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Celebrating 50 Years of Redman Cabernet Sauvignon

With so many new and exciting brands entering the Australian wine scene, the stories of the classics could well be left on a dusty bottle-shop shelf. However, in 2023, as the Redman family celebrated 50 years of Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, they showcased a body of work that showed consistency of style over five decades. It was a reminder that everything old can be new again.  

The non-intervention wine philosophy, instilled in the family from the beginning (1908), continues today and has always stood them in good stead no matter the trends of the time. This 50-year milestone was due to be celebrated in 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. An extra special reason to celebrate and a chance to include the latest 2021 vintage release in the line-up of wine. In July 2023, the Redman family gathered at the Carlton Wine Room with a group of Australia’s most esteemed wine media to reflect on a vertical of Redman Cabernet Sauvignon starting from 1970.  

Listen in as James Halliday AM, Jane Faulkner, Nick Stock, Katie Spain and Mal Redman share their thoughts on the tasting: 

The Redman name has become synonymous with medium-bodied, intensely flavoured Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. Whilst the Redman story dates to 1908 it was only in the late 1960s that Owen Redman realised the potential for Cabernet Sauvignon. 1970 was the first release, with 550 magnums produced - only a small harvest the first year, but demand grew as greater fruit became available. Mal Redman recalls, “We remember talking about selling these initial Cabernet magnums for $8 each and questioning whether anyone would buy them, and within minutes someone walked into the Cellar Door and walked out with a case. We knew we were onto something special.”  

Bruce Redman remarked, “This 50-year milestone is a great opportunity to look back to see how the industry and region have changed. We’ve evolved and continued to embrace new techniques and technology, but we are still very much hands-on and believe in the philosophy of non-intervention. Grapes are de-stemmed and crushed in the field at the time of picking, and there’s a focus on red wine, which means a consistency of style that maintains the integrity of the wine. Every vintage is different, but there’s a common thread running through the wines we’re trying to capture.” 

Click here (PDF) to read the vintage conditions from the initial 1970 vintage, along with the tasting notes from Bruce Redman, Nick Ryan and Sarah Andrew, looking at each wine from the tasting. Can you pick which vintage were the favourites?

There are also some thoughts from leading commentators who attended the event and media coverage that followed. 


Your Chance to Buy 50 Years of Redman Cabernet Sauvignon – Langton’s Auction

Now it’s your chance to buy this piece of Australian wine history. In conjunction with Langton’s, we’ll be offering a vertical of Redman Cabernet that will be auctioned off in August 2024. The collection has been stored in the Redman family cellar, starting with the 1971 vintage. Stay tuned for details.

Dan Redman talks about the unique nature of this collection.



Evolution of Redman Cabernet Sauvignon over 50 Years

Some things never go out of fashion. It’s fair to say that the philosophy to make wines in the Redman style has evolved but very much remains true to the vision of Bill and his son Owen Redman. The Redman winemaking philosophy has always focused on producing medium-bodied, full-flavoured wines with power and elegance, perfectly suited to Coonawarra's unique climate. Now, with over 115 years of expertise in crafting red wines, this family winemaking philosophy has never been more focused.

With only three winemakers at the helm across five decades of Cabernet Sauvignon production and just two viticulturists tending to the vines, the Redman family's intimate knowledge of the vineyards and Coonawarra's terroir is second to none.

Mal and Bruce Redman have slightly evolved the Redman Cabernet style with refrigeration, advances in technology, cultured yeasts, and the availability of different oak-giving, allowing for improvements. Crushing the grapes in the field and focusing on red wine production, particularly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, means focus on delivering a consistent style.

Dan and Mike Redman, the fourth generation, now add their touch, but the vision remains very much that of non-intervention. Letting the quality of the fruit, sourced from five exceptional vineyards, speak for itself. Dan Redman reflects.
  

 



A Body of Work Spanning Five Decades

Bruce Redman summarises this important body of work spanning over fifty years, looking at some of the challenges, family milestones and most memorable vintages.

1970s 

The early years were a time of trial and error but arguably produced some of our finest Cabernet Sauvignon. We used to start picking early in the season at a low Baume to pick the whole vintage before the autumn rains. There were a lot of cooler and damper vintages, with 1971 and 1976 being up there amongst the finest. 

1979 saw the passing of Bill Redman, who had been making wine for over 57 years. Bill retired in 1966 when Rouge Homme was sold, leaving a fantastic legacy for the family and the region. 

1980s 

The 80s produced a decade of markedly different vintages, and there’s an old saying that the odd years were not as good as the even ones. Our tastings prove this not to be the case, but it was a cool decade with wines generally showing lower alcohol. 

1981 was the last year that Owen Redman made wine at Redman, with Bruce and Mal Redman taking over the winemaking responsibilities in 1982. Dan Redman was also born in  

1982 (as timing would have it right in the middle of vintage!). 

Mike Redman would argue that the pick of the vintages was 1985, the vintage he was born. 

The eighties also saw a renaissance for the Redman family. A slight change to the old-world styles, with newer, fresher oak in the wines and an evolution from handpicking to machine harvesting. Freshly graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College, there were some tweaks that Bruce Redman started to introduce into the Cabernet style to evolve and keep them relevant. 

1990s 

Those who remember the early 90s will recall that 1991 was the first year of a nearly twenty-year drought. Warmer vintage conditions resulted in slightly higher sugar levels, giving the wines a little more richness and plushness. However, the wines retain the beautiful cool climate and dark berry fruit characters for which the wines are renowned. 

The 90s saw a slightly fuller flavour to the Cabernet and an evolution of the Redman label. We decided to tweak the label and become somewhat more colourful, with the distinctive yellow being introduced (an upgrade from parchment) to assist with easier recognition on the shelf, thus helping you find your favourite Redman wine at the bottle shop. It was about evolution, not revolution though as many have fond memories of a bottle of Redman shared with family and friends. 

2000s 

Similar conditions to the 90s were experienced, with growing conditions still generally warmer and characterised by a little less rainfall. However, the grapes could hang on the vines a little longer to give us a perfect character to the wines – by now; our Cabernet had a distinctive style. Coonawarra was gaining recognition as being one of the regions to enjoy when looking for classic, but still lower in alcohol Cabernet Sauvignon. 

In 2008 the fourth generation of the Redman Family, Daniel (Dan) joined the family business as a winemaker, precisely 100 years after his Great Grandfather made his first wine. It was also the 100th year of winemaking for the Redman family, a significant milestone. 

2010  

Our Cabernet Sauvignon style continues to be adjusted in response to the nuances of each vintage. Redman has never been about the accolades we’ve accumulated, but seeing the recognition for our Cabernet from our industry peers is constantly humbling. Since 1982 our Redman Cabernet has won 40 gold medals on the Australian Wine Show Circuit, including twelve significant trophies. It has gained a following that we’re proud of, and it remains true to the original style, an approachable wine to enjoy. 

In 2015, Michael (Mike) Redman joined the family business, so the fourth generation now plays a part in how the wines evolve and what happens in the vineyards. 

It’s pretty timely that this year, in the fiftieth year of producing Cabernet Sauvignon, we release the 2017 Redman Cabernet Sauvignon, the first vintage we’ve bottled under screwcap. Bruce finally lost the battle, and it was the ideal vintage to make the transition. It’s a year that was more like the 60s and 70s, lower in alcohol but lovely ripe fruit characters showing some sweet, lifted violets and delicious tannins, still being under 13%. 

We’ve been trialling batches of cork versus screw cap since 2007, whereby each vintage, a small portion of wines were bottled under screw cap. So, we now have a 10-year library of wines to compare cork and screw cap closure wines. We have opened these wines throughout Coonawarra Cellar Dwellers and Cabernet Celebrations, and it’s been interesting to compare the differences – with the preference about 50/50, so it’s still not definitive. 

2020 and Beyond: What the Future Holds 

We never rest on our laurels; it is always about refining how we’ve made wine, staying true to our roots and vision to create enjoyable and age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon. Bruce Redman notes “Every vintage presents a different challenge in producing top-quality Cabernet Sauvignon. However, our aim is to produce medium-bodied, flavourful, well-balanced wines. My father always said if we get a balanced wine, it can be consumed and enjoyed regardless of age." 

The future is bright, with the fourth-generation Dan and Mike buying into the family business in 2020 to ensure that we’ll make Cabernet right here in our Coonawarra for maybe another fifty years to come… 

Read the Tasting Notes here