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We are thrilled to be able to share some of the first reviews for the 2018 TOM CULLITY, among which is a vertical tasting from Andrew Caillard MW and his new venture, The Vintage Journal.
"Every vintage reflects the growing season. It is barely necessary to read the viticultural notes to understand the challenges. A vertical tasting of 2013 to 2018 reveals an evolution of style and a completely unforced winemaking approach. The elegantly structured 2013 is surprisingly youthful and classic. 2014 is lovely to drink with excellent vinosity and drive (but it looks atypical in this company). 2015 shows more vineyard provenance and less winemaking. This success was followed by the outstanding 2016 vintage which shows wonderful tannin structure and longevity. 2017 reveals a cooler growing season, but all the elements are in balance. In some forums it would jag a gold because it is so authentic. But 2018, like the 2016, shows the Tom Cullity style at its best. It has a spatial quality that captures the atmospheric forces of nature and bloody good viticulture and winemaking."
2018 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River Western Australia - 98 points
"... An impressive landmark vintage."
2017 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River Western Australia - 94 points
"... A well-balanced cabernet with excellent fruit definition and complexity. "
2016 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River Western Australia - 98 points
"...Finishes chocolaty firm with plentiful sweet dark fruits and persistent fine tannin plume. Superb density, richness of flavour and length."
2015 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River Western Australia - 97 points
"...A very attractive claret-style with the volume, density, and structure for long term cellaring."
2014 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River Western Australia - 96 points
"...Generous and sweet fruited with plentiful blackcurrant, blackberry fruits, fine slinky/ grainy tannins"
2013 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River Western Australia - 96 points
"... A classical cabernet with lovely definition, balance and mineral length.
To access full reviews subscribe to The Vintage Journal
Excitement continues to build for the 2018 TOM CULLITY as the first critic reviews are released.
Scored at 99 points and named, "a wine for the ages" by Halliday Wine Companion (Erin Larkin), the wine was also featured in The West Australian, with Ray Jordan awarding the same score. Both reviews, along with others can be found in full below.
More information about a very special TOM CULLITY takeover at the Estate will be released shortly, so stay tuned. In the meantime, explore the story of TOM CULLITY available for purchase here.
Halliday Wine Companion - Erin Larkin
This wine is the benchmark of the latent power, grace and inherent balance of the 2018 vintage in Margaret River. Texturally similar to the classically sophisticated 2014 vintage, but with far greater density and weight. Here, the savoury tannins are countersunk into the fruit already: shapely, firm, chewy, malleable – everywhere and nowhere at once. Waves of blood plum, cassis, blackberry, pomegranate, juniper, raspberries, saltbush, bay leaf and salted red licorice crash against the rocks, as kelp, nori, iodine, red gravel and brine ride the smaller sets out the back. Sensational. Astounding. A wine for the ages.
The West Australian - Ray Jordan
Highly perfumed aromas strike immediately. There is that combination of fruit sweetness and fine chalky minerally tannins. Loads of blackcurrant and juicy plum with a dollop of chocolate and mocha cut with floral and dried herb notes. Bright and energetic at every turn with subtlety and elegance. Delivers with a degree of understatement and restraint yet gathers pace and momentum as it drives through to the finish. The tannins are more in the powdery space with that slightly aspirin-like oak influence bringing it all together seamlessly and harmoniously. This is classic cabernet in its varietal makeup with a firm spine and length. The malbec has brought a vibrant red fruit juiciness into the equation. The finest wine yet from Vasse Felix. It’s 2016 without the tannin and 2014 without the opulence.
The Vintage Journal, Andrew Caillard
"Medium deep crimson. Fragrant cassis, dark plum, chinotto aromas with herb garden, aniseed notes. Voluminous blackcurrant, dark plum, blackberry fruits, lovely persistent fine chocolaty textures, superb mid-palate density, fresh juicy acidity and plentiful mocha, espresso oak notes. Finishes chocolaty with plentiful sweet dark fruits and attractive mineral length. Lovely concentration, definition and torque. Should last some distance and keep for a while to let the elements further integrate. An impressive landmark vintage."
James Suckling - Top 100 Wines of Australia 2021, Nick Stock
"A great edition of the top Cabernet blend from Vasse Felix, this has a lot of power and depth. The aromas run from red to blue and dark berries with a leafy edge and attractive, fresh florals. The palate has a core of blue-toned fruit flavor that drives so deep, with a helix-like interplay of acidity and tannin. Impressive. Drink over the next decade or more."
The Real Review, Gabrielle Poy
"Not a powerhouse on the nose, but rather an intriguing mix of beautifully curated black and red berries, florals and meats with an earthy element of graphite. It smells harmonious yet complex. The palate is luxuriously rich and svelte, once again a myriad of complexing flavours combine and are carried along with fine rolling tannins. It’s incredibly well balanced and there’s a purity to the fruit that is captivating. But perhaps best of all, there has been restraint in the winemaker’s work letting the fruit take centre stage. This is a mind-blowing cabernet that captures the elegance and complexity this grape can produce at its greatest height."
Wine Pilot, Angus Hughson
Is this the year where Tom Cullity really hits the jackpot? Absolutely, with this vintage sure to be a Margaret River classic that will age beautifully for decades to come. Deep ruby in colour, it exudes muscular and generous fruit aromas which show great power and focus – ink, blackberry and blueberry ripple with a rich vein of French oak sitting just behind. That muscularity continues on the palate while retaining fruit delicacy in a mouth filling package underpinned by a rich core of dark and slightly savoury flavours. Superb tannin management provides structure that is a perfect match before finishing with an exceptionally long and sustained finish. Super impressive and will age a mile.
BY CHIEF VITICULTURIST BART MOLONY
& CHIEF WINEMAKER VIRGINIA WILLCOCK
We went from zero to one hundred very quickly this year. Things took a while to start, however when the harvest was on, it was on! Before we get into those details, let’s rewind to how we got here.
A cool, winter-like spring saw vine growth delayed in development. Rainfall in October was significant.
Summer was dry and warm, with sustained warmth day and night through December, January and February, possibly influenced by another La Niña season.
Veraison for Chardonnay was also delayed by about a month, however after veraison, consistent heat saw a rapid ripening period for all white varieties in our four vineyards across the region. The first Chardonnay harvest began on 16 February and all 154 hectares of our white varieties were harvested extremely quickly, finishing on 10 March.
The fruit quality is excellent with surprising delicacy and elegance for such a warm summer. The major disappointment for white varieties being low yields across the region, for Chardonnay in particular. This was primarily due to spring conditions in the past two years. Spring is significant when it comes to Margaret River vintage development. In good news, an extended trial of four cane trellising is showing sound results to mitigate the risk of spring storms and lowering Gingin Chardonnay yields, and the grapes love it too.
A warm and rapid veraison for reds at average timing in early February saw the Cabernet’s desirable ripe flavours pronounce themselves quickly and beautifully - signs of green characters vanish fast with weather like this. The first blocks were harvested on 16 March, and so far look great. While bunch counts originally looked fantastic, yields are lower than expected, influenced by warm and very dry conditions, thus lower bunch weights and small berries. Vine health remains fantastic. Cabernet quality is high and flavour is concentrated.
This vintage, the vinification program diversified again with the arrival of two, 1800 litre Cocciopesto vessels made from the famous Roman mix of Italian stone, sand, marlstone and terracotta. These follow our addition of concrete vessels last vintage and will assist with fermentation and maturation trials for Cabernet.
A special mention of the locals, stranded backpackers and travelling winemakers who found their way to the Vasse Felix vineyards and winery to help with vintage. In a year like this, where a lot of grapes ripened at once, we couldn’t have upheld our quality standards of hand harvesting and precise timing if we didn’t have so many hands on deck to help us complete another brilliant vintage in Margaret River.
This vintage, the vinification program diversified again with the arrival of two, 1800 litre Cocciopesto vessels (affectionately known as "Drunk Turtles") made from the famous Roman mix of Italian stone, sand, marlstone and terracotta. These follow our addition of concrete vessels last vintage and will assist with fermentation and maturation trials for Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc.
Winemaker Tim Fearon runs through the evolution of our Sauvignon Blanc and the importance of plunging skin contact ferments to get air into the ferment and unearth flavours and tannins.
This programme is integral to our Premier Sauvignon Blanc, the skin contact adds complexity and a powdery, dry tannin finish, which is then being fermented in our Cocciopestos
An experimental arm of our winery program is fermenting in different materials, rather than traditionally used stainless steel tanks or oak barrels, with the above detailing our winery team cleaning and filling concrete eggs with Malbec.
These experiments allow us to discover how different materials lend themselves to our wine, which unearths different and exciting characteristics, changing the way we think about certain varietals and allowing us to incorporate elements into our full-time program.
We are currently waiting in keen anticipation for the balance of our red grapes to finish ripening, having just picked some Shiraz and the first parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon. During the brief pause, work in the winery continues as our team tend to bubbling ferments. Meet Tim Fearon and Charline Sautour from the winery team, who share some of their experiences below.
Tim is an integral part of our permanent winemaking team and his passion for pushing boundaries when it comes to winemaking is evident.
His favourite wine that he has had involvement with is our 2020 Sauvignon Blanc due to its texture, structure and stylistic evolution (including full skins ferments and large format oak); showcasing the power of what a Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc can be.
Tim is intrigued with the ongoing investigation into alternative ageing methods and vessels for our Cabernet Sauvignon and the scope it allows for expressing the nuances of individual parcels and vineyard blocks, whilst just as importantly, pursuing a path of longer-term sustainability.
Passionate Winemaker Charline hails from Bordeaux, France, but has called Margaret River home for nine years.
Her first vintage was in 2013 in Chateau Pape Clément (Pessac Léognan) straight after finishing her Masters in Oenology and Viticulture.
When asked about her favourite wine, she said it was hard to choose and that the decision came down to the weather, food and of course the camaraderie of good company.
The J Block plot in our Boodjidup Vineyard in the Wallcliffe area of Margaret River, with its coarse gravels over clay, has proven to grow Chardonnay with a very original, noteworthy personality.
Last week's morning sunrise harvest at our Darch E Block in our Boodjidup Vineyard. Some of our "Grand Cru" plots, this block unearths immaculate parcels of Gingin clone Chardonnay, with these fruit parcels finding their way time and again into our Heytesbury Chardonnay given their striking character, phenolic tension and palette weight, which are unique to this site.
We look forward to the 2022 Heytesbury expression, with some snippets of this pick below, as well as Chief Winemaker, Virginia Willcock's update on vintage 2022.
The week just gone saw the arrival of our 2022 vintage crew to the Estate, which includes some specialist winemakers who were able to join us from interstate, alongside our longstanding winemaking and viticulture teams.
Our annual welcome breakfast of bacon and egg rolls set the perfect tone for the crew to settle in, meet the broader Vasse Felix team and share stories of vintages past and present, from wine regions around the world.
The excitement for vintage 2022 has been palpable, with scenes below from the first harvest of Gingin clone Chardonnay from the Gibraltar blocks in our Home Vineyard, with fruit looking pristine. Catch Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock's recap on the first week of vintage below.
A huge thank you to everyone who has signed up for the all-important job to help us handpick the grapes this season, we look forward to sharing more behind the scenes stories from vintage soon.
Follow @vassefelixwines on Instagram for more.
Our vineyard teams remain busy preparing for vintage 2022. Some recent scenes from Tom's Blocks in our Home Vineyard depict Bart Molony our Chief Viticulturist, undertaking the important and sentimental job of restoring a couple of rows that were grafted to Shiraz in previous decades, back to Cabernet Sauvignon.
These canes are now at a stage where they need to be tied to wire to encourage desired vine structure and promote future growth and yields. We are looking forward to seeing the expressions these vines will unearth on our original heritage Cabernet rootstocks.
We are also starting to see our Gibraltar Block, Home Vineyard Chardonnay moving through veraison after a slightly slower start to the growing season - a result of cooler spring conditions.
Our vineyard team will be keenly monitoring these parcels and their soil health, as they continue to ripen and develop their distinct flavours and we look forward to unearthing these expressions that are so crucial to our Icon and Premier wines.
Discover more below.