Centennial sparkles with three out of five wines Top 5 sparklings for 2019!
"Centennial Vineyards is geared to small batch wine making and Cosgriff likes to push the envelope."
WHEN talk turns to the New South Wales Southern Highlands wine-growing region, Centennial Vineyards leads the conversation. Over the past 20 years, winemaker Tony Cosgriff has kicked serious goals and forged a formidable reputation for sparkling wines. The Centennial Vineyards Brut Traditionelle, a benchmark multi-vintage blend, has led the charge with six trophies, 10 gold medals and a Top 5 in this year’s Winestate Wine of the Year awards.
Well-known wine retailer and entrepreneur John Large and investor Mark Dowling purchased the Bowral property in 2000 and were keenly aware of its cool-climate status. Cosgriff, a New Zealander who studied physical and analytical chemistry at Christchurch University and obtained a postgraduate degree in oenology and viticulture, had worked in leading wine regions around the world, including Marlborough, the Barossa and Hunter valleys, Frankland in WA and Sonoma in the US. “I met John and we were both committed to making top quality wines, so I applied for the job and have been the winemaker since 2001,” he adds.
Over 26 vintages later, Cosgriff is still as passionate as the day he started. “We are 750m above sea level and quite elevated,” he says. “The area is about four to five degrees cooler than Sydney, which is why the local Aboriginal people came here to escape the heat. We started making sparkling wines early because of their exceptional crispness and acidity. I love making sparkling wines because of their unique personalities and complex production techniques.”
There’s nothing cookie cutter about Cosgriff’s approach. The Centennial Vineyards Late Disgorged Sparkling, of which only 1344 bottles of the beautifully balanced and structured wine were made, was rested for nearly 10 years on lees before disgorging in 2018. Showing the wineries commitment to quality in its long term approach.The winery’s Blanc de Blancs received 5 stars in the Winestate Wines of NSW tasting and is a top 5 Finalist in this year’s Winestate Sparkling Wine of the Year (of which Centennial Vineyards took out three of the top 5 finalist awards for their Blanc de Blancs, Brut Rosé and Brut Traditionelle). The wine also received 95 points in the Halliday 2020 Wine Companion and won Best Sparkling in Show at the 2019 Australian Highlands Wine Show, in addition to five trophies at other leading wine shows.
Brut Traditionelle is a flagship product, says Cosgriff. “But we also make a Brut Rosé and Blanc de Noirs we are very proud of. We have also made a sparkling wine solely from pinot meunier grapes as consumers today like to experiment and are looking for wines and varietals they may have heard of but don’t know much about. We had the meunier grapes for traditional methode champenoise styles, so I thought ‘why not’ and I have been very pleased with the result.”
Centennial Vineyards is geared to small batch wine making and Cosgriff likes to push the envelope. Because of the cool climate in the Southern Highlands, grapes ripen more slowly than in warmer regions to yield more balanced, aromatic fruit. The 32ha Bowral vineyard is planted to chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris, alberino, pinot meunier, pinot noir, gewurtztraminer, gruner veltliner and tempranillo grapes. The winery’s still wines are also worth seeking out as they are also regular recipients of show awards. The 2018 Reserve Gruner Veltliner scored five stars in the Winestate Emerging Varietals Awards and the 2016 Limited Release Bridge Creek Cabernet Sauvignon received four-and-a-half stars in the China Southern Airlines Cabernet & Bordeaux Challenge IX.
Cosgriff is always looking for ways to improve and stretch his boundaries. As well as the Bowral vineyard, Centennial acquired the Bridge Creek Vineyard in Orange in 2010 and plantings have been extended to mencia, rondinella, corvina, pinot noir, shiraz and viognier, as well as cabernet sauvignon and merlot. “I am also experimenting with other Italian red grapes such as barbera and amarone della valpolicella styles.”
Centennial Vineyards has become a standard bearer for the NSW Southern Highlands region. Its proximity to Sydney – less than a two-hour drive – is a major drawcard. “We’ve been around for a while now and have been consistently winning major awards for over 19 years,” adds Cosgriff. “But the Southern Highlands remains a new wine region for many people and I find that very exciting. From the start, John Large realised that wine tourism and our popular restaurant would be key to our success. The fact that we have so many tourist attractions in the area from Morton National Park to the International Cricket Hall of Fame allows me to have 40 estate wines in the restaurant and cellar door. It’s hard work but I sometimes have to pinch myself that I am also being paid to have fun.”