Angove for Value

The managing director of Angove (tastings), John Angove, is weary of hearing people say (and write) that Angove wines are “good value for money” and he’d prefer to hear that they were simply “good wines”. Sorry, John, but that is their station in life, at least up till now. They are good, sometimes exceptional, value for money because they are inexpensive wines that are simple but often over-deliver.

Angove Family Winemakers (formerly “Angove’s”) are headquartered at Renmark in the Murray Valley and most of their wines are based on Riverland grapes. Hence there’s been a ceiling to their absolute quality.

But, for the last few years they’ve been spreading their net, sourcing grapes from many other South Australian regions and expanding the repertoire. The “good quality” and “very good value for money” Vineyard Select label, at a very affordable $15 to $18, has offered some tasty regional varietals, such as Clare Valley riesling (tastings), Limestone Coast chardonnay, McLaren Vale shiraz (tastings) and Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon (tastings). These wines often find their way into my “Bargain of the Week” review slot in Good Living. As do The Long Row wines, such as the $10 Long Row Riesling 2010 (tastings).

It’s not hard to fathom why the family company is stretching out. The Riverland has been doing it tough lately, with drought and water shortage – at least until this past season of ridiculously high rainfall. The wine industry is being encouraged to hold off the irrigation, cut yields, and focus on quality rather than quantity.

And Angove Family Winemakers, in its 125th anniversary year, has unveiled its latest move up-market: later this year it will open a cellar door in McLaren Vale, on a vineyard it purchased in 2002, and from which it’s making some superb, up-market reds. At a series of 125th birthday events around Australia and Asia, John Angove and his winemaker/marketer son Richard and their chief winemaker Tony Ingle and sales and marketing manager Tim Boydell have been showing off a series of McLaren Vale reds that they hope will launch a new era for Angove.

There’s a 2009 Single Vineyard Shiraz Grenache (60:40) and ’09 Single Vineyard Shiraz, the first coming from the hotter, north-facing side of the steeply sloping vineyard, and the straight shiraz form the cooler, south-facing slope, and consequently more spicy/elegant ‘cool-grown’ in style. They’ll be available only at the new cellar door, which isn’t yet built but is planned to open in December. Then there’s the big-noise wine: a pure ’08 McLaren Vale shiraz ($50) called The Medhyk (tasting), blended from three growers’ vineyards, a full-bodied, powerful and rather oaky wine which will be available in the restaurant and retail trade as well. The name harks back to the founder, Dr W.T. Angove, who was a Cornish doctor who migrated to South Australia with his young family in 1886 and planted vines in the outer Adelaide suburb of Tea Tree Gully. Like doctors Penfold, Lindeman and others, he intended to make wine for his own and his patients’ use. Medhyk is apparently Cornish for doctor.

The Tea Tree Gully vineyard was compulsorily resumed for housing in the 1980s, but by then the family was well ensconced in the Riverland.

John Angove likes to point out that the wheel has come full-circle, in a sense, as the family is moving back to “dryland” viticulture and the McLaren Vale site is only 40km from the Tea Tree Gully site.

But, despite the Riverland’s problems, Tony Ingle insists the family believes the region has a future and will remain the core of the family winegrowing activities. Yes, there is a shake-up going on, and some growers will leave the wine industry. In the past the custom was to have a mixed farm and perhaps growers need to return to that: citrus is profitable now. And growers have been forced to re-think the way they grow grapes. John Angove said the company was now using 45 percent of the water it used to use per hectare of vines. He has quietly spent about $10 million re-planting half of the company’s huge 500-hectare Nanya vineyard to raise quality. They changed the direction of the rows, in order to better control irrigation and avoid the gullies getting too much water and the ridges too little. The rows now follow the contour of the land. At the same time, they got rid of unwanted varieties that were part of the original 1970s plantings, and substituted desirable varieties and best clones. Today, Nanya incorporates 100 hectares of organically managed vines for Angove’s organic wine brand. Winemakers love new technology, and Ingle is thrilled to have a new half million dollar cross-flow filter to play with. There’s continuing investment to improve quality.

The other boost to Angove’s stocks in recent times is its distribution company, which now wholesales not only Angove Family wines and its famous St Agnes Brandy but also Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne and a dozen other companies’ wines and spirits. And with Richard Angove and his sister Victoria now involved, the continuity of the family lineage is assured for at least a fifth generation.


First published in Sydney Morning Herald, Good Living – 7 June 2011.

 

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