Anita Goode Wangolina

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Mount Benson’s Wangolina is increasingly becoming a canvas for Anita Goode’s fascination with alternative varieties, though the classic French grapes of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, semillon and sauvignon blanc still get plenty of airtime. Aside from grüner veltliner, which is a cherished grape for Goode, the varieties and future plantings are Italian and Spanish, with some red grapes sourced from Mundulla, with the warmer inland climate favouring lagrein, montepulciano, mencia and tempranillo. Goode’s wines champion the less-known varieties through pure expressions, but an increasing interest in experimentation, with more egg-shaped fermenters in a recently completed winery are seeing the boundaries pushed in interesting ways.

“I grew up in Mount Benson: it is in my heart and it’s my home,” says Goode. “I love that I have forged a path that is truly my own while still being able to maintain the tradition of the Goode family, with five generations of farming spanning 100 years. It’s an amazing region to grow grapes. With good availability of high-quality water and a highly maritime and cool climate, it provides an environment to grow beautifully aromatic whites and silky elegant reds.”

The Goode family have farmed the land of Wangolina Station since 1923, having arrived in Mount Benson’s Kingston in the late 19th century. The property was a grazing one – and still is – now dedicated to shorthorn and angus cattle. It was in 1999 that vines were planted, with cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, semillon and sauvignon blanc going in the ground. The first wines were made in 2001.

“Wangolina is a label that is variety first, producer second and region third, as we feel that these new varieties are to be championed in their own right and be good examples of the grape.”

That pivot, or diversification, was in large part connected with an early interest in wine that John and Jan Goode’s daughter developed while still at school. At just 15, Anita Goode chose to do her work experience with Southcorp Wines (now Treasury Wine Estates – Penfolds etc.), where she fell for wine and winery work in a big way.

A degree in winemaking from the University of Adelaide followed, as did vintages over four years in Washington State, Oregon, Martinborough, Hunter Valley, Langhorne Creek, Bordeaux and back home in Mount Benson. Returning fulltime in 2006, Goode set about building the Wangolina business, while she also managed to complete vintages at Cape Jaffa in 2006 and ’07, then at Bird in Hand in ’08. That last stint also saw her engage Bird in Hand’s Kym Milne MW to consult to Wangolina.

Goode credits Milne with being “an amazing mentor over the years”, with the wines previously made at Bird in Hand, alongside Milne. “He has taught me to be methodical and to refine my styles and has given me the confidence to experiment and take risks in some alternative varieties,” she says of Milne, while noting that all winemaking decisions are her own. As of 2023, an onsite winery, which Goode says has been in the works for 20 years was finally finished, just in time for harvest.

“The joy of being the sole winemaker and owner of Wangolina means that the decision making is always on me. I’m not responsible to anyone but myself when making the wine, and I have learnt how to be resourceful, resilient and reflective when mistakes have been made. I love vibrancy, aromatics and texture in whites and in reds. I love to see character, elegance and structure.

Gradually assuming control of the vineyard management from her father beginning in 2013, that foray into new varieties has seen Goode both replant and graft vines over from the original and more traditional plantings. “In 2015, I took a risk and grafted half of my beloved semillon over to grüner veltliner, one of the first growers to use the Hahndorf Hill clones outside of the Adelaide Hills, and I’m still the only grower of grüner in the Limestone Coast,” she says.

“At the same time, I grafted in a trial row of other white varieties from the Chalmers Nursery, including malvasia istriana, garganega, prosecco, nosiola, pinot bianco, greco di tufo and moscato giallo. We now have parellada, pecorino, ribolla gialla and teroldego

… We have removed some of our cabernet sauvignon and are planting a few new alternative white varieties,” she says. “In 2021 we planted garganega, and we also finished planting 700 aligoté and 500 melon [de Bourgogne, the grape used for Muscadet] vines in spring 2022.”

From those trial plantings, Goode committed to malvasia istriana, garganega and verdicchio. “We planted verdicchio in 2020, which we’re harvesting this year [2023]. It may only be a few hundred kilos, but I am excited to see how this comes in for its first vintage – it’s a variety that I haven’t worked with before. I will look to continually plant alternate varieties going forward to expand our offering and decompress our vintage. The addiction for new plantings is unlikely to be cured!”

Those Malvasia vines saw the first vintage in 2022. “The malvasia istriana is a complex wine,” she says. “The wine was made with a mix of skin contact and ceramic vessels, both fermented using indigenous yeast, which give texture. This is the first release of a single varietal malvasia istriana in South Australia.”

The wine was also the first released under Wangolina’s new Seasons range. “This allows me to use the smaller plantings we had coming online in a range that was suited to the fruit,” says Goode. “The concept was to have a collection of wines that represent the four seasons. These are to be launched for the season and essentially drunk in that season. Think texture and complexity for winter and fresh, bright acidity for summer.”

Given the cool nature of the Wangolina site, tempranillo, lagrein, menica and montepulciano are sourced. “I take fruit from the Mundulla region, which has a warmer growing environment than Mt Benson” says Goode. “This region gives me the opportunity to trial and be creative with the alternative red varieties that I don’t have planted in my own vineyard, but I would love to supplement our alternative whites with a few interesting red varieties and truly showcase the amazing potential of Mount Benson.”

The varieties Goode has planted have demonstrated a suitability through her trial nursery block, but she is always on the lookout for those that are suited to her site in a changing climate. “We have seen a shift in our frost season of late, so I am considering new varieties with higher disease resistance, and I’m also looking for varieties that flower and set at a time that is outside the frost window.”

That planning with less-common grapes is not just down to climate suitability, though, with Goode professing a real love for alternative varieties. “I find the challenge in crafting a new wine style from a variety that I have not necessarily any experience with really exhilarating. Wangolina is a label that is variety first, producer second and region third, as we feel that these new varieties are to be championed in their own right and be good examples of the grape.”

And while so-called alternative grapes occupy a good part of the Wangolina roster under the A-Series, Goode is as focused on semillon, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz for The Originals range, with the Spectrum Syrah the flagship. That wine is made up of the best barrels from a given year to reflect both the qualities of the grape from their site, while also laying down their style marker for Australia’s most planted variety, a point on the spectrum, as it were.

Goode’s winemaking is largely classic, with a mix of seasoned and new French oak and tank employed, depending on the wine, but she also uses alternative vessels, and increasingly so. “I use ceramic eggs in the making of a few of our white wines. I find that the additional texture that these impart, adds a subtle layer of complexity and interest that elevates the wines.”

Goode’s other strong focus is to champion Mount Benson and Mundulla as regions, which she says are so often diluted away into big company blends. “These two regions to me always feel like the unknown underdogs,” she says. “I try to champion the wines of these regions and provide them with an opportunity to be what they deserve to be, to show their true regional identity. But I also see us experimenting more in our own winemaking facility and using the knowledge gained to evolve our wines. I enjoy watching new varieties express themselves in my vineyard and the anticipation of what they could be is rather addictive. Wangolina is all I have ever done – it is me and is an expression of that.”

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