News & other goode stuff
Welcome to the Wangolina blog. Here is where we will be highlighting news, events and all goode stuff that has been happening around our little patch on a very ad-hoc basis.
Nick Ryan, The Australian September 10th 2019
Of the myriad wonders lurking in a glass of wine, perhaps the most amazing is the way a wine can go rummaging through the more chaotic cupboards of memory.
The sensory stuff is well understood. Smell is the most nostalgic of our senses and a suggestion of a scent detected in a wine cab pull us through a portal to a time long since passed, when that aroma was imprinted on our olfactory memory.
But the way a wine can get musical in the mid is a far more mysterious thing. Certain wines press play on certain tracks when I taste them.
When drinking retro-styled chardonnay, those big, buttery wines with shoulder pads on them, the theme to Dynasty rings in my ears. AC/DC’s Back in Black is the soundtrack to many a bottle of Barossa Shiraz. Pinot Gris sounds like a cold wind racing down through an abandoned asylum. Its howl still not loud enough to drown out the ghostly screams that echo down its corridors.
And there’s a variety best known in alpine Italy but getting a foothold here that always drops a needle in the groove of ZZ Top’s most propulsive riff. It’s not really that hard to find the causal link between the grape variety Lagrein and the mighty Texan Trio’s classic, La Grange. It’s all too easy to substitute the name of the grape for the name of the titular Texas town immortalised by ZZ Top’s infectious boogie.
Lagrein. La Grange.
A haw, haw, haw.
You’re doing it right now.
And there’s something appropriate about a variety that, at its best, is alluringly perfumed, satin textured and just a little bit decadent, bringing to mind a classic song about a wildly popular bordello.
I have no idea if Anita Goode is a ZZ Top fan, but I do know she has produced a Lagrein that is absolutely swinging.
Goode is a winemaker whose tenacity and drive I’ve admired for some time. Her family has run Wangolina Station at Mount Benson in South Australia for nigh on a century, the cattle and sheep side of the property supplemented by wine when vineyards were planted in 1999, and Goode completed winemaking studies in 2001.
While the property, now entirely run by Goode since the retirement of her father John in 2015, still supports a significant commercial cattle business, wine has become increasingly important focus at Wangolina Station. And with good reason.
Goode has a beautifully instinctive winemaking touch and her wines show an attention to detail that’s all the more impressive when you realise they’re the product of some very skilled multi-tasking. She has a deep appreciation for what the cool, maritime Mount Benson region can do well, and a restless curiosity to see what else she can add to that list. Hers are wines well worth seeking out.
Wangolina 2018 Lagrein, Limestone Coast
Goode sources the Lagrein grapes for this wine from the Wirrega vineyard at Mundulla, a slightly warmer site inland from Wangolina Station and a little farther north. While still cool, that little extra warmth allows a variety such as Lagrein to develop its abundant flavours earlier in the ripening process, bringing richness and generosity to the wine at reasonably modest alcohol levels.
The other key factor in shaping a wine as supple and restrained as this, when so many Australian examples present as hard and angular, is a gentle hand during fermentation, working hard to ensure gentle extraction and resisting the temptation to drag every last drop of colour, flavour and tannin out of a grape often over endowed with all three.
The wine is decadently coloured and beautifully perfumed. Violets, mulberries, star anise, Dutch liquorice and dark roasted spices abound. It’s tightly coiled, sinewy and lithe on the palate. It has impressive fruit intensity and depth but not a drop of fat; it’s a wine that has arrived at a point of perfect ripeness without showing any sign of being forced or pushed. It’s as good an example of the variety as I’ve seen in this country, and if people can get their heads around it as impressively as Goode has, then we all might be getting down and dirty with Lagrein.
The 2019 vintage is progressing well here in Mount Benson. With all of our white grapes harvested between the last week of February and the second week in march signalling a long term normal timed vintage for the region. We are still in the midst of vintage in early April with growers beginning to harvest red grapes over the coming days. The season was well founded upon a wet winter with higher than average rainfall but with average temperatures. Budburst in the Mount Benson region was later than recent years with most varieties completing budburst 1-2 weeks later realigning our harvest timing to our more traditional vintage season. A heavy rainfall event in November occurred in the flowering season, impacting Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc with these varieties showing some hen and chicken. Temperatures during the summer season were also in line with our long term averages however a heat spike in late January with an associated record hot day of 41.8 deg C, assisted to bring the white harvest forward slightly. While the rest of the state battled this heat and lack of water the cool and more importantly consistent climatic conditions of Mt Benson again reinforces the importance of it as a premium wine producing region in a changing climate.
Good bright aromatics and vibrancy are once again abundant in whites which are showing some promise for the vintage with great natural acid retention and in some cases proving to be challenging. This (natural acid retention) has also translated to the red varieties with a lower need for adjustment giving great age ability to these wines. Flavour and phenolic ripeness in red varieties is appearing to preceed the sugar ripeness giving us a much desired lower alcohol vintage.
It has been a challenge for the vignerons this year to fit back into a more traditional vintage with wineries staffing themselves based on the more compressed vintages of recent years. The hustle bustle of these more compressed vintages has been the norm and with a more spread out laconic vintage winemakers and growers have found themselves in their vineyards sampling and assessing more often. It has been a wonderfully social vintage this year for the winemakers with more time to enjoy a beer or two with the neighbours.
Wangolina winemaker Anita Goode remembers the moment the lagrein bug bit in 2015. She was standing in Wirrega vineyard, not far from Bordertown, perusing tempranillo with vineyard manager Jeff Flint who offered to show her the lagrein vines nearby. One bite and she was hooked.“I was taken with the way they tasted,” Anita says. “They had thick skins, deep colour, good flavour and bright fruit character.
It was the kind of ‘Ding!’ moment where you see the potential from the fruit.” Interest peaked, she set about creating Wangolina’s inaugural 2016 Lagrein. It was a hit.
“We did a trial run through cellar door – just to see what the perception of it would be,” she says. The team was pleasantly surprised by its popularity. “It really took us by surprise. We ended up selling out a lot faster than expected.” It was a plush little number. Tasting notes weave an alluring tale of ripe black cherry, plum, blackcurrant jubes, liquorice, and fennel seed aromas. The palate boasts rich blood plums, boysenberries, mocha, fennel seed, black olive, and chewy tannins.
The sensory combination bagged the 2016 Lagrein a trophy at the 2017 Limestone Coast Wine Show. It was also named Chief of Judges Jane Faulkner’s Wine to Watch. “I was rapt that someone is making this Northern Italian variety,” Jane told The Naracoorte Herald reporters. “In the glass it has the most insane colour, so obviously you get a bit seduced by this. It’s a very cool wine and I love the fact that someone is going out there and having a crack at it.”
Sirromet Wines’ Mike Hayes (2017 Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology Winemaker of the Year) is also a fan.
“Having somebody with that sort of knowledge and passion say, ‘This is something you need to investigate harder’ always gives you a little boost of confidence that you’ve made the right choice,” Anita says. “He wouldn’t tell you something was good if it wasn’t.”
She’s right. Mike says it how it is. It was the public’s reaction, however, that really fuelled the fire. “It was really interesting to see how popular that wine was through cellar door – especially considering it is such a rare and unknown variety. It’s a little different; quite a dense, rich style of wine.” So what is lagrein?
The red variety hails from the far north east of Italy’s Trentino Alto-Adige region where most of the vineyards are planted approximately 550 meters above sea level. Down below, it’s all sand and coarse glacial gravel. The variety took its time to make its way Down Under.
The first known commercial plantings were by Cobaw Ridge in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. In a Winetitles piece written by winemaker Alan Cooper, he describes his first sip of lagrein as a “Wow” moment. Based off that small batch wine tasting in 1992, he top grafted a few hundred vines using cuttings from pal Dr Peter May (then deputy principal of Melbourne’s Burnley Horticulture College). The adventurous Dr May writes at great length about his backyard experiments with lagrein. It’s worth a look if you’re into the science behind the alternative variety.
Slowly, it began to turn heads. Cobaw Ridge’s 2002 Lagrein scored 91 points in James Halliday in his 2005 Australian Wine Companion and since then, the variety has popped up across the nation. “A lot of lagrein is also grown in Langhorne Creek, the Riverland and Heatcote.” Anita says. “The Mundulla area is probably the coolest of those areas and it seems to feel quite at home there. It has really good tannins, beautiful colour and has this richness and intensity about the resulting wines that just feels like it belongs there.”
Anita remembers her first ever sip of the good stuff (Heartland’s Dolcetto Lagrein) many moons ago. The Langhorne Creek brand now has eleven vintages of the wine (and counting). It was Heartland’s Ben Glaetzer and his Dolcetto Lagrein that inspired Geoff Hardy to plant the variety at the Wirrega vineyard in 2005. It’s a special part of the world, located just outside of Mundulla on the Limestone Coast. The patch of land (once an inland sea) was first planted with vines in 1993 and now hosts a motley crew of international and eclectic emerging varieties. “I think Mundulla is one of the most underrated areas for grape growing in Australia,” Anita says. “It’s kind of like Langhorne Creek in that it’s not a really hot climate but it has a bit of warmth to it and has really good quality water available.” Warm, dry days and very cold nights help them ripen slowly and steadily. Great natural acid retention and soft tannin structures are perks.
Slowly, but steadily, its popularity is growing. During the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show 2018 (AAVWS), 10 wineries submitted lagrein. Among them were Bremerton Wines, Alejandro, Symphony Hill Wines (two entries), Next Crop Wines, SAMU, Hofer Family Wines, Cirami Estate, Vinteloper, and Serafino Wines. Gold went to SAMU and Next Crop Wines. The judges described it as a strong class. “Wines with brightness, powdery tannins and balanced acidity and well-handled phenolics stood out.”
Wangolina didn’t produce a lagrein in 2017 (the chilly conditions weren’t suited to it) which is why Anita is particularly excited about the release of her 2018 creation. The approach in the winery is to respect and enhance the variety’s natural characteristics. “We try and keep it fairly simple,” Anita says. “Mainly because it has quite strong tannin so we like to not work it too heavily. We keep pump overs light so we’re not over extracting anything. We don’t want to make it heavy and jammy.”
Anita doesn’t pick it too ripe. “We’re picking it on the lighter end of what people pick red wines at these days. This means it’s actually able to express some of its pretty characters and develop its own structure.”
Only 300 dozen were bottled as part of the A Series range and at $28 it’s a steal. With crisp autumn weather on the horizon, it goes particularly well with pork belly.
There’s something about sauvignon blanc. On a searing hot day in Australia there’s nothing better than seafood straight out of the ocean, chargrilled and downed with a glass of the cold, crisp, white stuff. It may not be the coolest kid on the block, but it encompasses the undeniable, easy drinking taste of summer.
The green-skinned, cool climate grape variety originates from France’s Bordeaux region and found a home and popularity in New Zealand soil. Turns out it is also particularly happy in the Mount Benson region on South Australia’s Limestone Coast.
That’s where Wangolina winemaker Anita Goode has been growing it for nearly 20 years. It’s the brand’s most popular and awarded white wine. “People know and love it,” she says. “You can drink it now, drink it quick, then drink some more.”
Anita’s ancestors arrived in Kingston in the late 1800s and purchased Wangolina Station in 1923. She and her parents John and Jan Goode planted and established the Wangolina vineyards in 1999. Anita has been on the sauv blanc bandwagon ever since.
“We originally planted sauv blanc in 1999,” Anita says. “On advice from other growers in Mount Benson. At that point it was looking to be an interesting variety.”
When the family planted their first 1.6 hectares in 1999, they were impressed by its quality. “It had punchiness, freshness and vibrancy. We were making style of wine that we believe stood up to the best of sauvignon blanc in Australia and that was on really early vines.”
It was a time when sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand’s was hot stuff. “It was the high fashion variety for the time.”
In 2004 things geared up a notch for Wangolina. They didn’t enter many competitions at the time but that year, claimed the Hyatt/Advertiser SA Sauvignon Blanc of the Year Award.
“It was a real eye-opener for us because at that point we realised we were on to something,” Anita says. “To receive that award for a Mount Benson sauvignon blanc – it stood up to us and said to us, ‘This is a thing’”.
Anita and her father hot-footed to New Zealand to soak up all the knowledge they could. When they returned, they focused heavily on quality, added more plantings, and looked into sauvignon blanc clones, eventually on one with open bunch and disease resistant potential. A different flavour profile ensued. It was vibrant, interesting and a lot more tropical in its nature. “So, we had our original one which was a more green character sauvignon blanc, then we had this other one that always looks like bright pineapple.”
More awards flowed during 2008, including a gold medal the at Royal Adelaide Wine Show, a place in Sydney International Wine Competition’s top 100 and also in wine writer Tony Love’s Top 100. “That year our sauvignon blanc sold out in nine months and we realised the work we’d been doing was paying off. From then on we’ve maintained our style and Mount Benson now has a very recognisable style. We’re doing really good things around the country.”
What makes a Mount Benson sauvy stand out from the crowd? A balance of herbaceous and tropical notes.
“While we have that tropical fruit note that comes through, it’s that strong crunchy, crispy herbaceousness that lifts through the wine. It doesn’t lean too far into either - it sits in a real sweet spot in the sauvignon blanc flavour spectrum.”
To date, Wangolina grows 5.2 hectares of the good stuff.
So why does the variety do so well in this small coastal region, 300 kilometres from Adelaide? Put simply, it’s down to Mother Nature’s chill factor.
“Most of the vineyards within Mount Benson are within 10 kilometres of the sea,” Anita says. “The Bonney Upwelling is a patch of cold water that is forced to rise to the surface and the sea breezes that come into our vineyards move across that water.”
In a nutshell, the breeze cools the vines down – especially during January, February and March when the mercury rises and the grapes ripen. “It cools everything right down so you’re not metabolising the flavour compounds of sauvignon blanc as fast as you would in a place with less diurnal temperature fluctuation.”
Confused? Don’t be. It’s all good news for what ends up in the glass. Punchy flavours hold up – even when chilled.
Trial and error impacted the way Wangolina approach their winemaking.
“Hiccups and vintage challenges are the things that make you learn the most.” Like 2008, when an extremely hot vintage caused a backlog in the winery. Anita’s grapes sat in bins for around 10 hours before being processed. “In the ideal world that’s not what you would have done but what that achieved for us was something we hadn’t considered before - skin contact.”
Skin contact is now programmed as part of their regular winemaking process.
“A lot of the flavour in sauvignon blanc is from the skin. It was a real strike of luck – a holdup at the winery changed the way our wine was made.”
Sauv blanc is a simple wine – which is where its beauty lies - but for all its easy drinking positives, its copped a bit of flak from journos and wine trade. Since its heyday, sauvignon blanc has fallen out of the fashionable circle but done well, really well, is outstanding. “It’s such a great introductory drink for new wine drinkers,” Anita says. “It’s obvious and overt and it’s got great fruit characters. People who like the idea of a sweeter wine are sometimes really attracted to its aromatic notes. It’s a great wine and we underestimate how good a variety it is today.”
Anita’s love of her top seller goes deeper than just taste. It’s personal. Sauvignon blanc keeps her business growing and allows her the freedom to experiment with other varieties such as grüner veltliner. It continually allows her wines to improve and grow.
“I will be forever grateful for sauvignon blanc because the people who buy it, support it and drink it are keeping my business moving forward. It employs people, keeps our cellar door open and allows us to experiment and play.”
Wangolina’s 2018 Sauvignon Blanc is out now. Expect an aromatic explosion of passionfruit, herbaceous, lemon thyme, and tropical fruit salad - but dry on palate. At $20 a bottle it’s a festive season hit. Best with: fish tacos with a side of mango salsa and crunchy coriander. Best consumed on the veranda with a book in hand.
The growing season is progressing a little behind when compared to most other recent years at Wangolina. We've had a lot of cooler weather this spring and consequently at Christmas time the vines were about three weeks behind where they would've been in the past four years. It’s not a bad thing it just gives me more time to plan and get organised for vintage which should start in three or so weeks going on what I saw in our vineyard today when I looked through the vines and found my first signs of ripening. We have a few bunches of Cabernet Sauvignon that are going through verasion - which is when the berries soften and turn from hard green dudes into soft red tasty dudes.
The Wirrega Vineyard where we source some fruit from is always a step ahead of us, it's warmer there (near Bordertown) and so the vines tend to do things earlier. Plus the varieties we source from Wirrega are earlier ripening varieties. I predict that we will kick off with Frontignac (the variety for our Moscato) in the third week of February, stay tuned to see if I am right!
This time of year is also about protecting what we have achieved so far. With January feeling like a much cooler month with more rainy days we haven't had to irrigate often but we have had to be vigilant to ensure we don’t get any mildews growing (BOO to mildew!).
This time of year we like to make sure that there is enough sunlight and wind moving around to keep the bunches dry so we have been out in the vineyard leaf plucking and trimming. We trim most of our vines to keep the canopy in one row from shading the bunches in the next row. Leaf plucking only occurs in our Sauvignon Blanc as it has a big canopy and lots of leaves that can shade bunches hiding in behind. By pulling these leaves off we can get more sunlight in which helps the fruit have better flavour.
On the winemaking side of things this time of year it is about putting the ducks in a row to make sure vintage is going to be as smooth and slick as possible. Currently we are doing a final racking of the 2016 reds. This is where we take the wine out of its barrel, then clean the barrel to remove any yeast sediments that stick to the oak and then put it back into barrels making sure they are full, happy and then safely tucked away until the end of crushing.
It’s also time to double check the yields in the vineyard and make sure I have enough barrels to hold next year’s red wine and getting my plan in place- it’s like writing the recipe for this year’s crushing. I make sure I have a good idea of how many tonnes we are going to crush, when we are likely to crush them and then a plan of the other winemaking type things. Like what yeast we will use, what temperatures we ferment at, what we want to do when the fermentation is finishing. It’s like setting our goals for how we want vintage to go and then kicking them. So fingers crossed for another terrific vintage at Wangolina.