Trott out the cel­e­bra­tions

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

SINCE the death of Greg Trott in 2005, Wirra Wirra has held an an­nual birth­day party for Trott (or Trot­tie, as he was var­i­ously called). The idea of a birth­day cel­e­bra­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate for this muchloved and won­der­fully ec­cen­tric man who, with his cousin Roger Trott, brought Wirra Wirra back to life in 1969.

The pat­tern for the cel­e­bra­tion is al­ready writ­ten in stone: an all-day event fea­tur­ing ap­pro­pri­ate food at lunch and din­ner; some se­ri­ous wine tast­ings of present and up­com­ing re­leases (se­ri­ous but not too long); an ex­er­cise with teams blend­ing a shi­raz viog­nier from two shi­raz com­po­nents plus viog­nier (the per­cent­ages left to each team, the win­ners to re­ceive a mag­num each of their blend); and drink­ing back vin­tages at the gala din­ner.

In a sense, th­ese are sub­or­di­nate to the op­er­a­tion of the tre­buchet (jointly owned by Yalumba), a me­dieval de­vice used to cat­a­pult large rocks and in­cen­di­aries into and over cas­tle walls, with wa­ter­mel­ons tak­ing the place of rocks; and the com­pe­ti­tion for the Wood­henge Cup, with a fa­mous fa­ther and son duo tak­ing turns to part­ner each guest in saw­ing through a log us­ing a dou­ble-handed cross­cut saw. Stu­art Gre­gor, of Liq­uid Ideas, shows he re­ally should be a book­maker as bets are taken on each starter, with $100 in Mo­nop­oly money given to each per­son, the winning bets (on the fastest time) con­verted into real money to be do­nated by Wirra Wirra to Flin­ders Med­i­cal Re­search Foun­da­tion for bowel can­cer re­search.

Truth be­ing stranger than fic­tion, Wirra Wirra was built in 1894 by Robert Strange­ways Wigley (hence Wirra Wirra’s top of the tree RSW Shi­raz), who was ev­ery bit as ec­cen­tric as Trott. Pho­to­graphs show his eyes point­ing in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, which did not stop him from be­com­ing a state crick­eter (this be­ing one of Greg Trott’s many pas­sions). Nor did it stop Wigley com­man­deer­ing a horse and cart from the Ade­laide City Coun­cil and rid­ing it through the city streets at full gal­lop, re­sult­ing in a fine, which he later paid by rid­ing his horse into the Ade­laide town hall.

To avoid fur­ther scan­dals he was sent to McLaren Vale, where he be­came a vi­gneron. He be­gan build­ing his house at the same time, aban­don­ing his ef­forts four times be­fore de­cid­ing on its pre­cise lo­ca­tion. He never mar­ried. His home was run by an Ir­ish house­keeper who was able to cope even when, in stormy weather, he would take to his bed in coat and hat, re­fus­ing to leave un­til the weather turned fine.

He died in­tes­tate in 1924 and the vine­yards were sold by his fam­ily, the win­ery com­ing into the own­er­ship of Vern Spar­row, son of Wigley’s fore­man Jack Spar­row. WIRRA Wirra has a port­fo­lio of 14 wines in five ranges start­ing with Scrubby Rise at the bot­tom, then Mrs Wigley, Church Block, the RGT (re­gional) Col­lec­tion and, fi­nally, the much-lauded and pro­lific award-winning flag­ship range of The An­gelus Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and RSW Shi­raz. It is hard to vi­su­alise a wine with more re­gional char­ac­ter than the 2006 RSW Shi­raz (95 points, $60), the dark chocolate a translu­cent veil for the black­berry fruit, with out­stand­ing tex­ture and struc­ture on the back palate and fin­ish. The 2006 An­gelus Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon (95 points, $60) sits in per­fect union be­side the RSW; it has great colour, an el­e­gant and com­plex mix of black­cur­rant fruit, cas­sis, cedar and dark chocolate, the tan­nins ripe and per­fectly bal­anced. Both are 100 per cent McLaren Vale wines. James Hal­l­i­day By 1936 it had fallen into dis­use, and only two walls and some fer­ment­ing tanks re­mained when Greg and Roger Trott pur­chased it in 1969.

Greg Trott and an en­thu­si­as­tic band of friends spent the en­su­ing five years re­build­ing the win­ery: he shared with Len Evans the love of col­lect­ing things large and small, use­ful or use­less, and in­cor­po­rat­ing them in build­ings (a $450,000 pipe or­gan re­mains to be in­stalled in the win­ery or the cel­lar door com­plex com­pleted in 2004).

Greg Trott was not a wine­maker but en­gen­dered loy­alty, bor­der­ing on love, in all who worked at Wirra Wirra. It was in­evitable that this would re­sult in great wines and that when­ever a po­si­tion be­came va­cant in the team, it would be filled by wine­mak­ers, who did not wait for an ad­ver­tise­ment, sim­ply of­fer­ing their ser­vices.

It is also fit­ting that Sa­man­tha (Sam) Con­new should head the wine­mak­ing team, hav­ing stud­ied law in New Zealand, and that among the many ac­co­lades she has re­ceived should be In­ter­na­tional Red Wine­maker of the Year last year from the In­ter­na­tional Wine & Spirit Com­pe­ti­tion in Lon­don.

She has a sound­ing board sec­ond to none in the form of the avun­cu­lar Tim James, who was chief ex­ec­u­tive for sev­eral years af­ter leav­ing Hardys be­fore hand­ing over to the lik­able in­cum­bent, An­drew Kay. James, who re­mains a di­rec­tor, has a great palate, an un­equalled depth of knowl­edge about the wines of McLaren Vale and an even bet­ter sense of hu­mour.

It’s a winning team of which Greg Trott would whole­heart­edly ap­prove.


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