Tales of Wirra Wirra

I had the pleasure of enjoying a tasting of Wirra Wirra wines at Willow Park about a month ago; my first sit-down, communal type of tasting, and it was thoroughly enjoyable!  Willow Park provided a buffet of hors d’oeuvres: steak on crostini, assortment of cheese and crackers, and savory canapés. I was glad I came hungry, everything was delicious.

Besides the tasty eats, and the welcoming glass of Mrs. Wigley Grenache Rose, the engaging table talk with fellow tasters was open and light, there were a lot more laughs than expected!

The wines were all enjoyed, from the Scrubby Rise Sauv Blanc to the crowd pleasing Church Block Cab blend.  The Dead Ringer Cabernet and RSW Shiraz were great opportunity to try something out of my price range of everyday wine (around $50 a bottle).  Of all wines tasted, my favorite was the Scrubby Rise Shiraz, featured this month in WineCollective.  On my second tasting of Scrubby Rise, it was paired with a juicy @alleyburger; we highly recommend the combination!

Wine and food aside, by far the best part of the evening was the stories; our host, straight from Wirra Wirra, did not have a shortage of quirky tales that reinforce the whimsical and humorous nature of the wines and those who produce them.  The first pour of the evening, a Grenache Rose named after an exceptionally fortunate feline, Mrs. Wrigley, who had taken permanent residence in the Wirra cellars and dined on left over cheese from the winery’s tasting room.

Robert Strangeway Wigley, the original founder of Wirra Wirra in 1894, and well know eccentric, is the topic of many Wirra tales.  He was sent to Mclaren Vale as his family’s means to containing him and his pranks from the eyes of Adelaide’s society.  A joy ride through the town on a stolen pie cart was not his family’s idea of proper behaviour.

The original cellar and homestead of Wirra Wirra.


Greg Trott and cousin Roger revived Robert Wigley’s vision in 1969, carrying on with the same unique and fun-loving personality of the vineyard.  The catapult designed and founded in Greg Trott’s imagination, with the sole purpose of flinging wine from Wirra Wirra onto neighbouring vineyards in hopes that they would then devise a catapult of their own and return the favour; is now mostly being used with watermelons and not wine.  We were further informed of Mr. Trott’s adventures, disappearing without notice to attend a cricket match; his minders had put a full page “missing person” ad hoping someone would contact them with his whereabouts; he was found.

Greg Trott

Woodhenge Shiraz to the 12th Man Chardonnay, numerous bottles of Wirra wine are named after the mis-adventures and iconic structures found at Wirra in Mclaren Vale.  They are worthy of a read, and a few laughs.

M. Chapoutier

While doing some background research on our wines featured in October, I stumbled across an article by Linda Garson in the Calgary Wine Examiner.  She lists the French producer M.Chapoutier as #7 on her list of “wines that give back”.  Chapoutier is donating a percentage of the sales of their Bellerouche to the Alberta Guide Dog Services during October.  Since 1996, Chapoutier has used braille on their labels in respect for Maurice Manier, family member and vineyard owner that had lost his sight as a child.

While this month we are not featuring the 2009 Chapoutier Belleruche Blanc or Rouge, we are delivering Chapoutier’s  Les Vignes de Bila-Haut (blend of Carignan, Grenache, Syrah).  Tom Firth’s review of Bila-Haut for the WineCollective community notes, “Savoury chocolate, rich berry fruits of raspberry and cherry, and a pleasing earthy bitterness which appears on the mid palate.” It won great reviews throughout the WineCollective team, and we are proud to be introducing it to our members.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

Varietal: Carignan, Grenache, Syrah
Region: Cotes du Rousillon-Villages
Vintage: 2009

Keeping in the spirit of all things to be thankful for, I am pleased to pass along further information on M. Chapoutier’s philanthropic endeavours.  A very engaging wine maker, who has coordinated numerous creative and successful fundraisers while doing what he know best, making beautiful wine!

In addition to using braille on their labels, Micheal Chapoutier has not only instilled the company’s core values of ‘Respect, Audacity and Generosity’ into their grapes, but also into their community.  Under the title ‘M.Chapoutier Wines and Health Association”, the organization has raised money for the French Blood Transfusion Organization through auctioning wines from various prestigious houses, to funding a play “Jump out of Bed” performed by volunteers in the Medical community.  There is also the “Harvests of Hearts” where volunteers pick grapes, and for every ton, the producer donates the workers’ “pay” to their charitable organization.  Chapoutier’s social efforts, wine, love of food and all around success has made him the subject of a French film “Fac & Spera“, the family motto of “do and hope”.

It is refreshing when you discover the passion and generosity of the people behind the products you purchase and the wines you love to drink.

A bottle for every bird

All families have their own Thanksgiving traditions, and everyone’s turkey dinners are a little different.  In my family, everyone contributes a bottle (or two) of wine along with their sweet potato casserole; however, some hosts may choose to provide the wine for the evening, reserving the gifted wine for future consumption and pouring their carefully matched bottles with the turkey.

Either way, there is no need to be overly fussy when pairing wine with a turkey dinner; for the most part the flavours are fairly consistent and accommodating to a wide range of wines.  Listed below are a few tips and suggestions of how to make the most of your holiday meal.

Thanksgiving dinners have a tendency to take up the majority of the day, so when opening numerous bottles of wine, try (in general) to pour from: light to heavy, white to red, young to aged.

Save your cellared prizes and aged wines for another celebration.  They will over-take your meal, and probably not be as appreciated as they should be when serving multiple bottles over the course of the evening.

Reds that will pair well with turkey include Pinot Noir or Beaujolais, which will be young and light, with more fruit to offset the heavy and filling feast.  Juicy, berry filled Zinfandels will also balance the richness of a turkey dinner.  Avoid overly dry and tannic reds, they may taste bitter and be overwhelmed by the sweetness of the side dishes.

We would recommend the following two reds which have been featured in WineCollective. And as a special Thanksgiving treat, a WineCollective tasting card for the 2009 Loredona Pinot Noir [PDF]. WineCollective members receive a hard copy tasting note for every wine they receive!

Most whites would be a great choice with your turkey and its accoutrements; Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, or Chenin Blanc will offer a refreshing and crisp balance to your meal.  Ensure that the white you are selecting is higher in acidity, and dry to best pair with everything on the table from buttery mashed potatoes to the tart cranberry sauce.

Your sparkling wine can last the whole dinner through, from cheese log to pumpkin pie!

As a host, you can never be completely sure what sides will end up sitting on the table next to your turkey, so use the tips to help you decide between, and the order of the bottles that have been brought to the table.  Most importantly, if you are a guest at a turkey table, keep in mind these simple suggestions to best complement the host’s meal, and don’t be offended if your wine is saved for another evening.

“More important than the food pairing is the person with whom you drink the wine.” -Christian Moueix