Since the Cowra Estate planted its first vines in 1973, there has been enormous growth in the importance of this region.
The 1990s was a decade of major expansion with larger companies and boutiques planting vineyards. The region is home to more than 40 vineyards, covering 1250 square kilometres. The region is defined by its warm days, cool nights and dry late summers, which provide perfect conditions for ripening wine grapes. Cowra is best known for its full-flavoured Chardonnays but Shiraz, Cabernet and blends, are gaining in popularity for showcasing regional characteristics. The Cowra wine region is proving to be one of many emerging Australian wine regions to discover. Cowra offers genuine country hospitality, delicious food and wine, amazing natural attractions and a fascinating history. Must-dos include the Japanese Cultural Garden and the many cellar doors dotted through the region.
Cowra wine region is located in the NSW Central Ranges, approximately 300 metres above sea level.
First vines planted in 1973, followed by significant expansion in the 1990s.
The region is home to around 14 wineries.
The climate is of Continental nature, with moderate rainfall. Described as moderately acidic, the soils are brownish loamy sand to clay loam on the surface, with red clay subsoils.
Chardonnay is one of the most important wines, with older vintages producing an ultra-rich golden taste.
Shiraz performs extremely well, particularly as the vines increase with age.
Other wines gaining in popularity include Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The climate is warm and dry, with the mean January temperature of 23.55ºC (74ºF). Growing season rainfall is relatively moderate but relative humidity is low, reflecting the Continental nature of the climate. Spring frosts mean that careful site selection is required.
The vineyards are situated on gentle slopes within two valleys cut into the western side of the Great Dividing Range by the Lachlan and Belubula rivers. The soils are brownish loamy sand to clay loam on the surface, with red clay subsoils. They are moderately acidic and vary from low to moderately fertile.
Chardonnay: By far the most important wine of the region, Chardonnay is invariably generously flavoured. In younger wines, yellow peach and ripe fig flavours tend to dominate and a degree of French oak influence is frequently encountered. However, some older wines of this variety are demonstrating a capacity to develop into ultra-rich, honey and buttered toast styles.
Other White Wines: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho are the other most commonly encountered white wines, with both variety and region specified on the label. Verdelho seems well suited to the region. In addition, Riesling and Gewürztraminer are growing in quantity and reputation.
Shiraz: With increased age of vines in the area, the red wines are starting to show depth of flavour and colour. Shiraz has performed extremely well, with the wines showing ripe fruit characters as well as some earthy and peppery notes. Some experimenting has been done with blending Shiraz and Viognier and this is showing promising results.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot: These show the full expression of ripe fruit characteristics of darkberries, chocolate and eucalypt. The tannins are smooth and carry the fruit of the wine well. They are renowned for their easy drinking and approachability.
Other Red Wines: Some success is being seen with Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Grenache and Mouverdre.
Cowra Airport 1966-2003
Map coordinates: 33° 57’ S
Altitude: 300-380 metres (984-1246 feet)
Heat degree days, October-April: 2130 (cut off at 19ºC, 66.2ºF, but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October-April: 370 millimetres (14.5 inches)
Mean January temperature: 23.5ºC (74ºF)
Relative humidity, October-April, 3 pm: Average 39%
Harvest: Early March - Early April
Jason O'Dea, Windowrie Estate, Cowra, NSW
In 1959 David O’Dea purchased Windowrie, driven to own land in this beautiful part of NSW by the soil and climate on offer in the region. During the agricultural crisis in the 1980s, David made the decision to diversify from sheep and grain farming into premium wine grape production. Jason O’Dea says this decision dramatically changed the family's fortunes.
“As a family, we believed that Cowra's potential as a grape growing region could only be reached by processing our own fruit locally, so we built a state-of-the-art winery, which was completed in time for the 1999 vintage. The winery was built on a hillside overlooking the magnificent vista of the estate's vineyard. The entire family is involved in the successful running of the business,” Jason says.
“Our vision for the winery was to combine the latest technology with traditional techniques, and most importantly to reduce the critical time between picking and crushing the grapes. Because the Windowrie Estate vineyards surround the winery, winemaking can begin within minutes of harvesting.
“Grape varieties are planted according to which soil type, irrigation method and type of canopy management are required for maximum quality and varietal fruit flavour. Windowrie Estate believes that the combination of the natural soil, climate, topography and water, combined with careful management practices, allows the growth of clean, fresh, full flavoured grapes.
“Like many growers in the region, we practise minimal intervention. No insecticides are used, and this ensures that natural predators flourish. Windowrie also manages an accredited organic vineyard and offers advice and management to vineyards in Australia and overseas.“Windowrie now produces wine from the region for several brands, including the Family Reserve, The Mill and Deep River range. These wines are available in Australia and more than 10 countries worldwide.”