ballarat. They were very friendly and warm, like most people I have had the joy of meeting through wine in this great country. In one day I remarked on the diversity of this wine region in my journal:

15th April 2000

“ Up early, can’t sleep in car too long since it gets too hot. Breakfast by road of bacon sandwiches and teas (herbal, easier to make, no milk). At 8.55am at Chateau Leamon, then Blackjack, beautiful valley, leaves turning golden on the vines. Reds a speciality. Wonderful dogs too, one black Labrador and one small doggy. Fed black one some crackers for breakfast. Great shiraz here. When I left black dog looked at me forlornly. Very sad. Coffee at Gonella’s café in Keyneton, Great café. Virgin hills tasting room here, famous wines. Their trio wine was slightly disappointing. Cabernet sauvignon. Then onto Cobaw Ridge and Granite Hills. Welsh countryside like the Brecon Beacons here, winemaker at Granites Hills is called Llew so that makes sense. Across country to Seymour then quickly up to Chateau Tahbilk, great cellars, diversity of country and wines amazing in one day. Victoria is rare for this quality. Mitchelton contrasts so well with Tahbilk. Modern architecture here compared to the old cellars.”

TRAVEL PHOTOS FROM 2003-2007 269

The Macedon ranges and in this case, in particular the ridge around Cobaw just east of Kyneton, high up on the cups of the great divide at over 600 metres, has a micro climate all of its own. I love this country: its rugged, dry farmland reminds me of Mid Wales with all the sheep dotted on the landscape intermingled with boulders of granite rock, except it’s a little brown rather than green here most of the year, of course.  In February 2006, when I was last here, in the middle of the summer, the weather completely unique; wind and rain rolled around the ridge for a couple of days and when Alan and I drove to Passing clouds vineyard near Bendigo, about 100 miles north, the temperature went up from about 20 degrees to 35 degrees! So no, Australia is not one big bowl of heat as some think. This is the coolest wine region on the Australian mainland.

Passing Clouds, Bendigo

Cobaw Ridge, Macedon Ranges