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Tuesday, 12 May 2020

The story behind one of Australia's best-value red wines

When it comes to value for money, Wirra Wirra's Church Block red blend is among Australia's leading contenders vintage after vintage. 

With an RRP of $$22, and often found cheaper on discount, Church Block is a poster child for affordable, easy-drinking reds. 

It was the first wine the late Greg Trott produced under the Wirra Wirra label back in 1972. 

He took the name from one of the original vineyards, which runs next to the small Bethany Church (circa 1854) across the road from Wirra Wirra's century old ironstone cellars in McLaren Vale. 

The 2018 Church Block - to be released any day now - is a classic blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and merlot that takes two months of tasting, classifying and blending to be transferred from barrel to bottle. 

"It is quite a complex operation," says Wirra Wirra winemaker Paul Smith (below), who has been making Church Block since 2007.

"We not only have to consider the role each variety plays in the wine from the many parcels of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz in barrel, but also the style differences that come from the specific vineyards and underlying sub-regions in McLaren Vale."

There is no template for Wirra Wirra Church Block. It is up to the winemaking team to come up with the right balance. 

"There is no recipe," says Smith. "we work with what the harvest provided and that vintage variation is part of Church Block's appeal. 

Smith has the luxury of being able to call on small parcels of fruit that just miss the cutoff for Wirra Wirra's flagship wines. 

"We have vineyards that form the core of the wine each year but there will also be parcels originally earmarked for our reserve wines that find their way into the final blend," Smith says. "They can make a significant difference to the quality." 

The 2018 breakdown is 51% cabernet sauvignon, 38% shiraz and 11% merlot. - all from a very good vintage. This is a Bryan Brown wine: rambunctious but carelessly stylish.

Plush, assertive and with quintessentially Australian ripe fruit, it is well worth 93/100 - a high mark for a sub $25 wine. 



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