|Wirra Wirra Woodhenge Shiraz|
Worth it's trophy
14.5%, Screwcap, $35
There is a certain smug pleasure (that I enjoyed tonight with this wine) in being impressed with a wine that you've previously sung the praises of. It's that 'hey, I got this very right' realisation that has you wishing that personal high fives were possible (they're not, I just tried).
When I first tried this wine however the context was rather different to tonight. That first taste was at Wirra Wirra'a annual Trott cup, a celebration of the life and times of Greg Trott and the winery that he literally built with his own hands. I had the privilege of attending said festival of vino this year (for the second time in a row. It's a great event) and actually enjoyed this very wine with one of Trott's creations, a magical, butter-laden masterpiece known simply as 'Trott's Shiraz pie'. But I digress...
What made the first taste of this wine interesting was not strictly the wine itself but the ensuing discussion (and consternation) that flowed from it.
Said tasting actually started very normally, with this wine placed in a lineup of other Wirra Wirra reds, including the 2009 RSW Shiraz and 2009 Catapult Shiraz (with the Woodhenge one of the few from the superb 2010 vintage). What caused a kerfuffle (great word that) though was my suggestion that - of all the wines in the bracket - the Woodhenge was my favourite. That it edged out the more lauded RSW (in particular) thanks to an extra vitality of fruit and general shapely restraint, a vitality that I thought was lacking in the slightly heavier, hotter 09's. In turn, the comment brought lively rebuttal from the table, with Winewise editor Lester Jesburg proclaiming that I was wrong, that the Woodhenge was a fruit bomb and that the others were perfectly ripe and superior.
Now normally we would just all accept that we have different tastes and like different wines (and all then moved on). But the discourse instead became rather animated, with Jeremy Pringle and myself proposing that ripeness levels were a subjective matter, and that one man's ripe is another's underripe (and so on). Yet, as Jeremy details here (and detailed well. A much better writer than me, though don't tell him I said that) this just brought more stern rebuttals as we were clearly 'wrong' and it would take many more years of show judging for us to be able to say what is ripe and what isn't. Naturally I disagreed, naturally things got grumpier (though really entertaining. Or at least I was entertained) and now (naturally) I don't think I'm on Lester's Christmas card list any more...
What is most smirk-worthy about this whole little saga now is that - perhaps to Lester's chagrin - the 2010 Wirra Wirra Woodhenge Shiraz won a trophy at last week's McLaren Vale wine show, picking up the silverware for Best Shiraz between $25-50. Make of that what you may...
Anyway, back to this wine. It is, especially when placed in the context of other Wirra Wirra reds, a great McLaren Vale Shiraz. Said context came from the the freakishly good, $100 (when it was released), 2002 Wirra Wirra Chook Block Shiraz which was also opened at Trott's cup just a few hours after the Woodhenge. Whilst the Chook Block now sits in my mind as one of the finest McLaren Vale Shiraz I've ever had, I can happily report that this, a $35 'mid priced' Shiraz, has more than a little of the glories of the Chook Block character in it.
That character comes through on the very first whiff too, with dense licorice, chocolate fudge, dark berries and just a little alcohol lift. It's a very solid, rich and concentrated nose, perhaps a little obvious for some but that obviousness is more just regional character to me. The palate too is utterly Vale derived, with more chocolate fudge-moccha rich fruit and oak, built full bodied, rich and decadent with that lovely tarry/red berried middle that the Vale does so well. Long, even, ripe and powerful, it's just a little warm to finish though that's probably not going to bother the real fans.
It feels a little bit like I'm sticking my thumb out and blowing raspberries to be talking this wine up so highly, yet I just can't deny the quality in the glass. Top Mclaren Vale red. 18.5/94