Behind the Woolshed


“I get excited about making Woolshed wines,” writes Dr Phil Spillman of the Wingara Wine Group. “I love my work, and I’m proud of these wines.” The Woolshed range, named after the old rural tin-roofed buildings in which Australian farmers clip their sheep, comes from grapes grown at the Deakin Estate winery in the Murray-Darling region of North-West Victoria.

Woolshed Estate wines are produced by the Wingara Wine Group, a company that makes a wide range of splendid wines. Phil joined the Wingara Wine Group in 2004 and he brings significant technical experience to his wine-making, after his studies at the Australian Wine Research Institute. He gained his doctorate from Adelaide University in 1998, where he completed a Ph.D. in oenology.

Woolshed Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (white), Australia (Central and Tops, Bt. 499)

The colour of straw with a faint tinge of lime green, this wine has a rather refined aroma, quite herby and peppery with subtle fruit. My nose also gets gooseberries with hints of lychee and pineapple. Not surprisingly, after being opened for some time the aroma was much more forthcoming. This has a classy mouth-feel; a slightly silky texture at first then a surprising zap of citrus acidity that made me sit up and take notice. At just 11% alcohol, it has a very light body, a pleasing balance and a long crisp finish. Without a doubt, this is a superbly crafted wine and like many other Australian wines, it comes in a convenient screw-topped bottle.

Wine-maker Dr. Phil Spillman. Wine-maker Dr. Phil Spillman.

I would prefer to serve this to friends who are familiar with Sauvignon Blanc (SOH-vihn-yohn BLAHN). That’s because they would probably appreciate the subtle qualities that this wine has to offer. Perhaps, at almost Bt 500 it is a tad expensive (thanks to local duty and taxes) but certainly worth a try if you’d like a Sauvignon with a difference.

If you prefer wine with food, try this with fish in lemon sauce or smoked salmon. It would work brilliantly with Brie or delicate goat cheeses too. Incidentally, don’t believe those dimwits who tell you that only red wine should accompany cheese. It’s complete nonsense. Aromatic white wines make the perfect accompaniment to alpine cheeses, Camembert and double crèmes.

Woolshed Merlot 2008 (red), Australia (Central and Tops, Bt. 499)

This wine is a lovely deep red colour and has a pleasing oily, silky appearance. Swirl it around in the glass (if your glass is big enough) and you’ll see legs too, if these things interest you. Actually, you’ll see them whether they interest you or not. The mellow aroma is right up-front with loads of fruit, especially cherry and blueberry, even a hint of chocolate. There’s also a pleasing dash of spicy mint on the nose too.

Despite the deep colour, the wine is surprisingly light bodied. There’s an attractively smooth mouth-feel with plum and cherry flavours and very soft oak.  It has a long and pleasantly dry finish with peppery overtones and very smooth tannins. After tasting the wine, I finished off the bottle with a friend and we both found it a pleasing drink on its own, served quite cool, without the need for food. It comes at a quite high 13.5% alcohol and it is a very attractive wine indeed.

However, this wine didn’t strike me as your typical ordinary Merlot (mehr-LOH). Like the Sauvignon Blanc from the same stable, the wine seems to have acquired a very satisfying added dimension which is difficult to describe. As Mr. Spock might have said to Captain Kirk in an episode of Star Trek, “It’s a Merlot, Jim, but not as we know it.”