A Portfolio Tasting with Damon & Jono Koerner
I was fortunate to taste the recently released (some in January and the rest this month) range of Koerner wines with brothers Damon and Jono recently, and it was an eye-opener, to say the least. I cannot think of a range of wines that has had such a profound impact on me.
I say this because while I have tasted random Koerner wines over the past few years, I have never met the lads or tasted the range. They are looking for the perfect partner in the UK to distribute their wines, and I imagine they will be swamped with offers.
Historically this family was a grower, providing fruit for locals to make wines. But the Koerner boys now use around 6ha of their vineyard holdings to make the following portfolio of epic wines. They are modern chaps with a low intervention mantra, and concrete eggs, ceramic eggs, full malo, extended less contact, wild yeasts, and careful sulphur additions make them flirt with the ‘Shoreditch Mob’, but I am convinced that these are genuine conventional wines made with exquisite and forensic attention to detail and this enables the boys to allow the fruit and their vineyards to shine without interference and this is the heart and soul of their appeal. I found myself writing my own trigger words, like elemental, resonant, minerality and so on, but rather than lapsing into cliché, I feel that accuracy and finesse are the two watchwords here, and I would urge everyone who reads this piece to track every one of these wines down – they are a genuine treat.
Gullyview (predominantly limestone soils), planted in 1974, is a family vineyard, and Grace (red clay on limestone), also planted in 1974, is also owned by the Koerner family; Parish (planted 1923, on red clay, slate and ironstone soils) and Vivian (red clay on limestone) are neighbouring vineyards, and all of this fruit is taken from a 750m radius from the Koerner winery.
2022 Koerner, Watervale Riesling, Clare Valley 11.8% alc.; 775 dozen (AUD38)
Additional Label Info – Gullyview & Parish Vineyards
Made from approximately 20% Gullyview, 20% Parish and 60% Grace, this wine sees 50% ceramic eggs and 50% stainless steel, and I cannot think of a more pure and layered Watervale Riesling. This is a heavenly, forward-drinking, delicate wine with no kerosene hints, just pure lime and apple, augmented with prickles of spice. This must be one of the finest value elite-level Rieslings in Australia. 18.5/20 (Drink now – 2028)
2022 Koerner, Gullyview Vineyard Riesling, Clare Valley 12.3% alc.; 103 dozen (AUD50)
With 70% ceramic eggs and 30% steel, this is a stunningly sexy and succulent wine. The amplitude of flavour is incredible and enticing, and you can sense the white limestone soils underpinning the brightness and vitality of this wine. Juicy and indulgent, this is also drinking, but there is so much more to come with age! 18.5+/20 (Drink now – 2032)
2022 Koerner, Parish Vineyard Riesling, Clare Valley 11.8% alc.; 113 dozen (AUD50)
This wine could not be more different, with 90% in steel and only 10% in ceramic eggs, and it is only 350m away from Gullyview. It is brutally lean and leggy with awesome sinew and latent power, and while the first vintage release was only in 2020, I can imagine this wine running on for 20 years such is the class and drama in the core of this Riesling.
Overlaying the high tensile structure is a thrillingly beautiful array of delicate fruit, which shows blossom, herb and pith details over a tangy citrus theme. 19+/20 (Drink 2025 – 2040)
2022 Koerner, Rolle, Gullyview Vineyard, Clare Valley 10.8% alc.; 250 dozen (AUD45)
Additional Label Info – Vermentino
Planted in 2007, this sensational Rolle/Vermentino is up there with the finest I have tasted from this variety in France and Italy. It is made in a similar vein to a Chardonnay with careful use of Slavonian demi-muids to add texture, but not flavour. This is an amazingly accurate and utterly mesmerising wine. I cannot express how surprised I am to find a world-class Rolle in Clare, growing between Grace and Gullyview and performing at the top of this grape’s game! Forget the grape for an instant, though and think of any brittle, effortlessly cleansing, ninja-fit white wine on earth, and this 2022 Koerner Rolle would give it a run for its money – it is that good. 19/20 (Drink now – 2026)
2022 Koerner, Pigato, Gullyview Vineyard, Clare Valley 10.7% alc.; 890 dozen (AUD38)
Additional Label Info – Vermentino
This wine is precisely the same as the Rolle above, except it spends 20 days on its skins, earning it an ‘orange wine’ classification. I know that this is a famous wine in Australia, beloved by sommeliers and critics alike, but I far prefer Rolle without the skin contact. This is because while the perfume and fruit notes are more exotic and obvious, it ends up being a flatter and more textural style, albeit with crunchy acidity tacked on the end. This takes away from the apparent flair and élan found in the raw materials. 17.5/20 (Drink now – 2025)
2022 Koerner, La Korse, Clare Valley 12.7% alc.; 720 dozen (AUD38)
Additional Label Info – Vivian, Gullyview & Parish Vineyards
Made from 37% Sangiovese, 33% Grenache, 14% Sciacarello, 10% Carignan and 6% Malbec, this is a masterful example of layered varieties, bringing untold complexity to a relatively innocent red wine. While the Grenache spends some time in foudre, the remaining grapes are kept in steel, bringing a cool edge, brittle acidity and raciness to the whole. With red and blue fruit notes bounding around the palate, this is a triumphant wine you can glug at speed while not letting your standards down! 18/20 (drink now – 2025)
2022 Koerner, Mammolo, Clare Valley 13.3% alc.; 375 dozen (AUD45)
Additional Label Info – Sciacarello, Vivian Vineyard – Thank you to Ann Philips & Rob Tiver
Made from 100% Sciacarello and matured in a Slavonian oak 2000L foudre for nine months, then racked to steel for two months, this is a loveable oddball and an impossible wine to guess blind. That said, it is delicious, raspy, and mouth-watering, and it covers the entire herbaceous spectrum of flavours without ever seeming green – and this is a feat in itself! 18/20 (Drink now – 2025)
2021 Koerner, Nielluccio, Clare Valley, 12.3%. alc; 300 dozen (AUD45)
Additional Label Info – Sangiovese, Vivian Vineyard – dedicated to Charlie Jack Koerner Born 21.05.2021
Planted in 1998, this is a combative, sinewy Sangio with a gut punch of acidity that makes me think it could have been harvested a little riper.
In need of time, this raw, cranberry, and pomegranate-soaked wine has a herbal theme that sends shivers down the spine, and it would adore a plate of affettato for it to spring into action!
17/20 (Drink now – 2025)
2021 Koerner, The Clare, Clare Valley 13.1% alc.; 890 dozen (AUD35)
Additional Label Info – Vivian, Parish & Gullyview Vineyards – dedicated to Charlie Jack Koerner Born 21.05.2021
I love this fabulous ‘Clare Claret’! Made from 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 13% Grenache, 6% Malbec, 6% Carignan and 2% Sciacarello, with a hefty dollop of 1930-planted fruit on board, this is one of the region’s most attractive young red wines, and I would love to get this bottle into the hands of every restaurateur in the UK because it is precisely the shape, style, brightness and flavour that we adore. I am not surprised that this wine is in perfect balance because the Koerners are dab hands at blending and assembling complex red wines, but the quality of fruit here, for the price, is exceptional! 18.5/20 (Drink now – 2025)
2020 Koerner, Classico, Clare Valley 13.5% alc.; 300 dozen (AUD50)
Additional Label Info – Vivian, Parish & Gullyview Vineyards
Made from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec, 6% Sangiovese and 4% Grenache, this beauty spends 12 months in French demi-muids before being racked to steel for four months. It is another example of precision blending, and this time there is more amplitude of flavour, richness and decadence. Yet, it still manages to show freshness and lift throughout the experience. Plush and refreshing – I cannot remember writing these two words in the same line before! 18.5/20 (Drink now – 2028)