🥶 A Winter Tasting with Joshua Cooper By Andy Ainsworth

When Andy Ainsworth approached the Loose Lips Editorial Board with a pitch to write a little something on Josh Cooper, we said yes mate! We love Andy and we love his love for wine, he writes about drinking it and living it in a beautiful, peaceful, generous way, which is fitting considering his recent tree change from Sydney to a few acres outside Daylesford, Vic to grow veggies and keep things chill. 

If you don’t know him by name, you’d probably recognise Andy’s golden locks from the floor of 10 William, or before that, DJing at The Flinders (RIP). He was also an accountant somewhere in there? Anyway, he’s great, and so is Joshua Cooper, his wines just got released this week! We’ll leave it to Andy to tell you why you should drink them. 

An early winter tasting with Joshua Cooper out at Cobaw Ridge is always a treat, and is becoming an annual ritual for me. The timing is perfect (despite it being a little chilly) because it means we taste the infant 2020 vintage from barrel and the 2019 vintage from tank just before it graduates into bottle.

Joshua Cooper is the son of Alan and Nelly Cooper, pioneers of Macedon Range’s grape growing and winemaking industry at their well-loved Cobaw Ridge farm. Josh was born in 1988, three years after his folks planted the vines, grew up at Cobaw Ridge, learned plenty from his father as well as at university in Adelaide and a few years in France. Since then he’s quietly forged his own path and identity through nine vintages of wines under the Joshua Cooper label. 

The Joshua Cooper wines are a “negoce” affair, all the grapes are sourced from farmers within relatively close proximity to his family’s farm, and although not always strictly within the Macedon Ranges GI, to me they certainly feel typical of this area: dense yet taught, very mineral, austere in structure but generous in flavour (and complexity). When you spend time shooting the breeze with Josh, it becomes obvious his meticulously chosen fruit sources are informed by a deep knowledge of wine, an appreciation for good farming practices, an understanding of the importance of terroir, a respect for the history of the region and a finely tuned palate. 

His quest to speak about some of the magnificent terroir of the wider Macedon Ranges through his range of site-specific wines is in its youth. However, the potential of each vineyard is being realised through a deft, informed touch in the cellar, creating vivid, site-specific expressions in the glass. They’re produced in very small quantities so snap up some of the wines below and watch them unfurl. 

The Whites
It’s an all-Chardonnay affair in the white department for Josh Cooper thus far. He makes Chardonnay from three different sites, all vinified in the same manner, so the only variable here is terroir: that’s how Josh likes it. Speaking to Josh about the winemaking process for the white wines gets nice and nerdy, so strap in if geeky winemaking is your vibe:

On cramming so much detail into his Chardonnay: 
“Most of the white winemaking is in the pressing I think, assuming you got the picking right, a bit like when making a stock: you don’t want to simmer too hard and it's important that it’s on for long enough, though not too long.” 

“I foot stomp the whole bunches in the 500kg picking bins to get some juice out… probably 50% crushed if estimating. I’m aiming to get the “finest” (as in fine lines and detail) juice as possible and retain acid during the pressing. So for me it means once the press is loaded, it's rotated so the screen is facing down. Press very gently .2 bar, then pump this free run juice into tank right away. From then on there’s basically no rotations or crumpling, just inflating and deflating, like a pretend basket press cycle. Normally it's about 3-4 hours for the whole cycle.”

After pressing, the juice stays in tank for a few days until fermentation is just kicking off, indicated by a tiny prickle of gas. It’s then racked into Stockinger barrels for fermentation and a year of elevage, continually topped up. Just before next year's grapes are ready to be picked it’s racked back into stainless steel tanks for a few months until bottling.

We drank a 2018 Cope Williams Chardonnay at Josh’s house that evening and the time in bottle had done wonderful things, integrating the fruity components and the acid into a more complete whole, which smelt more of stones, and was plusher texturally. A little patience goes a long way with these wines.

Devastatingly, the challenges of the 2020 vintage meant that no Chardonnay was made in this vintage, the flowering vineyards were demolished by hail last November, so the growers didn’t have any Chardonnay to sell to Josh. So best to stock up on the 2019s is my logic!

The Reds
Similar to the white wines, Josh’s pinots are all vinified in exactly the same manner: 

Josh on his approach to Pinot Noir:
“longer, slower, and more gentle. All whole bunches, which are sorted well in the vineyard, are tipped into the fermenters. I do one pump over a day for a week, starting with no oxygen, just to homogenise, then 3-4 days with air once the ferment is properly going, it's good for yeast heath and strengthens them for later. Then a week of pigage usually every second day, depending on the tannin profile. Then gently basket pressed and racked into 228L, thick staved Laurent “Magic Cask” which have a very blonde toast”. Three weeks maceration in total for both of the Pinots.”

Josh is a great taster, and we always enjoy a diverse selection of great bottles together over dinner and conversation. He’ll often have an old bottle to share with a great story such as the 1976 Virgin Hills Red Blend he generously shared with me last year, or the 1980 Balgownie Shiraz we shared just a few days after tasting at Cobaw Ridge. He turned 32 in 2020, however his knowledge of classic vintages and historical wines and wineries from Victoria and much further afield are akin to those many years his senior. Josh’s deep knowledge of great, historical wines is driven by his thirst for detail, and it’s this attention to detail at every stage of his winemaking that gives each of his wines their complexity and poise. 

If you like wines that speak of a “place” - I’m talking here about climate, about soil and the myriad of minutiae that contribute to wines mystique - then you’ll love pulling these corks and getting your contemplation on. But they are also full of the heady, gratifying ease of drinkability and energy that make getting pissed with your comrades even more fantastic than it already is. Depends what mood you’re in I guess.

Shop Josh’s goods here, brand new to DRNKS.