Wirra Wirra vineyards established itself as one of Australia's most recognisable and leading wineries under the watchful eye of the late Greg Trott. Trott, who sadly passed away in 2005, and his cousin Roger rebuilt the winery in 1969 from the remnants of two walls and some slate fermenting tanks. Today Wirra Wirra Vineyards has developed a reputation for intense, beautifully crafted red wines and expressive fine whites. James Halliday has described Wirra Wirra as "...the best small to medium sized winery in McLaren Vale and right up there on a national scale". Whilst the production of high quality wine is a serious business, Wirra Wirra will continue to subscribe to Greg Trott's view that wine is an essential ingredient in the enjoyment of the finer things in life - good food, good music and good conversation.
50 Years in the Making
In 1969, while the world marvelled at Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, Greg Trott made a giant leap of his own. The formerly grand cellars of Wirra Wirra were in ruins when Greg and his cousin Roger took ownership. The remains of two walls stood defiantly and housed a stubborn slate fermenter. The winery had been abandoned for 33 years following the death of founder Robert Strangways Wigley and the subsequent failed attempts to keep trading.
It was three years of back-breaking manual labour re-building the original cellars and making wine by moonlight before the first vintage of Church Block was conceived from the 1972 harvest. Trott dedicated his career to Wirra Wirra’s second life and oversaw Church Block grow from the humblest of beginnings as a grenache, shiraz to Australia’s favourite premium red blend in its current guise as a cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot.
The 2019 release has impeccable balance and approachability on release with the depth and structure to live on in the cellar for another decade. The longevity of Church Block has been a hallmark of the wine since the beginning and the 2019 release continues this legacy.
Wirra has many other famous wines and stories to boast about. They are particularly fond of their sensational Shiraz with “Chook Block” and “RSW” and the pinnacle and Woodhenge and Catapult for more everyday wines. But a particular favourite of mine has been The Absconder Grenache in which we got our friend Travis Schultz to review this week.
"The Absconder" - Travis Schultz
For reasons I’ve never really understood, grenache has long been the Nutribullet of grape varietals; not really a headline act itself, but considered really useful for blending. But in recent years, the style seems to be gaining momentum as a single varietal of note and one worthy of occupying space in the cellar. And if you ask me, not before time!
One of the most eminently drinkable examples that you’ll currently find on the shelves has to be the 2018 “The Absconder” from Wirra Wirra. It’s undoubtedly a food wine that engulfs your senses with the first whiff yet satisfies the optics with clarity of ruby-esque colour in the glass and charms across the palate with candied red berries, spicy cinnamon and hints of raspberry and red-currants through an allspice-laced conclusion. It’s a credit to the winemaking skills of Paul Smith, Tom Ravech, Kelly Wellington & Gonzalo Sanchez that despite not appearing to be overly high in acid, it doesn’t get away thanks to the seamless integration of fine tannins and the tell-tale French oak exposure. I’m sure it would work really well with the Korean BBQ spiced pork dish that my sister often trots out when we visit.
This isn’t the hot and heavy type of Grenache that did the varietal no favours in times gone by; there’s an elegance to the Absconder that belies its power and presence. It’s not cheap at $65 - $70 a bottle, but I guess that’s just the price to pay for quality. A top drop and still much cheaper than a bottle of chateauneuf-du-pape!