Tag Archives: Indigenous place names

Penfolds Koonunga Hill – An historical perspective

This article is by occasional contributor Geoff Parker – Geoff looks at the history of a well-known Australian wine and seeks the origin of the name on the label.

A value for money, commemorative release

Some years ago, the local bottle shop in Blackburn had on sale a magnum of Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2004, for the good price of $21. It was called Koonunga Hill (Special Reserve) Claret. The entire bottle was covered in red, and the distinctive appearance commemorated the passing of thirty years of the line. The first release was the 1976 vintage which was released in 1978. I bought the magnum and reflected, “Where have the thirty years gone?”

There was a bottle of the ‘76 in my cellar at this time, but somehow it got included in a parcel for auction at Langton’s and ultimately realized $25. I should have kept it. With the magnum in my hand and thinking back to the label of the ‘76, it struck me that I’d purchased every vintage in between, and for good reason.

Penfolds Koonunga Cabernet 2010

Koonunga Hill was always a reliable, very affordable, quality red that you could freely splash about after a game of golf, or when neighbours dropped in, or when a pizza at the local Italian was a good idea. But treating it in this way was probably a little too casual, particularly during the early years, for as Len Evans said of the first release in the Wine and Spirit Buying Guide of June 1978:

“Koonunga Hill is “…very big on the palate (with) an underlying complexity which I find most appealing…reminiscent of the big Penfolds reds of the 1960s.”

He also said in this publication that the first Koonunga Hill was crafted from fruit from the Koonunga Hill vineyard in the Barossa Valley, and from fruit sourced from Coonawarra and Magill. Continue reading