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.
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.