Ten years ago, Wirra Wirra Vineyards was the toast of the McLaren Vale in South Australia. The top tier red, the outstanding Wirra Wirra 'The Angelus' Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1991 vintage, had just taken the coveted 'Wine of the Show' at the Sydney International Top 100 Wine Competition. I happened to pass by the winery the day after the results and buy a bottle or two. The judges got it right. It was an excellent wine with an excellent name - named for the 3/4 tonne bell that is a feature of the winery - the bells that rings with celebration at the start and end of harvest and at other opportune times.
But Wirrra Wiira wines seemed to go lose their resonation and a tasting of several wines in 1999 was distinctly disappointing. What would be the solution? How about employing a talented female Kiwi winemaker to make the bell toll proudly again? So that's what they did.
Samantha Connew - Sam to her friends - graduated from Lincoln University with a Post Graduate Diploma of Viticulure and Oenology and worked in a number of wineries around the world - except in New Zealand - before joining Wirra Wirra in late 1999. Sam has made the bell peal proudly again since vintage 2000 and a recent tasting showed these wines are back to their best.
All these wines, unless stated are available in the New Zealand market. Prices are in New Zealand dollars. Some of these wines will be found in supermarkets as well as fine wine stores.
Wirra Wirra Sextons Acre Unwooded Chardonnay 2002
95% Chardonnay and 5% Viognier. Straw gold in colour with nutty, fruity, slightly leesy aromas, exotic loquat-like fruit, melon and a dollop of ginger-flower spice. As the wine sits in the glass the aromas open up well and citrus, pear and ginger scents take over. Made to drink chilled in a hot climate, it would be quite refreshing on a hot day, even in the winter.
RRP $17.99 (screwcap)
Wirra Wirra Hand Picked Riesling 2002
The 29th release of the Hand Picked Riesling
Delicate lime and floral aromas lead into a light and slightly nutty citrus-filled drink. There's plenty of lemon/lime acidity and earthy richness building to a powerful lemony finish. Spicy zesty zingy lemon and honey flavours linger with excellent length.
2002 was a cool vintage in the McLaren Vale which means the grapes had good natural acidity so little tartaric acid needed to be added in the winery, which makes the wine more naturally balanced. It's very very good.
RRP $21.99 (screwcap).
Wirra Wirra Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2002
2nd release of this label.
Rather appealing mellow oak and developing tropical fruit aromas. Nutty and leesy in the palate with apricot, melon and mandarin, grainy citrus acidity and earthy honeyed oak. A very classy and refined style of Chardonnay with crisp acidity as a result of the cool vintage. A good wine with nice fruit weight. It will benefit from cellaring to let the flavors meld.
Wirra Wirra Scrubby Rise Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2001
From the vineyard in front of the winery.
A medium red of good depth with savoury, leather and woodsmoke aromas, juicy sweet fruits, cherry fruit cake, a smoky jammy finish and a little mint too. Peppery spice lingers. A warm, soft, savoury and succu
Wirra Wirra Church Block Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot 2001
This is a more oak driven wine. Creamy French oak on the nose together with opulence of minty, spice, pepper and liquorice. Heaps of flavour in this unmistakably Aussie wine that has a soft, rich, voluptuous mouthfeel, sweet, juicy mulberry fruits, cherries, a little chocolate and eucalyptus, minty, spicy flavours lingering. Good tannin structure and terrific length, this wine is absolutely ready to drink - redefining RTD's.
Wirra Wirra McLaren Vale Shiraz 2001
A big black densely coloured wine with creamy, chocolatey aromas at first it soon becomes quite fragrant with pepper and violet scents. Spice, eucalypt, mocha, chocolate and cherries on a platter of spicy seasoned creamy vanilla oak fill the mouth in a profoundly voluptuous way. But it's firm and tight at the end when the tannins drop in. I would like to give this another year or so to let those tannins become softened by that gorgeous fruit. Excellent value.
RRP $29.99. 5000 doz. made.
Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz 2001
Quite closed on the nose and seemingly more drier and lifted in the palate than the McLaren Vale Shiraz. This is an inky coloured purple wine with intense fruit concentration of plums and blackberries spiced up by a dollop of freshly ground black pepper on a grainy biscuity texture, refined oak tannins and a touch of eucalyptus that emerges on the long dry finish together with a savoury herb, such as rosemary. A wine of great potential and one to buy for the cellar. Matured in a combination of French and American oak.
RRP $49.99. 1500 doz. made.
Wirra Wirra "The Angelus" Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
A blend of 60% Coonawarra and 40% McLaren Vale fruit.
Showing the deep inky purple-red hues of youth, this wine with its spicy (French) oak and leathery berry aromas has such a different flavour profile to the Shiraz. I'm finding red berries, leather, a marmite-like yeasty flavour (not marmite but tending toward it), mint, rosemary and hints of liquorice. It's quite a tight wine but as it opens up in the glass the juicy fruit is given a chance to show its stuff and the wine becomes quite succulent as it lingers.
RRP $49.99. Ex value.
Wirra Wirra "The Anthem" Sparkling Shiraz NV
Lovely depth of red and black fruits with peppery spice and an all encompassing savoury minty character. Big black fruits give this wine a lovely flavour and length with the bubbles adding to the pleasure. A terrific wine to have the opportunity to try but unfortunately it is not for sale in New Zealand right now.
Find out more from www.wirra.com.au.
© Sue Courtney
20 July 2003