Making a Goode home for Lagrein
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.