The history of Tumbarumba is one that has been built in waves; from early explorers to cattle stations, through the gold rush days and eventually into wine. The first grapes were planted in 1981 but the actual wine region wasn’t established until the early-mid 1990’s when National corporate wineries were investing heavily in wine science and using trained viticulturists to explore and develop new wine regions. There were few places in Australia cool enough to craft world class wine from early ripening varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Ian Cowell, senior wine maker at Lindeman’s, was tasked with finding a region on mainland Australia that could produce premium grapes for Sparkling wine production. He searched for terrain that shared climatic similarities with France’s Champagne region. In 1993, Cowell established a vineyard in Tumbarumba. The purpose of which was to provide multi-nationals from other established wine regions with ultra-cool, premium quality grapes. As more vineyards were established, they too sold their fruit and soon Tumbarumba became a grape-growing, rather than a wine-making region.
The ‘Tralee’ Vineyard is the largest in Tumbarumba and was originally established in 1993 by the region’s founder, Ian Cowell. As he later found out, Tumbarumba is not an easy place to grow wine grapes. Winter is bitterly cold. Spring is punctuated by severe frosts. And ultra-premium viticulture is laborious and fiercely expensive. After a long period of selling fruit to other wineries, including Block 20 consistently being reserved for Penfolds Yattarna. In 2011, the owners of the old ‘Tralee’ vineyard decided to call it quits and intended to dig up the vines. Determined to not let that happen, Jason and Alecia Brown came to the vineyard’s rescue which is where the story of Coppabella begins.
Jason and Alecia Brown were seduced by the well credentialed, high altitude, alpine vineyard. The purity and serenity of the site was intoxicating, the potential to create the ultimate expression of cool climate wines on mainland Australia, was impossible to refuse. Under the Brown’s ownership the entire vineyard has been transformed. Rather than just grow grapes for multi-nationals, all of the vineyard’s fruit is now made into wine under the Coppabella label. The name Coppabella pays tribute to the original cattle station that occupied the area in the 1800’s. The Browns have invested heavily; from grafting a number of blocks to the earlier ripening Dijon Clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to rehabilitating the vines and overhauling the viticultural practices. And planting new varieties and looking at sustainable farming methods. In 2016, the hard work was rewarded; Coppabella became the first Tumbarumba winery awarded 5 Stars by James Halliday in the 2017 Halliday Wine Companion.
Our wines have a purity, expression and elegance that speak of their origin. There’s a delicacy and refinement that can only be achieved in a very cool climate. And Tumbarumba is one of very few places in the Southern Hemisphere where such wines can be made. The vineyard has evolved and matured and now under the Coppabella label, one of the great treasures of cool climate viticulture is finally free to be expressed through single vineyard, estate labelled wines.