Wirra Wirra Church Block – a great way to spend $20
(A version of this article first appeared in the December issue of LattéLife magazine. Again it was written for a slightly different audience than this blog normally caters for but I think it works regardless. I’m interested in what you think, for it probably lacks the criticality I usually write with. Or maybe that’s just me being over critical!).
As a wine writer it’s genuinely easy to get carried away about ultra premium wines. Ultra premium wines, with ultra premium price tags and found in the ultra premium section of ultra premium wine stores.
But, in reality, so few of us will ever get to enjoy such unobtainable luxury tipples that they’re basically irrelevant (except for a very select few).
Instead, what is perhaps more exciting is when we stumble across a wine that is both tasty AND affordable. Something that – if you shop around – can be picked up for well under $20, yet is genuinely well made and good quality whilst also being produced by one of the ‘good guys’ of the wine industry to boot.I’m talking particularly about the humble Wirra Wirra Church Block (current vintage is 2009), a red wine that most Australian wine drinkers would easily recognise – particularly given how popular and widely distributed it is – and probably walk straight past.
What makes it worth the double-take however is what it isn’t. It’s not pretentious. It’s not produced from newly fashionable, unpronounceable indigenous Italian grape varieties. It’s not made in the hottest cool climate region of the moment, nor is it natural or preservative free. It is, in the scheme of things, a slightly unfashionable blend of Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot, made in an oak rich, full bodied form that has changed very little since 1972.
It’s that unwavering, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ commitment to the style though that ultimately makes the Church Block such a satisfying drink, a commitment to producing a wine that will always be – and I’m quoting the winery directly here – a ‘smooth, soft red wine that balances the complexity sought by aficionados, with the approachability desired by those seeking pure drinking pleasure.’
Better still, the appeal of the Church Block red doesn’t just lie in its immediate drinking pleasure either, with a recent tasting of the 04 vintage suggesting that this humble wine should get even better with bottle age too, a characteristic not often found in your typical sub $20 red wine.
Ultimately what really drives the Church Block though is that it is a quintessentially Australian wine. A wine that carries its Mclaren Vale identity with distinction, acting as an accessible mascot for both the region and the style, helping to communicate quite clearly what it is that the Vale does so well – namely rich, soft, delicious and full flavoured red wines that simply over deliver for intensity and depth of flavour whilst also showing almost unbeatable value.