The Wirra Wirra Cellars were built by Robert Strangways Wigley, one of the McLaren Vale's all time characters
Wigley began building at the turn of the century using Dr. A.C. Kelly's plans of a split-level design that his friend Alec Johnston had used to build the Pirramimma winery. Wirra Wirra is an aboriginal name meaning amongst the gums. Born in 1864, Bob Wigley studied Law and Architecture and managed to play cricket for South Australia. His wild pranks as a young man had already made him somewhat of an embarrassment to his family. In 1893 he was prudently sent to rusticate in McLaren Vale. He planted the vineyard in 1894 and made his first wine with Alec Johnston in 1897. By 1901 he was the owner of one of the best wineries and vineyards in the district with 100 acres under vines and 15 acres under currants.
Stylistically, Wirra Wirra established a long and distinguished history for itself of producing wines with great elegance, balance and complexity. "Mr. Thomas Hardy says of all those he ever had under him, no town man worked harder than Mr. Bob Wigley who was at Bankside for 18 months learning winemaking. At the end of this time he took up 240 acres of land at McLaren Vale, and has succeeded in producing wonderfully fine full-bodied Burgundy, especially suited for the export trade." - The Register Adelaide Australia 1903
Bob Wigley died in 1924 having contributed much to the life of the district and having made many fine wines which in the main found their way to England, having been shipped by Burgoynes of London. After 1936 the original 240 acres were sold by his family and eventually the cellars with only 7 acres left fell into disuse. It was not until late 1969 that the winery, by then virtually a derelict building, and the surrounding 7 acres of land was re-established.
Cousins Greg and Roger Trott purchased the holding from Vern Sparrow, son of Wigley's foreman Jack Sparrow. Roger Trott, an accountant, has a property at McLaren Flat, Moray Park, and Greg's vineyard. Bethany, is just across the road from Wirra Wirra, while Scrubby Rise, part of the original Wirra Wirra, is immediately in front of the cellars. Before they bought the old, ruined winery, Greg spent five years with Southern Vales Co-operative looking after growers interests and in his own words, had become familiar with the rudiments of winemaking.
Like many of the McLaren Vale winemakers, these men were helped by their friendly rivals, a feature of the district. Good use was made of Oenological Services of McLaren Vale, a winemaking advisory and laboratory service led by Peter Klose and started by David Hardy, Alex Johnston and Colin Kay. In a gesture worthy of the wonderful Wigley, the two cousins Trott spent a frantic five weeks gathering equipment from all over the state. Then, armed with an ancient wooden Bagshaw crusher, a pump and an old French press, they made their first wine in the open air amidst the ruins.
In a gesture worthy of the wonderful Wigley, the two cousins Trott spent a frantic five weeks gathering equipment from all over the state. Then, armed with an ancient wooden Bagshaw crusher, a pump and an old French press, they made their first wine in the open air amidst the ruins. In its modern day, Wirra Wirra has hosted a vast and eclectic array of winemakers, cellar hands, drifters and vagrants each vintage. One of the most interesting things about February, is the influx of a range of recalcitrants from all over the world. Yanks, Poms, Krauts, Frogs, Kiwis, Queenslanders, the occasional Aussie and more, all converge on the cellars to pick, pump, drain, crush, press, and massage the fruit that comes in from the vineyards. There is now nothing quirky about the design of the winery, which is in its third stage of development. Although functional and technologically advanced, the cellars retain a soul. This is largely due to the spirit of the tribe that work there.
Although McLaren Vale is at the heart of everything Wirra Wirra, diversity in fruit styles also plays a part in viticultural & winemaking philosophy. Other regions act as a source of fruit, with the Clare Valley contributing to Hand Picked Riesling. Coonawarra fruit is a major component of The Angelus, whilst Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are based purely on Adelaide Hills grapes. Petrucci's, Paxton, Parkinson, Trott, Gower et al make up a stable of carefully selected growers who are inevitably part of the Wirra Wirra tribe. Scrubby Rise (which is flat and bereft of Scrub), Nocowie (named by Trott's father who disliked cows), Chook Block (next to Greg's old Chicken Sheds), 73 Block (one guess only), Finniss River & House Block contribute the majority of the best fruit year after year.