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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. ⠀
We are thrilled to be named in The Real Review's 2021 Top Wineries of Australia at #18, out of more than 400 Australian wineries.
Now in its fourth year, the ranking is based on the top scoring wines of each winery tasted by the Real Review team. We are humbled to see that our wines are so highly regarded by this team of respected wine critics.
On Vasse Felix's ranking at #18, Huon Hooke of the Real Review said the Estate is best known for "Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay at several levels, all of them exemplary. The flagship Cabernet Malbec Tom Cullity 2017 is the best yet, while the Heytesbury Chardonnay 2019 is a masterpiece of age-worthy refinement and charm."
Explore the full list here.
Compost production has kicked off in our vineyards for Spring 2021 application!
This season's mix consists of Vintage 2021 grape marc, woodchip, hay and cow manure. The pungent mix will help to build good soil structure and feed microbial life in the soil, enabling healthy vine growth.
The composting process will take around three months before being applied to weaker vines this coming Spring.
The 2016 TOM CULLITY has been awarded Judges' Selection Medal in the recently announced TEXSOM 2021 International Wine Awards. In addition, the 2019 Heytesbury Chardonnay was awarded a Platinum Medal, while both the 2018 Vasse Felix Chardonnay and 2017 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon were awarded Silver Medals in their respective varietal categories.
These wines were selected from over 3,400+ entries from around the world, and blind-tasted and judged by over 70 TEXSOM judges. Explore the judges' comments on the 2016 TOM CULLITY below.
2016 TOM CULLITY Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec | Judges' Selection Award Country - Australia Red
"A vivid and complex interplay of black fruits, crushed herbs, star anise and violets. Full bodied and foursquare, structured around firm tannins with a lengthy, impressive finish." TEXSOM Retreat Mentor Editor, Sarah Jane Evans MW
"From Margaret River’s founding estate, the 2016 Tom Cullity is one of those wines that makes you say “Damn, that’s good!” Sourced from the original vines planted by Dr. Cullity, this blend of Cabernet (78%) and Malbec (20%) with a dash of Petit Verdot (2%) is deeply perfumed with ripe wild berries, violets, bay leaf, and fine cedar. The palate is supremely elegant – powerful without being weighty, with lush fruit balanced by fine ripe tannins and superbly integrated oak. The finish is exceptionally long with a saline note. A wine that is gorgeous at the moment and will only get better with time. Buy a case, enjoy some now, and then savor the evolution." TEXSOM Retreat Writer, Kaysie Rogers
The TEXSOM International Wine Awards bring the industry together to identify and champion beverages of quality and distinction from around the world. Find the full list of results for the TEXSOM 2021 International Wine Awards here.
With the bustle of Vintage 2021 behind us, late Autumn found our team out on another maintenance visit at our 'adopted' section of the Cape to Cape Track, the 123 km coastal hiking trail which runs along the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge.
As part of the 'Friends of the Cape to Cape Track' initiative, we are responsible for caring for a particularly spectacular and rugged section of the track from North Point to Miamup Brook. Throughout the year, our team regularly perform maintenance on this 'adopted' section of the track, including light pruning, minor erosion control, bush rehabilitation and litter collection, doing our part to preserve this incredible Wine Paradise.
Big thank you to our team for braving the elements, and to Cellar Manager, Tim Fearon who coordinates these track visits.
For those interested in exploring the the Cape to Cape Track, we recommend local track specialists, Cape to Cape Explorer Tours with whom we offer a Cape to Vine Tour. More info here.
On Friday 7 May, we explored the world of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, tasting unfinished Cabernet barrel samples from the 2020 vintage.
Over 40 Margaret River producers generously shared Cabernet barrel samples for the annual tasting, providing a wealth of invaluable insight into the incredible 2020 vintage.
Rob Mann of Corymbia led the discussion on the vintage samples, with input from our own Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock.
A significantly warmer vintage compared to previous, producers benefited from investment in the vineyards, including labour intensive practices (such as leaf plucking and netting) and sustainable farming practices.
Broadly in this warmer year, Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon is showing incredible drinkability, with dense fruit, medium body and strong tannins. While it was an impressive showing across the region, particular standouts included Cabernets grown in the South, as well as those grown in close proximity to the ocean.
Rob left the attendees with one of his favourite insights; "People drink wine for enjoyment, and drink cabernet for enlightenment." Cheers!
Follow @vassefelixwines for more snaps of this colloborative Regional event.