Wirra Wirra ‘s Trebuchet, Lost Watches and Church Blocks

Apr 05, 13 Wirra Wirra ‘s Trebuchet, Lost Watches and Church Blocks

Posted by in Australia

Quick! Off the top of your head,do you know what a trebuchet is? Unless you’re  a fan of Australian winery Wirra Wirra or a Medievelist, you probably wouldn’t know it’s another word for “catapult”. That was one nifty bit of trivia I picked up while having lunch with Sam Temme, International Sales Manager for Wirra Wirra. We were at the Spanish restaurant, Camino, and enjoying tapas with the delicious wines of Wirra Wirra. The vineyard was originally planted by Robert Strangeways Wigley but fell into disrepair after his death in 1924 and it was not until 1969 when the property was bought by cousins Greg and Roger Trott that the vineyard was revitalized. Gregg was apparently quite a character and liked to give his wines, er, unique names. Besides the “Catapult” shiraz, there is the “Lost Watch” riesling (named after a lost watch, natch), “Woodhenge” shiraz (use your imagination) and the “12th Man” Chardonnay (something to do with cricket but Sam lost me there) as well as a few other whimsically named wines. The vineyards of Wirra Wirra are in the McClaren Vale and have a great site, only 7 kms from the ocean which means the vines benefit from the ocean and gully breezes that blow over the vines. They own their own vineyards which are certified biodynamic but as they use grapes from growers as well, they cannot guarantee that their wines are biodynamic. We tried a variety of Wirra Wirra’s wine including the above mentioned wines as well as a few others. The Lost Watch 2011 is a riesling and in another bit of trivia, when Greg discovered he had lost the watch his father had given him, he swore never to wear another watch again,which might explain why he was rarely on time for anything. The  Lost Watch is a light and lively little number, almost water clear, it doesn’t have as much zip as say its Eden Valley counterparts but nonetheless, it is a refreshing, limey riesling. Another crowd...

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Oldest vines in Australia (and maybe the world) at Langmeil Winery, Barossa Valley

Mar 09, 13 Oldest vines in Australia (and maybe the world) at Langmeil Winery, Barossa Valley

Posted by in Australia, Travel

That’s James Lindner, hanging out with the 170 yr old shiraz vines that he and his family own and use to produce their top wines. Australia has some of the oldest pre-phylloxera vines in the world and the Barossa is where you will find these 170 year old survivors. The Freedom vineyard was planted in 1843 by German immigrants fleeing religious persecution. See, here’s the plaque: Over the years, it went though various owners and at one point was abandoned but in 1996, the Lindner and Bitter families bought the old winery and resusitated not only the winery but also the small patch of old vine Shiraz that still bore fruit every year. With lots of love and attention, they are now producing a wine called the 125 yr Freedom Shiraz. I meet with James (Jim) Lindner for a tour of the winery and quick tasting while they were going harvest was going on. Like many of the boutique wineries I visited while I was there, they use a combo of old and new technology to produce their wines, so while they may use carefully calibrated hydraulic presses they also do open vat fermentation. I got to taste some shiraz just pressed and it is mighty impressive stuff even when just pressed, a deep dark colour but still sooo sweet, definitely hadn’t started fermentation. I asked Jim to give me his assessment of the juice and 2013 harvest – a small and early harvest this year: (apologies for the link only, this is from Vine, at least you know it’s only 6 seconds long!) Afterwards we headed to the tasting room for a tasting of their iconic wines. They make a series of Old Vine Garden wines, the Freedom Shiraz – made from the oldest shiraz vines, the Orphan Bank shiraz which is made from vines that were rescued by the winery (the vines were about to be bulldozed over when they stepped in, dug up the vines and replanted them on their property),...

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Chateau Tanunda, a busy ER at harvest time

Mar 04, 13 Chateau Tanunda, a busy ER at harvest time

Posted by in Australia, Travel

I’ve never actually visited a winery while they’re in the middle of harvest so it was fun and exciting to be there. Dodging tractors, forklifts, hose pipes, wet floors and empty barrels while de-stemming, crushing and fermenting is going on literally right under your nose makes it a whole lot more exciting then the usual “…and here is where we keep the barrels…” Although I still did spy roomfuls of barrels. *Geek Alert* I never get tired of the sight and smell of resting barrels. My guide was the effervescent senior winemaker of Ch. Tanunda, Stewie Bourne. A bundle of energy who came bouncing into the tasting room and immediately offered to make us all espressos, (although I don’t think he needed another one) before we visited the vats. Stewie compared the winery to a hospital emergency room and he and his staff are the ER staff. Their job is to take the car crash victim (the ripe grapes) from the vineyard and get them in the vats (IC) as soon as possible, hopefully they make it through IC and then off to the wards (tanks) where they can rest up before being discharged to the general public. An funny but apt metaphor for harvest. The winery was originally founded in the 1890’s and the ceiling of the huge tasting room is still fitted with the original wooden beams that came over as ballast with Australian settlers. At Chateau Tanunda they make wine in the traditional way, with open vat fermentation and minimal intervention. When the grapes come in,they only de-stem them but don’t crush them at first so that the result is lifted fruit and soft tannins. They have hydraulic presses which are programmed to exert just the right amount of pressure during press, not too much, not too little. The aim is to produce wines that are authentic but not aggressive. While we were there, Stewie literally plunged into the open vats and came out with a glass full of fermenting grape...

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2013 Night Harvesting with Anthony Scholz in the Barossa Valley

Feb 27, 13 2013 Night Harvesting with Anthony Scholz in the Barossa Valley

Posted by in Australia, Travel

The one good thing about jetlag is that it’s not a problem to meet a wine grower at 5am to go out and see the harvesting machines at work. I’d been up since 4am so I was glad to be out and about. I was in the Barossa Valley for a very quick trip last week and serendipitously it was also the tail end of the harvest. 2013 happens to be a bit of a strange year in the Barossa as it’s a very early harvest but not because of any particular reason. It just seems that all the grapes are ready to come in at the same time. Every grower and wine maker I talked to couldn’t quite explain why the harvest was so early but they were unanimous in their opinion that although it will be a small harvest, the grapes were in excellent condition and 2013 is on course to be a great vintage. It might not be as good as 2012 but it certainly wouldn’t be far behind. How I came to be riding on top of a grape harvester is a funny story. I tweeted that I was going to the Barossa and would have time to meet anyone who had time to talk to me. Two seconds later, winegrower Anthony Scholz tweeted me an invitation and a week later, there I was watching this gigantic machine beat the hell out of the vines.Little did I know that Anthony is one of the most innovative growers in the Barossa but more on that later. If you’ve ever walked behind a grape harvester you will know it is loud and violent. I felt sorry for the  poor vines, as I commented to Anthony, it’s kinda like a mini-earthquake for them. He assured me though that the vines are sturdy suckers and judging by the aftermath of the harvester, they looked none the worse for wear to me. I later found out that the vines have so much water in them...

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Saturday Snapshot -Kleine Zalze Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier 2011

Feb 02, 13 Saturday Snapshot -Kleine Zalze Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier 2011

Posted by in Saturday Snapshot, South Africa

Okay, so it has been a long time coming but I am being converted to the wines of South Africa. I remember when I first started wine tasting, S. African wines were definitely not my go-to choice. The reds tasted of an odd, burnt flavour and the whites were frankly, lemon water. Happily, the wines, they are a-changing. I have of course tried the wines of Seven Springs vineyards, which I have reviewed here in the past. And just the other day, I received a sample of a red wine from Kleine Zalze Winery. Kleine Zalze it has to be said, have been around a long time. They were founded in 1695 and are still a family owned estate. They make premium red and white wines and are known for their quality. I have had the higher end of their range and it is very good. The wine I had though was from their entry-level range, the Zalze 2011 Shiraz, Mourvedre, Viognier blend. An interesting take on the classic Shiraz/Viognier blend that is originally from the Rhone Valley, this wine was certainly much more then I was expecting. As I said earlier, I often think of South African reds as having a slightly burnt or smoky (not in a good way) character to them, but this wine was delicious: medium-bodied with loads of blackberry and red fruit notes on the palate, the Viognier gave it a slightly lifted nose with spicy notes mingling in there as well. I like to have my wine with dinner and this one I had with sweet potatoes (I eat them all the time in the winter) and a pork chop. It was a great little wine: good acidity and flavourful, but not overwhelming the food. The best bit is that this wine is available for under a tenner. That’s right, you can snap up a bottle for £6.99 from Ocado. At those prices, I’d pick up a couple of bottles! NOTE* I originally wrote this review for redwine.co.uk and occasionally re-post wines I...

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