Stay in touch with the latest news and happenings at Vasse Felix, in Margaret River and on tour around the world.
Chardonnay. It's the Queen of Margaret River and on Friday 6 September we explored 96 unfinished barrel samples from the 2019 vintage, generously shared by 49 Margaret River producers.
With high natural acid, incredible weight and power, and pure fruit clarity, 2019 is looking to be an incredible vintage for Chardonnay. The barrel samples were already showing more flesh around the frame in comparison to previous vintages with similar cool conditions, providing an excellent platform from which to craft beautiful Margaret River wine.
The vintage discussion was led by Steve Martin of Stella Bella and Tim Lovett of Leeuwin Estate who shared their viticulture and wine making perspective.
The 2019 vintage was a season for expert viticulture where patience, preparation, lateral thinking and hard work were rewarded, so hats off to the various viti teams who pulled us through!
On a side note - the latest Halliday Wine Companion listed 21 Margaret River Chardonnays (out of 43 total) in the Best of the Best by variety, an incredible result and testament to the quality of this region's Chardonnay.
It is no secret that Margaret River is a Wine Paradise, the ideal environment for growing exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, yet we were thrilled to see this reflected in the recent 2020 Halliday Wine Companion Best of the Best by Variety awards. ⠀
Out of the 43 Chardonnays that scored 97 points or above this year, 21 were from Margaret River. And in the Cabernet Sauvignon and Family categories? 23 Margaret River Cabernets out of 55 in total - more then any other region - made the cut.⠀
An incredible result and testament to the quality of this region's core varieties. Keep reading to see Halliday's reviews of the Vasse Felix Wine Family.
A noble blend of 78% cabernet, 20% malbec and a dollop of petit verdot, conferring ample richness and an authoritive spine; saline, maritime acidity and detailed grape tannins, moreish and ripe, attesting to an extraction regime of courage and confidence. While this full-bodied wine demands patience, one can already detect cassis, lead, cedar, graphite, a herbal potpurri, a swab of black olive and a bay leaf lingering across cedar oak beams.
2017 Heytesbury Chardonnay
Consistently at the forefront of Australian Chardonnay, attention to detail as important for the smallest detail as the largest. Texture is as important as flavour, although it can’t always be possible to deconstruct the two.
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
86% cabernet, 11% malbec, 3% petit verdot. This is reflective of the stride in the top at this estate: less of everything and with that, more drinkability; more energy; finer bones. Textbook: currant, bouquet garni, graphite, pencil lead and dried cigar. Mid-weighted, highly savoury, classically styled and eminently gulpable. But this will age very well. Your choice.
This takes the Vasse Felix chardonnay trio into serious wine territory. All the aspects are here: barrel fermentation in French oak, neither too much new, nor too little; the picking regime / decisions are integral to the vinification, the aim being to avoid the need to acidify; time in barrel is also an important consideration with an increasing practice to finish maturation in tank.
2017 Filius Chardonnay
2016 Filius Cabernet Sauvignon
2018 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon
Special Value Rating
2018 Classic Dry White
Special Value Rating
2017 Classic Dry Red
Special Value Rating
We welcomed Long Chim to the Vasse Felix Restaurant for The Muralist, a dinner forming part of Cabin Fever Festival in Margaret River. The evening explored the evolution of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends at Vasse Felix, curated by award winning sommelier Emma Farrelly, Vasse Felix Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock and Head Chef Brendan Pratt, plus Long Chim Chef Luke Fernandes.
We were thrilled to see the 2017 Classic Dry Red named Runner-Up Best Value Wine in Ray Jordan’s 2019 Top 100 Reds $40 and under. ⠀
Selected from over 600 wines, this much loved Classic has also been named Best Wine in the $15-$20 category; "A beautiful shiraz that has the stamp of class indelibly imprinted. It's always been a very good wine but this has been refined and repositioned to deliver another level of stylish sophistication."
"The Vasse Felix Classic (Dry Red) 2017 is one of the best releases of this famous wine and would not be overpriced if it sold for $25 a bottle."
More info on the Top 100 here.
The secret is out, Lonely Planet has named our Wine Paradise - the Margaret River Region and the Great Southern the 2019 Number One Destination in Asia Pacific!⠀
And here is why:
"Take one look at Meelup Beach and you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life: the West Australian bush parts to reveal ocean the hue of a Bombay Sapphire bottle, which is typical of the coastline stretching from Margaret River to the state’s south. Beyond the sand, some of the country’s slickest wineries, breweries and restaurants lie between tracts of tall-tree forest and kangaroo-dotted farmland.
Locals have long felt their turf rivals the east coast travel trail; now, 17-hour direct flights from London to capital city Perth put it at Europe’s fingertips. Adding to the argument are coveted food and culture-amped festivals, from Gourmet Escape to Truffle Kerfuffle and Taste Great Southern. There’s also amazing surf, whales aplenty and DIY coastal hikes with paved sections, improving accessibility for all." Lonely Planet
Read more about the award here.
Nine wines from the core Vasse Felix range and two Vasse Felix Black Market wines have been reviewed at or above 91 points in James Suckling's recently released Real Aussie Wine Report.
Visiting the Margaret River Region back in May this year, James Suckling wrote "the best wines of the region, particularly cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays, have a beautiful freshness and brightness underlying the tension and pure fruit that give them wonderful drinkability. This energetic profile has always been the hallmark of the wines of the region." And his report certainly reflects this glowing endorsement of Margaret River wines, full reviews below.
To view the full report, please visit James Suckling's website here.
2015 TOM CULLITY - 96 Points
The 2015 Cullity is all about finesse and power with subtle aromas and flavors of currants, plums and autumnal leaves. Full body and firm, chewy tannins that give the wine length and freshness. Just keeps on growing on the palate. Better after 2022, but already a gem to taste. Drink in 2022 and onwards. Screw cap.
2017 Heytesbury Chardonnay - 95 Points
Cool, stone aromas with subtle cooked apples and lemons. Cream and floral undertones. Full body. Layered and flavorful with so much intensity of fruit and cellar finesse. Yet, always subtle and tight. Full and fresh. Drink now. Screw cap.
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon - 95 Points
A beautiful cabernet showing an array of fresh herbs, peppermint tea, incense, dark chocolate, coffee beans, tobacco leaves, juniper berries and then dried brambleberries and cedar. Dense and intricately woven, this trades in vibrant berries and savory undertones. Full-bodied, it meanders through cherries and sandalwood, before reaching a long, chewy finish. Drink in 2022.
2017 Chardonnay - 93 Points
Complex and together white with cooked-apple, lemon-peel and cream aromas and flavors. Medium body, solid palate and a fresh and vivid finish. Always an excellent chardonnay. Drink or hold. Screw cap.
2016 Filius Cabernet SAUVIGNON - 91 Points
Red plums intermingle with eucalyptus and redcurrants on the nose. Lots of boisterous red cherries permeate the medium-bodied palate, where medium-chewy tannins carve out a focused finish. Drink now.
2017 Filius Chardonnay - 92 Points
Aromas of stones and cooked apples. Cream and pralines, too. Medium body, lovely fruit and acidity. So satisfying. Drink now. Screw cap.
2017 Shiraz - 94 Points
Wow. Love the aromas of plums, black pepper, cedar and smoked meat. Medium body, soft and integrated tannins and a long and flavorful finish. Friendly and interesting shiraz. Drink now.
Syrah IV - 95 points
This tiny-production syrah is the bomb with so much crushed black-pepper, slate, dark-berry and dark-chocolate character. Medium to full body. Very polished, silky tannins and a long and very rich finish. Drink or hold. Screw cap.
Blanc VIII - 93 points
A smoothly honed and texturally complex take on sauvignon with attractive candied lemon-peel, grilled nuts and a silky build of lemons and peaches through the finish. Sophisticated, complex and textural and very convincingly concentrated. Drink now. Screw cap.
Both Vasse Felix Icon wines have been included in Matthew Juke's 100 Best Australian Wines 2019/20, announced in May, at Australia House in London. Vasse Felix was also included in his Top 40 Wineries, based on those whose wines have featured the most in the list over the last 16 years.
2015 TOM CULLITY
“This wine has hit the high notes three years in a row now in 100 Best and so in spite of its short time on earth, I think I can safely say that it is an instant classic! Tom Cullity is a wine which packs an awful lot of class into its frame and at no stage does any element of its flavour seem over-worked or out of shape. It manages to bring a lot of complexity into its perfume and palate, too. Classical terms like cigar-box and graphite always pop up in my scribblings, but it is the sexiness of the fruit and the magnetism of the flavour which I find so enthralling. Let it open up over five or even ten hours and you will see that for a medium-bodied red wine, there is a phenomenal amount of complexity and distinction on display. Put it up against any Cabernet from anywhere on earth and this wine will look dashing and worthy of serious consideration.”
2017 Heytesbury Chardonnay
“This is an even more layered and expressive wine than the awe-inspiring 2016 and it always amazes me when a wine doesn’t just remind you of its class and integrity when you taste it, but it actually raises its own bar and redefines its potential. Of course Heytesbury is a great wine. Since the superb 2012 it has rocketed, but this 2017 is something different. The fruit is identifiable as ‘Heytesbury-style’ but it is the incredible oak delicacy, fascinating powdery texture on the finish and the ethereal lightness of touch throughout which makes this wine so enchanting. Heytesbury has not been a wine I have written the word ‘finesse’ about before. It is now.”
In other awards news, the 2017 Heytesbury Chardonnay recently won a Platinum Award and 98 Points in the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards. Selected from over 16,500 wines from 57 countries and judged by more then 280 wine experts, this award is an incredible honour.
By Chief Viticulturist Bart Molony and Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock
Vintage 2019 was a cool and labour-intensive season where we benefited from precise canopy management and the diversity that comes with having four specialty vineyard locations throughout Margaret River. It is a year for great cool climate chardonnay, concentrated Sauvignon Blanc, spicy Shiraz and aromatic Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cooler than average temperatures during Spring and Summer, coupled with reduced solar exposure and an increase in afternoon humidity during ripening made canopy management critical to mitigate disease pressure and optimise sun exposure for the fruit.
With these conditions, a fastidious and regular leaf plucking program was vital. The success of this enabled us to harvest ripe, clean fruit with slightly lower alcohol and great natural acidity.
In contrast to 2018’s ‘megablossom’ season, Marri Blossom was non-existent throughout the region in 2019, similar to 2015. The resulting bird pressure required the largest netting program ever seen at Vasse Felix to protect the fruit. Harvest timing was similar to the 2017 season, commencing approximately three weeks later than the last 10 year average in mid to late February. Interestingly, the timing is akin to classic Margaret River vintages prior to 2006.
This season the variation of temperature from the north to the south of Margaret River has been more pronounced than recent vintages. As an example, the Chardonnay harvest took nearly six weeks, rather than the usual four. Harvest at our most northern vineyard in Carbunup commenced 13 February.
Chardonnay has a beautiful cool climate style with slightly lower alcohol, high acidity and lovely flavour ripeness. Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc have been quite varied around Margaret River. Sauvignon Blanc blocks that were plucked and allowed to ripen with patience are looking fantastic. Semillon characteristics differ more than ever around the region; from light and herbaceous in the south, through to gentle and ripe in the north. Shiraz has a cool climate spiciness to it, while Cabernet is rather aromatic with well-preserved colour due to no extremes of heat and long ripening allowing tannins to soften.
Liven up a roast with this unique Cabernet lover's twist on a classic english condiment - Gentlemen's Relish.
“This recipe incorporates olives and bay leaves to accentuate the flavours of Cabernet Sauvignon. We took a lot of inspiration from the traditional combination of lamb and anchovy, using those flavours without being so ‘in your face.’”
Head Chef Brendan Pratt
250ml Cider Vinegar
80g Pitted Kalamata olives
125g Tomato Ketchup
65g Brown sugar
50 ml worchestershire sauce
2 spring onion
4 garlic cloves
2 anchovy fillet
1 tbl Dijon
2 tsp ground allspice
1 pinch cayenne
1 tsp ground black pepper
40 ml water
1 Bay leaf
Place all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil, simmer for 40 minutes.
Blend in an upright blender or food processor until very smooth.
Serve with a lamb roast and any of the Vasse Felix Cabernets.
After a huge few months of accolades for the Vasse Felix Restaurant, Head Chef Brendan Pratt, whose journey has included stints at Michelin Starred ‘The Fat Duck’ and ‘The Ledbury’, shares some insights into creating a highly acclaimed, wine-led menu.
It’s been quite a journey to evolve my food style with wine pairing at the core. It has involved a lot of tasting, creating and getting really familiar with how the winemakers describe the intricate flavours and textures of each wine, in order to develop dishes that honour them, highlight their strengths and create a memorable dining experience.
With the boundaries of wine in place, you can’t go crazy, you have to be restrained. It challenges you to think, ‘how else can I make this dish taste good?’ For instance I recently thought a chilli flavour would be great in a dish, but when pairing with wine we don’t want that heat and intensity. So instead, we set upon a process of roasting and ‘salting’ (half-fermenting) chillies to extract a subtle essence that brings the chilli’s flavour profile without the heat.
Perhaps the biggest evolution for me has been simplicity of presentation. I’ve thought a lot about the depths of texture, flavour, aroma and palate that are concealed within a wine’s simple package. It’s the opposite of food, where often you aim to present the details visually.
So I set a boundary of showing only a couple of key ingredients on the plate in an unmanipulated style. Instead we incorporate flavour, depth and body through complex culinary techniques behind the scenes. Fermenting, creating emulsions, vinegars, infusing. Thinking of ways to capture layers of intricate and surprising nuances in our menu, similar to a wine.
The idea draws somewhat from my time in London with Heston, and his ways of using music, aromas and other sensory experiences to encourage diners to try something new. For me, it’s simple presentation that makes a dish understandable and inviting. With our mushroom pappardelle dish, you’re literally eating pasta and sauce, yet it’s hearty, full of body and flavour from elements like a vegan XO sauce that is developed using 60 ingredients and two days preparation time.
For inspiration, I’ve been looking to Japan and Korea a lot lately. The unrefined, yet layered dimensions, particularly in Korean cuisine, interest me greatly, and I feel also draw parallels to the winemaking approach at Vasse Felix.