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.
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.