By Amy Looker, editor National Liquor News
Katnook Estate gave a sneak preview of its 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon in Sydney yesterday, with the new release marking winemaker Wayne Stehbens' 30th vintage at the Coonawarra winery.
Stehbens joined Katnook Estate in 1979 and completed his first vintage in 1980, with the Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon going on to win two gold medals at the 1982 Canberra and Perth Wine Shows.
This October will see Stehbens release his 30th vintage of the Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which he unveiled to media yesterday, along with museum stock from his four decades at Katnook Estate, which Stehbens described as a rare opportunity to compare the wines.
"Making the wines in the early 80s led us into the styles of the early 90s, and from there the evolution of Odyssey from Katnook Estate, which is the next tier above," Stehbens told TheShout.
"From the 90s we really explored oak and oak maturation flavours, and by then we were going back into the vineyards and looking very closely at our viticulture practices, so there's a lot to be had on both sides of the ledger there."
While Stehbens still considers the 1980 Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon to be among the most outstanding of his wines, he says the evolution in quality from those days is very significant.
"Today, if we have an improvement in wine, it's barely perceptible to the average palate, whereas if you looked at the 1980 and 1981 wines you'd go 'oh wow', and then compare them with the 1990 and 1991 wines you go 'okay, I get it'," Stehbens said.
"There was a real shift in the way we made the wines."
According to Stehbens, the winery intends to focus on its vineyard quality in coming years.
"We're pulling out vines and whole vineyards which didn't achieve the quality that we expected, or are not going to achieve the quality that we expect. They're big decisions, expensive decisions, so going forward, with what we're going to be growing and producing in the next few years, it's going to be almost as exciting as way back in 1979 when I was a bright-eyed, bushy tailed, much younger winemaker."
The 2011 Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is due for release in October, with the winery planning a roadshow around Australia and to key overseas markets including Asia to introduce the wine to the trade.