For a Margaret River wine label to grab attention in a region full of attention-grabbing wines requires the kind of long-term dedication to quality production that has become the central plot marker in the Coward & Black Vineyards story.
Founders Patrick Coward and Martin Black have put in the effort, and it shows.
Long-time buddies (the two have known each other since both were six-years-old), Patrick and Martin bought an old cattle-grazing property in 1997 and just two years later opened the Margaret River Chocolate Company. Two decades in, that palace of sweetness is now a local institution.
What’s lesser known, perhaps, is the story of these two men and their passion for wine via their Coward & Black Vineyards label.
“We believe that great wine comes from great fruit and we put our focus on nurturing the vineyard and our faith in the soils and the season,” says General Manager, Daniel Robe, in a succinct sum up of one of the region’s quieter (but amply awarded) wine labels.
“I think it has been a well-kept secret but the cat’s getting out of the bag now,” Robe laughs. “After 16 years of meticulously nurturing our vineyard we are now producing some fabulous wines. Our Rosé picked up two trophies, two golds in national competitions and an international gold this year. Our 2016 Chardonnay has six gold medals and our Cabernet Sauvignon is consistently picking up gold medals – so word is getting out, which is fantastic.”
The making of fine wine is alchemy. Soils. Water. Weather. Vines. Grapes. Yeasts. Sugars. Fermentation. Old oak. New oak. No oak. Winemaker input. Ageing. A great bottle is not the sum of excellence, so much as it is the balanced meeting of working parts married with an eye to character and artistry. The magic of Coward & Black Vineyards is found firmly in the latter equation.
They have the terroir: the property sits above an ancient ironstone aquifer at the beginning of the Wilyabrup boundary in the heart of the Margaret River wine region.
“The amazing terroir of our site, especially soil and the vines’ genetics are the reason why we are able to produce such great fruit,” Robe explains. “We are blessed with rich, bountiful soils evenly infused with the free draining red ochre gravel that characterises the soils of this great wine growing region.”
They have the approach: all fruit is hand picked and “meticulously selected” in order to ensure only the best grapes make it into the bottle.
And Coward & Black Vineyards has the wine wisdom, courtesy of the cleverness of enlisting Fraser Gallop winemaker, Clive Otto, to head up their wine program. He won the Decanter Wine Awards Trophy for the best Cabernet Sauvignon in the world for the 2007 vintage, the first wine he produced for Fraser Gallop Estate.
“We’ve been working with Clive Otto at Fraser Gallop Estate for more than ten years to get our wines exactly how we want them,” says Robe. “Changing the ratio and source of the barrels each year back and forth through multiple permutations like an oenological Rubik’s Cube. Experimenting with different parcels of fruit and switching to wild yeast.”
The experiments are certainly paying off, as is the dedication to a single vision of single estate wines nurtured to represent the best of the region.
Coward & Black Vineyard Fast Facts:
- The first Coward & Black Vineyard vines were planted in 2002, with the first vintage sold to market in 2006.
- Focus is on classic Bordeaux styles – think Cabernet and Chardonnay – through to Shiraz, Rose, and their range of sweet chocolate liqueurs that marry all arms of the chocolate and wine business.
- Singe estate is the by-word in the vineyard, a decision made to showcase the winery’s terroir.
- Alongside Clive Otto, Fraser Gallop’s Ellin Tritt is also part of the Coward & Black winemaking team.
- The vineyard is located in Wilyabrup, which was mapped out by Dr John Gladstone in 1967.
- The vineyard has a total of 9.2 hectares under vine, including a parcel of Chenin Blanc planted in the Swan Valley in 2011.