Two magical things happen in South Australia at this time of the year: the jacaranda trees cover footpaths with purple flowers and Noon in McLaren Vale reminds us all of the power of a love brand.
Noon opens its cellar door for only three weekends each year. Word of mouth carries this revered business, a spot on the mailing list commanding Wendouree-like bragging rights. I dropped in on Sunday to see the Noon pilgrims collecting their allocations (two bottles of each red).
I arrived at 4.30pm to beat the rush but they were still two-deep at the bar. Rae and Drew Noon poured samples, chatted to the believers, took credit cards and apologised for the rosé having sold out. The prices have gone out in sympathy with local bowling club beer prices – 2016 Reserve Cabernet and Reserve Shiraz are only $29.95 each. As is the flagship Eclipse – 87 percent grenache, eight percent graciano and five percent shiraz.
Serious wine tasters mixed with people just out to have fun including mums and dads with prams and pink cheeks. Noon’s communication with customers is dynamite. Beautiful hand-written signs on blackboards next to hay bales and pots of red flowers advised customers not to let their wine get too hot in the car.
The darkness of the branding adds to the mystery and intrigue of this winery. The Noon family seek no attention, avoid hype and go about life with no fuss. Everyone pitches in. The big dog in the corner barked sporadically and got told to be quiet.
Ever-smiling Emily got me a rosé. “I’m a cousin,” she said. With these big crowds, is there wine rage? “No, everyone is really good,” she said. Rae and Drew’s young son Harper had a bright green cast on his arm; broke it playing soccer. Looking a bit fed-up, Harper leaned on the counter; his mum politely asked him to stand up straight – and he did.
Noon devotees look forward to this tradition like sitting in the same seat at Adelaide Oval each year or putting up the tree on pageant day. In shades of post-Christmas sales, every second Noon punter left with their precious cargo in a plain cardboard flatpack simply branded ‘Noon’.
They travel long distances to get there. They line up an hour before it opens. They cook bacon for breakfast in the carpark. The queue stretches out the door and 20 metres down past the vineyard. They all seem to know Drew. The reds are 15.5 percent.
Noon has this message on its website: “Light wines… it’s just not us!” And so say all of the customers.
• This article first appeared in WBM’s Friday e-bulletin The Week That Was. To subscribe to this legendary free newsletter visit www.wbmonline.com.au