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.
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.