One of the unsung heroes of Australian wine will be recognized in September when
two of Coonawarra’s most famous families – the Balnaves and Redmans – release
the 2016 William Wilson Coonawarra Shiraz Cabernet.
A unique blend of families and varieties, the limited edition $300 a bottle “traditional
claret” will be the most expensive wine ever released in Coonawarra.
William Wilson’s great-great-great-granddaughter Kirsty Balnaves said the
collaborative project is a tribute to the humble Scottish gardener who not only sired
both families, but is also credited with the discovery of the region’s terra rossa soils.
“William Wilson was a Scottish gardener who settled in Petticoat Lane, Penola in
1861,” Kirsty said. “He was an expert in vine and fruit tree horticulture and was the
first person to recognize the free draining properties of the red terra rossa soil.
“He advised fellow settler John Riddoch to establish his Penola Fruit Colony on what
we now know as the terra rossa cigar, laying the foundation for Coonawarra’s
reputation for world-class Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
“Although he is not widely remembered, he really was the region’s founding father.”
Wilson was born in Scotland, served in the Scottish Highlanders in Ireland and
Greece and emigrated to South Australia in 1849 at the age if 33. It was during his
posting on the Greek Islands of Zephalonia, Zante and Corfu that he learnt about
viticulture and the role that soil type played in vine health and vigour.
Wilson’s daughter Margaret married William Neilson and of their six children, one
married a Redman and the other a Balnaves, starting a 120 year old winemaking
“Coonawarra has a long history of sharing knowledge and collaborating, that started
with William Wilson and John Riddoch,” great-great-great-grandson Dan Redman
said “My great grandfather Bill Redman, sold his first grapes to the Riddoch winery and
when it closed he kept the Coonawarra wine industry alive by selling bulk Cabernet
and Shiraz to other Australian wineries.
“In fact it was Bill and his son Owen who helped Doug and Annette start Balnaves in
1974.“This wine is a symbol of that sense of community that defines us.”
The two families conceived of a tribute wine in 2016, the 200th anniversary of
William Wilson’s birth. The Redmans set aside a small parcel from their 85 year old
North End Shiraz vineyard and the Balnaves reciprocated with a parcel of Cabernet
from their 43 year old Paulownia vineyard.
“Fortunately 2016 was a great year in Coonawarra,” Dan said. “Veraison was very
even contributing to small berry size, and the mild conditions and cool finish allowed
slow, even ripening..“The 2016 William Wilson Shiraz Cabernet is very much in the traditional “claret.style” with medium body, fine grained tannins and a great balance of fruit and.structure.”
Just 200 dozen of the limited release 2016 William Wilson Coonawarra Shiraz
Cabernet have been made, with strict allocations to leading independent fine wine
stores. The wine is available by direct mail order or by visiting Redman’s and Balnaves’ cellar doors.
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