Forget wine filled with nasty chemicals; Koonara is doing things differently. The Cooonawara- and Mount Gambier-based vineyards run on the principle of ‘quality over quantity’, producing organic wines that ensure every drop you drink is top notch.
The Reschke family has lived and worked on Koonara for more than 100 years, but it wasn’t until 1988 that they got serious about wine. In 1991, they started handing over cases to family and friends, before opening it up to the public in 1999. Emphasising quality over quantity, its vineyards are purposely kept at an average of two tonnes or less per acre, with the focus on creating a wine that’s not only good but consistent and age worthy each year.
Dru Reschke runs Koonara Wines with his wife Nicole. Coonawarra born and bred, he dabbled in a number of wine-focussed small businesses post-university before returning to take over the day-to-day operations of the vineyard from his father Trevor. Under Dru’s watch, the winery doubled growth every year for the next six years, reaching 10,000 cases with a staggering 80% being sold domestically. In this time it has also expanded to include two other cellar doors: one in Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road and another in Robe, South Australia.
Coonawarra terra rossa soil is one of the most famous soil profiles in the world. The bright red terra rossa over pure white limestone is due to the region’s past life as a coral reef more than a million years ago. The soil today is a clay loam that holds just the right amount of water for vines, perfect for growing cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. In Mount Gambier, Koonara also grows pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc.
Peter Douglas looks over the winemaking operations. The legendary winemaker held the same position at Wynns Coonawarra Estate for 15 years before going to work in prestigious wineries in both France and Italy. However, the pull of Australian wine was too strong and he returned to Coonawara to take up the position of Head Winemaker at Koonara.
Dru runs a ‘hands off organic’ winery. The team focus on getting the vines as healthy as possible by studying deficiencies and adding back trace minerals, meaning less disease and no need for chemicals. They also keep their tonnes low by keeping the water to a minimum, allowing the vine to ripen the grapes because the canopy is more open. When it rains, the wind and sun dries the vineyard faster, so it stops mould from developing.
Its flagship wine is the Ambriel’s Gift, a rich cabernet. A tiny one-tonne per acre is grown and aged in 100% new, fine grain French Grand Reserve Hogshead barrels. No residual sugar is added and there are no oak substitutes. The result is a drop with a deep colour but bold flavour, perfect to pair with a lamb rack, covered in cranberry glaze, roasted with rosemary and accompanied by potatoes slow-roasted in coconut oil.