Stay in touch with the latest news and happenings at Vasse Felix, in Margaret River and on tour around the world.
The new season has brought with it the first signs Vintage 2022 in our vineyards, as the eagerly awaited sunshine has encouraged new budbursts in our Gibraltar Chardonnay blocks at the Home Vineyard.
More to follow soon. Keep scrolling for some beautiful Spring highlights.
On Friday 10 September we explored the world of Margaret River Chardonnay, tasting unfinished Chardonnay barrel samples from the 2021 vintage, grown throughout the region.
Over 45 producers from the region generously contributed Chardonnay samples for the annual tasting, which saw winemakers and viticulturists from all over the region gather to share valuable information about their unique winemaking approach and discuss vintage conditions of the past season.
Japo Dalli Cani from McHenry Hohnen and Ianto Ward from Juniper Estate led the discussion on the 2021 Chardonnay samples, offering valuable insights into this somewhat challenging vintage.
It was a pleasure to see minimal Botrytis present in this large sample selection despite warm and moist conditions from the peculiar La Niña season. This was largely attributed to an extreme focus on canopy management, assisted by our Region’s natural system of cooling sea breezes.
With over 90% of the samples fermented wild, it was an impressive terroir driven showing. With particular standouts grown in Southern Margaret River featuring an intriguing saline, ocean influence.
Our own Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock rounded out the discussion by sharing her passion for the future of sustainable viticulture and winemaking in Margaret River, championing what she believes can be the most sustainable wine growing region in the world, our Wine Paradise.
Follow @vassefelixwines for more snaps from this collaborative Regional event.
We are thrilled with the excellent reviews of the entire Vasse Felix collection in the 2022 Halliday Wine Companion, released today.
Particularly excited to see both the 2017 TOM CULLITY and 2019 Heytesbury Chardonnay included in the Top Rated Wines of their varietal categories at 97 points apiece.
The Margaret River Wine Region also performed exceptionally well as a whole in the 2022 Top Rated collection.
"Margaret River again reigns supreme, putting forward as many highlights as every other region put together.." (2022 Halliday Wine Companion on the Top Rated Cabernet Family category)
Of the 58 wines included in the Top Rated Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Family categories, almost half (26) were from Margaret River. While in the Chardonnay Top Rated, the total of 36 wines included no less then 15 Margaret River Chardonnays. An incredible testament to the quality of this region's core varieties, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Keep reading to see Erin Larkin's reviews of the Vasse Felix Wine Collection for the 2022 Halliday Wine Companion.
2017 TOM CULLITY - 97 Points.
This wine is undoubtedly one reason why Margaret River has such a powerful reputation for cabernet: concentration without weight, savoury statuesque tannins and layers upon layers of exotic spice, laid on a bed of ripe fruit. Coursing through the very heart of it is a steady beat of cool-vintage saline acid, pulling it over the coals of the tongue, through to the very long finish. Remarkable. (Top Rated: Cabernet and Family)
2019 Heytesbury Chardonnay - 97 Points.
Everyone has their favourites. The Heytesbury chardonnay style is typically the wine that my heart reaches for. I love it. The 2019 iteration is minerally; laden with graphite and crushed rocks, brine, white currant, white peach and curry leaf. Heavily worked and wild, with an attractive rawness to it. Where 2018 was about fruit power, 2019 is about complex winemaking input. This still has my heart, but for different reasons to its predecessor. (Top Rated: Chardonnay + Special Value Rating)
2018 Cabernet Sauvignon - 96 Points.
Not enough can be said in favour of the 2018 vintage, producing wines just like this. Powerfully ripe and dense, with epic length of flavour. This is a structural and concentrated cabernet capable of decades of graceful evolution in the cellar. Wild raspberry, salted licorice, aniseed, pomegranate, ferrous and kelp. Saline acid. It comes in at under $50, and long may that continue, for it is one of the great-value premium wines of the region. (Special Value Rating)
2019 Chardonnay - 95 Points.
Each year this wine presents an amalgam of creamy, chewy phenolics, ripe yet nervy fruit and exotic spice. The balance of these things depends on the year. In 2019, it’s creamy and saline with white peach and fennel flower. Gorgeous stuff.
2018 Filius Cabernet Sauvignon - 94 Points.
Should we talk about 2018 again ...? It was clearly the greatest cabernet vintage in Margaret River’s history, a fact never more obvious than when on show in the region’s entry-level wines. This is the youngest brother in the family of cabernets at Vasse and has built a loyal following for its supple deliciousness and accessibility (both in price and quality). So: wild raspberry, red licorice, pomegranate, kelp, iodine, crushed pepper, spicy oak and the all important saline acid. The vintage has contributed a fruit power that gives the wine great length of flavour. (Special Value Rating)
2019 Filius Chardonnay - 92 Points.
This is the creamy, fine, pretty and textural younger brother to the other Vasse Felix chardonnays. Crushed limestone, nashi pear, sea salt, hints of juniper and a flick of sage. It can’t hide its coastal roots; there is a salivating mention of dried kelp and sun-drenched sand in there, if more descriptors were needed. Likely, not. A cool vintage has birthed a cool wine.
2019 Shiraz - 94 Points.
This is all about sunshine and shade; yin and yang. The fruit is both bright and red (vibrant and juicy), but it has shades of midnight depth and broodiness, too. It is fragrant, floral, spicy, satisfying and modern. The oak has been sensitively managed and as a result, is already integrated. Super-smart stuff.
2019 Sauvignon Blanc - 95 Points.
Creamy, rounded and supremely textural, this moves away from the spiny sauvignon blanc we are accustomed to and moves into a New World European space. Heady Margaret River florals and leafy greens (coriander, broad beans and sugar snap peas) linger in the background, making this a brilliant excuse for lunch. From the land and into the glass – what a beauty. (Special Value Rating)
2020 Classic Dry White - 93 points.
Rounded, textural, grassy and delicious. Bags of freshly picked snow peas, citrus blossom, coriander and gooseberry. Pretty as. (Special Value Rating)
2020 Classic Dry Rosé - 91 points.
Aromas of redcurrant, pomegranate and sesame are bolstered by the reflected reality on the palate. The acid that weaves through the fruit corsets it all together, making this a great value rosé. Chalky phenolics tied to the finish shape the wine. (Special Value Rating)
2019 Classic Dry Red - 93 Points.
This is delicious. Juicy, bright and vibrant, with ripe tannins and good length of flavour. All things in place, and pretty irresistible at the price. (Special Value Rating)
Our 2021 custom cover crop blend is progressing well, assisted by recent Autumn and Winter rains, in addition to the organic fertilisers our team spread earlier this year to maximise their growth and positive impact on the soils.
Pictured is the blend sown in to the Cabernet Sauvignon rows of our Home Vineyard, overlooking the Wilyabrup Brook.
A blend of oats, rye corn and faber beans, this cover crop will help to rejuvenate our ancient vineyard soils naturally by enriching and balancing the soil structure in preparation for the coming Growing Season.
We were thrilled to host Alumni and guests at our Truffles Unearthed evening with WA Good Food Guide early August.
Featuring truffles from local producer Harvest View Truffles, Head Chef Brendan Pratt's menu explored the joys of pairing Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay with these earthly delights, including a particularly special museum vintage 2015 TOM CULLITY served with flat bread, beef tongue, XO.
Peruse the highlights below.
Selections from the Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay collection have been making quite a stir with US wine critics recently, with some stellar reviews featuring in two of the country's most popular wine publications; Wine Enthuasiast and Wine Spectator.
Full reviews can be found below.
2019 Heytesbury Chardonnay - 97 points.
“One of the most renowned Chardonnays in Australia, the latest release is a knockout. A cool vintage allowed for
gorgeous natural acidity and bright fruit to shine. Being the most cellarworthy of the Vasse Chards, Heytesbury
is always structured and more oak driven when young. It opens with heady aromas of toasted nuts, flint, seashell,
vanilla pod and a seaweed-like umami note amid melon and lemon curd. The palate is fabulously fresh with textural
complexity, and lingering nut, saline and citrusnotes on the lengthy finish.”
2019 Chardonnay - 95 points, Editors’ Choice.
“This classic wine is rich and concentrated yet bright and elegant. Citrus, melon rind, oyster shell, toasted brioche
and nutty notes flow into a beautifully constructed palate. There’s crackling acidity straight out of the gate and
subtle,toasty oak to ground it. Slippery and slinky, with salinity and depth of flavor, this is a finessed, balanced wine.”
2020 Filius Chardonnay - 92 points.
“This entry-level wine opens with a lift of tangy citrus and stone fruit, with just a hint of oak and native yeast complexities. The palate is light to medium in weight with a gentle textural creaminess, bright fruit and a salty crunch to the acidity. It’s a classy yet approachable wine that demonstrates how much Aussie Chard has grown up.”
2018 Cabernet Sauvignon - 92 points.
“Aromatic and expressive, with eucalyptus oil, sage and cedar wood accents and a dense core of dark cassis, black tea and star anise and dark chocolate notes that mingle on a supple, elegant frame.”
2020 Filius Chardonnay - 91 points.
“Expressive and generous, with ripe pear, yellow apple and spice notes that have plenty of concentration and a lush
frame. A note of mouthwatering lemon curd lingers on the finish.”
2018 Filius Cabernet Sauvignon - 92 points. Best Value Selection.
“Vibrant, juicy and distinctive, with a core of crisp pomegranate, blackberry, blood orange and sage notes on a bed of
fine-grained tannins. Shows tremendous harmony on the long finish.”
“The interesting thing about discussing a winery’s best five Cabernets is the way some, at least, are intertwined with its history. So it is with Vasse Felix."
When I first came to planning this article, I would not have expected such a concentration of favourites from the most recent decade.
I struggled, too, wanting to avoid the suggestion that the even years are necessarily better than the odd years and ended up slipping the 2015 in at the expense of the 2014. Such was the fine line between them.
For me, the golden age of Vasse Felix Cabernets is the current decade. There is the power and concentration of Wilyabrup fruit, refined winemaking and seamless wines. Don’t mention the price.
THE ONE THAT NEVER WAS
The ﬁrst vintage of Vasse Felix Cabernet would have been the 1971 which met a spectacular end. The fruit leftover from an attack by native silver eye birds was busy fermenting in an 18 gallon metal beer keg with pipes allowing the gas (from fermentation) to escape with a signature ‘tick, tick, tick…’. It was housed in the shed which doubled as sleeping quarters and so when Tom Cullity woke very early one Sunday morning and couldn’t hear the sound of gas escaping, he maneuvered the keg outside and explored with hammer and chisel. The explosion was loud, the vivid pink liquid soaked the unharmed winemaker and adorned the walls of the shed. A grape pip had got stuck in one of the pipes.
This is the ﬁrst of my top ﬁve Vasse Felix Cabernets: and the ﬁrst that I purchased. For me, this was the star of a very good Margaret River vintage with both Moss Wood and Cullen Wines providing other highlights. While I don’t have tasting notes, I remember its power and ﬁnesse and enjoyed its soft, velvety characters and depth of ﬂavour with age.
It was featured at the New York Wine Trade Fair and, in the tasting there, rated second to the outstanding Napa producer, Stag’s Leap. At the time, The Washington Post’s James Conway saw it in a blind tasting with superstars from Bordeaux and the Napa and admired the ‘inexpensive, attractive Margaret River Cabernet’.
When David and Anne Gregg brought Vasse Felix from Tom Cullity in 1984, they quickly realised that they would
only survive if the winery got considerably bigger. David was sourcing some outstanding fruit from Al Gillespie and grabbed the opportunity to buy 80 tonnes of Cabernet from Leeuwin to contribute to the 1985 Vasse Felix. The stars aligned and David clinched the sweetest deal with Woodside who had just agreed to the North-West Shelf joint venture. They wanted the entire production of Cabernet to celebrate the ﬁrst delivery of LNG to Japan in 1989.
Unbeknown to the team at the winery, their English distributors had entered the wine in the awards at the 1987 World Trade Fair. It won the trophy as Best Red Wine. The only problem was that there was none of the wine available in Australia.
When the Holmes à Court family bought the Estate from the Greggs later that year, Robert Holmes à Court wanted to buy some of the winery’s most famous drop. He approached Woodside who refused to sell any to him.
While spending some time in Toronto with a close pal a year or so later, I visited the city’s prime retail wine store. Imagine my surprise when I saw that they were selling the 1985 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon. I snapped up a case and a collection of half bottles and brought them back to Perth with me.
Ray Jordan and I shared one of those halves with owner, Paul Holmes à Court, and winemaker, Virginia Willcock to celebrate the completion of our Margaret River history, The Way it Was, and the release of the ﬁrst vintage (2013) of Vasse Felix TOM CULLITY Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec. Amazingly, the half bottle was in superb condition 30 years on: powerfully concentrated with deep blackcurrant fruit, velvety smooth texture and wonderfully alive. Talk about the stars aligning.
There’s a restraint here: wild blackberry aromatics. It is medium rather than full-bodied yet with substance; smooth with an almost creamy texture; quite ﬁne with underlying power and silky tannins on a ﬁnish of considerable length.
Here is gentle power, ﬁnesse and dense yet pure blackcurrant and bramble ﬂavours, ﬂeshy texture, before an attractive ﬁnish that lingers.
The epitome of the Vasse Felix style: a seamless Cabernet highlighting vibrant cassis, redcurrant and dark cherry ﬂavours; plush texture and endless length. Seductive now but with a future.
Crisp days spent cane pruning our Gingin clone Chardonnay vines in the Boodjidup Vineyard.
This site, just South of Margaret River, has proven itself the most incredible environment for growing elegant and powerful Chardonnay, with lovely fresh acidity and unique al dente tension.
Smoked Beef Fat Sauce Recipe
Accentuate your steak with this creamy Cabernet sauce.
Inspired by the traditional pairing of bread sauce with game meat, and my interest in nose-to-tail eating, this recipe uses the trim and fat from steaks that would normally go to waste to create a light, creamy sauce that finishes rich meats and marbled steaks perfectly. The sauce features classic Cabernet flavour pairings of bay leaves and smoky beef to reveal the high notes of our 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon. The anchovies and infused milk contribute hints of saltiness and rich protein, which serve to enhance the incredible savoury complexities of the Cabernet. I would suggest using the fat from a Rump or Sirloin in this recipe, as these will provide an adequate amount for smoking.
700ml Full Cream Milk
2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
1 Shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Fresh Bay Leaf
Smoked Beef Fat
350g Raw Beef Fat Trimmings (alternatively ask your butcher for beef fat)
Grape Seed Oil (optional supplement to beef fat)
1 cup Hickory Smoking Chips
1 tbl Sea Salt
1 tbl Cracked Pepper
Smoked Beef Fat Sauce
500ml Infused Milk (pre-prepared)
200ml Smoked Beef Fat (pre-prepared)
20g Rice Vinegar
25g Soy Sauce
1 tsp Miso Paste
1 tsp Caster Sugar
2g Xanthan Gum Powder (available at most Asian grocers)
4 pieces Anchovy
Place the Infused Milk ingredients into a heavy based pan and bring to simmer over a medium heat.
Remove from the heat, place the lid on the pot and let the milk steep for 30 minutes.
Then pass the Milk through a ﬁne sieve to remove the Garlic, Shallot and Bay Leaf remnants. Measure 500ml of the Milk back into a small pot to keep warm.
Smoked Beef Fat
Place the Beef Fat and trimmings onto a roasting tray. Season well with salt and pepper and roast at 230 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes or until crispy and rendered. Strain the fat through a ﬁne sieve and reserve the liquid fat. If required to supplement your trimmings with Grape Seed Oil, you should add the oil now to create 250ml in total.
Place the liquid fat into a small metal bowl and place inside BBQ. Leave the BBQ oﬀ as you will be using the BBQ cabinet as a smoking chamber.
Heat the Smoking Chips in a pan over high heat until they start to smoke, then put the pan inside the BBQ, just resting on the grill, and close the lid.
Leave for 20-30 minutes or until the fat has a nice smoky ﬂavour.
Finished Smoked Beef Fat Sauce
Add the Infused Milk, Soy, Rice Vinegar, Miso, Anchovies, Sugar and Water into a blender jug. Start the blender on low speed and gently stream in the beef fat. Add in slowly so as not to split the sauce. Add the Xanthan Gum while the blender is still churning.
Transfer the sauce to your serving jug and serve immediately.
Best enjoyed with the 2018 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon. Serves four.
Pruning is an important element of our Soil Season preparation, helping the vines to strike the perfect balance between growth, fruit yield and quality. ⠀
We focus on the cane pruning method in our vineyards, selecting a new cane each season, allowing us to retain the most fruitful nodes on the vine.⠀
This method tends to lead to larger bunches and berries, resulting in the more elegant styles that define this Wine Paradise. ⠀