Philbo: a Wine Legend
Phil(bo) Christiansen, owner of Longwood Wines, is a living legend in McLaren Vale.
As a born and bred child of the Vale, he remembers the place being very different indeed before all the investment and wine hype. Phil started work as a trainee cellar hand at Hardy’s local Tintara winery but it wasn’t until Hardy’s appointed Steve Pannell as head winemaker back in the 90’s that things would change for him.
Through Pannell’s inspiration and great cellar communications, Phil learnt how to make wine commercially and how to develop exciting wines for himself. Philbo was a big part of Tony Laithwaite’s highly successful RedHeads movement and today he has his own winery nestled high in the hills above McLaren Vale where he makes his own range of exquisite wines alongside contract winemaking for other talented growers.
I have known Phil for many years from his frequent visits to Bordeaux to help with the harvest. I now find myself here in his home town and working for his mentor Steve Pannell who has returned to this part of the world to set up his own winery.
Phil and his wife Lauren have kindly put me up at their place for a few days after the madness of harvest. Now I can get to see a bit of the Vale before heading off. And I can taste some of Phil’s exciting wines like his Adelaide Pinot Noir, a superb Cabernet Sauvignon and old-vine Grenache.
However, first things first in true Australian fashion: “let’s go and see a mate for a beer”. That ‘mate’ was Philbo’s school mate Drew Noon … another living legend in the Vale.
Drew is a quiet, interesting and charming character. A winemaker of great experience, he is also one of the very few in Australia to pass the Master of Wine and now runs his small Noon Winery just down the road from Phil’s place. Drew has quite a following and all his wine is sells out pre-release … he even has a waiting list! The cellar door opens on only a couple of weekends in November where wines are available to buy in limited quantities … these usually sell out within the first Saturday!
Therefore it was great to have a little look around, meet Drew personally to chat about his winemaking and how the 2015 went. Drew unscrewed an old-vine Noon Eclipse Grenache for us to taste which was really lovely and superbly balanced. We also tasted/drank a bottle of his limited 150 bottle 2014 rose instead of a beer!