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Soulful blend rekindles sweet memories

Wine

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Whitey revisits his old confidant Greg Trott through two recent bottles from McLaren Vale’s Wirra Wirra.

Wirra Wirra Original Blend McLaren Vale Grenache Shiraz 2012
$24; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points

In 1972, Greg Trott made a wine like this and called it Wirra Wirra Church Block. It took off. Bordeaux evangelista Brian Croser gets the blame for convincing Trott to change the Church Block blend to Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot. This is better. It’s cool to see winemakers Paul Smith and Paul Carpenter making it the old way. The wine reminds me of dear Trott, who I sit with now and then where he lies in the Strout Road cemetery. We talk. He’d love this wine, even though there’s no chook feathers stuck to the bottle.

It’s sweet-smelling, and soulful, and warm. It’s all syrupy cherries and ripe raspberries, with a neat rise of spice-box/coffee-grinder oak adding some edge on one side, and some old-fashioned lollyshop confectionary on the other. That pleases the remnants of the schoolboy that still hides in me, just as Trott never really grew too far past his. It is altogether a pretty and comforting smell.

The palate’s smooth and polished, with that lovely silky Grenache sheen chroming up the slightly more tannic and blackberry Shiraz – the heart and gentle soul of McLaren Vale at its simple honest best. It is a wholesome thing: just right for sittin’ and drinkin’ – reminding me that I’d better take a bottle of this vintage down there to the quiet little boneyard in the trees and tell my old friend all about it.

I’ll bet I’ll find Joe Petrucci there, telling him about his stuff, and how much we miss him. Trott’s an even more reliable confidant now that he can’t hide from us. He was always a sweetheart as a confidant, but sometimes he’d hide, so he could think, and love women. He doesn’t hide anymore. I can feel him in this glass. You know.

Wirra Wirra The Absconder McLaren Vale Grenache 2012
$70; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94 points

Posh stuff, this. Top French oak barrels must come as a surprise to the 1920s McLaren Flat Grenache that goes into it – that fruit used to go into Bob Strangways Wigley’s port, away back in the formative days of Wirra. Bob was a crazy bugger who hated wind. He’d stay in bed when the sea breezes blew, and complain about all the barbs on his fence wires blowing up against the posts.

Bob was the first absconder; his reasons for hiding were different to Trott’s. This wine doesn’t hide, I tell you. It’s sweet and heady and sophisticated, and somehow bridges the decades between the old days of huge oak tanks and the posh little Frenchies that give this love its smarm. That touch of French forest teases the Grenache out to a long dry taper which draws the blood so close to surface of the thin skin behind your lips that you can taste it. It draws the life juice from your very body. So while the Original Blend gives, this one takes, and leaves one a little dissatisfied, twitching for tucker. Like juicy mandarin duck. Which is not to say it’ll always do that: with a few years, it’ll swoon you off to sleep, duck or no duck. But I’d rather drink it like this, and twitch, and marvel.

Opulent at one end; teasing at the other. Pecorino grana pardana pepato is the go. So it’ll be a big lump of that in the hunting bag, a bottle of each of these wines, and off down to meet Petrooch and Trottie at Strout Road. Then everything’ll be alright. Ooooh yeah.

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