Visiting Wirra Wirra, McLaren Vale

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Wirra Wirra is one of those wineries that we sometimes take for granted. They’ve been there for (seemingly) ever, making good wines in reasonable quantities, but don’t often get the headlines. But the great thing about wineries like this is that they connect with lots of people, and you can find the wines pretty much everywhere. So I was pleased to visit.

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The late Greg Trott was the man behind Wirra Wirra. The actual vineyard, though, dates back to the early days of winegrowing here. Robert Strangeway Wrigley came here from Adelaide in 1894. He was a bachelor who played cricket for south Australia, and was getting his family’s reputation into trouble in the city, so he came out to the McLaren Vale to grow grapes and make fortified wine. He died in the 1920s with no heirs, and the property was effectively left to ruin for 40 years.

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Then Gregg Trott came along in 1969. A failed worm farmer, oliver grower and chicken farmer, he took over Wirra Wirra and rebuilt the old buildings stone by stone. He set about making wine, and as with many of his projects, it was on the ambitious side, but with the help of regular injections of cash from investors, over the next few decades developed a reputation for premium red wines. Trott died in 2005, but he eccentricities and love of cricket are stamped all over this venture.

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A third of Wirra Wirra’s needs are provided by their estate vineyards: they have 21 hectares in the estate vineyards and another 30 just outside the GI, all of which are now farmed biodynamically.

Paul Smith, winemaker Wirra Wirra

Paul Smith, winemaker Wirra Wirra

The winery looks pretty old school, but it has a lovely row of two ton open top red fermenters that makes working parcel by parcel a possibility.

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Wirra Wirra Lost Watch Riesling 2017 Adelaide Hills, Australia
This is from two vineyards in the hills. It’s hand picked, gently pressed and fermented dry. Pristine with lively lemony fruit. Fresh with a slight herbal edge to the lime and green apple characters. Fresh, quite elegant, fruit-driven style. 90/100

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Wirra Wirra 12thMan Chardonnay 2016 Adelaide Hills, Australia
Vineyards in Lenswood and Lobethal supply the grapes for this fresh, balanced Chardonnay. It’s fine and fresh with lovely citrus fruits and some pronounced, nutty, toasty oak. There’s a savoury cedary edge. Showing nice restraint, this is a linear wine with lovely citrus fruit, and the oak will settle down with time. 91/100

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Wirra Wirra Original Blend 2016 McLaren Vale, Australia
Since 1972, Trott’s debut vintage, Wirra Wirra’s main wine was the Church Block, a Grenache/Shiraz blend with the emphasis on the Grenache. The recipe was tweaked in 1983 to include Cabernet Sauvignon after some consultancy from Brian Croser, so this wine carries the legacy of the original blend of the Church Block red. Fermented in small open top fermenters with the Grenache picked a little early to keep freshness, and matured in old oak. It’s pretty and vivid with jammy raspberry and cherry fruit. Lovely freshness and purity here. It’s a fruit-driven style that’s harmonious and balanced. 91/100 (A$25)

Wirra Wirra Church Block 2015 McLaren Vale, Australia
This is 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Shiraz and 13% Merlot. Distinctive, fresh, supple blackcurrant fruit with delicious spicy notes and some bright raspberry character. Hints of tar and mint here, with fine-grained tannins. Fruit driven and vivid. 90/100

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Wirra Wirra Catapult Shiraz 2016 McLaren Vale, Australia
This is an interesting wine, with a meaty, olive edge and a bit of pepper complementing the blackberry and black cherry fruit. Has richness and focus with nice freshness. Perfumed, bright and elegant. 93/100

Wirra Wirra Woodhenge Shiraz 2015 McLaren Vale, Australia
This comes from vineyards closer to the sea: these are warmer sites but have limestone subsoil. 40% new oak, a 50/50 mix of French and American. Complex, warm, broad and spicy with vivid olive, black pepper and blackcurrand notes, as well as a cedar twist from the oak. Ripe and intense with some tarriness, and maybe even some smoky notes. Powerful and complex in a rich style. 91/100

Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz 2014 McLaren Vale, Australia
This is from old, low-yielding bocks, fermented in open fermenters and aged in tight-grained French oak for 17 months. Leathery and earthy with a tarry edge to the black fruits. Very concentrated and intense with sweet dark fruits and some smoky, spicy oak character. There’s freshness as well as concentration. Dense and weighty, with burly tannins, and a hint of aniseed. Needs time. 93/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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