Stay in touch with the latest news and happenings at Vasse Felix, in Margaret River and on tour around the world.
“It’s hard to top the taste of fresh, line-caught fish, cooked to perfection with minimal additions. This recipe does just that, including some baking tips you can apply to any fish, plus a funky chilli, miso sauce to pair perfectly with the crisp acidity and wild ferment characters of the Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc Semillon.”
CHEF BRENDAN PRATT
1 Honeycomb Cod approx. 1kg (scaled and gutted)
200g butter, at room temperature
1 tbl spoon loganma brand chilli paste in oil
1 tbl spoon gochujang (Korean fermented chilli paste)
1 tbl spoon white miso paste
1 tbl spoon white wine vinegar 1 tsp sea salt
Oil for pan frying
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
Using sharp scissors, trim off the fish’s wings and fins.
In a stand mixer, add the softened butter and whip with the paddle attachment until slightly white and fluffy. Add the chilli paste, gochujang, miso, white wine vinegar and salt. Whip to combine and set aside.
In a large cast iron pan (or similar) add a tablespoon of oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Season each side of the fish with sea salt and gently place the fish into the hot pan, sear first side for 1 minute on a medium heat, flip over and place into the oven for 5 minutes.
Remove the fish from the oven and gently flip the fish onto the other side, being careful to release the skin from the pan so it doesn’t stick. Return the pan to oven for approximately 12-15 minutes.
Gently heat half of the butter in a small pan on a low heat.
Using a metal skewer, gently test the thickest part of the fish’s fillet. If the skewer penetrates the flesh with no resistance, the fish is ready, if not return for a few more minutes and test again.
Remove the fish from the oven, add the cold butter to the pan and let it foam. Using a big spoon, baste the fish with the foaming chilli butter, being sure to evenly coat the fish in foaming butter. This will help to finish cooking the fish, trap in the moisture and also impart flavour on the flesh.
To finish, plate the fish on a large plate and dress it with some of the warm melted chilli butter.
Margaret River hosted it's seventh annual Gourmet Escape food and wine festival from 16 - 18 November 2018.
A highlight was Friday night's Cabernet Society event at the Estate, which saw the 'Inaugural 52' members gather for a night of Cabernet cult worship.
Guests enjoyed small-make project wines, museum vintage Vasse Felix Cabernet and pre-release barrel samples, all of which were paired with dishes by Head Chef Brendan Pratt, specially created to make the King of all Grape Varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon) sing.
The night concluded with a mysterious induction into the Society - topping up a barrel of ageing Cabernet - and a very interesting after-party in the Red Barrel Hall.
Saturday night saw the tricolour come to Vasse Felix for a unique tasting of both iconic French and Margaret River wine and food. Guests were treated to some incredible wines throughout the evening, including Grand Cru Burgundy and White Bordeaux, as well as Vasse Felix Icons - Heytesbury Chardonnay and TOM CULLITY.
To complete this line-up, Head Chef Brendan Pratt was joined by Laetitia Rouabah, the revered French-born Head Chef of Alain Ducasse’s flagship New York bistro Benoit, to combine the finest local produce with elements of Paris and the Big Apple, creating an exclusive modern feast in Wine Paradise.
Our travelling food and wine refuge known as Bar Felix returned to Gourmet Village this year with two new Wine Schools exploring our black market range - Pretty 1 (Petit Verdot) and Blanc VI (Sauvignon Blanc Semillon).
Following heavy demand on Saturday, our Specialty Label Blanc de Blancs was made available (much to the delight of festival-goers), while we also poured Classic Dry White on tap, Filius Chardonnay and Filius Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Bar Felix food offerings were again a hit, with the Chefs barely keeping up with the demand for our Smoked Brisket Sliders!
Think you qualify as a cult worshipper of Cabernet Sauvignon? Read our rules below to see if you could make the cut for the Cabernet Society...
1. The first rule of Cabernet Society is you don't talk about the Cabernet Society.
2. When we meet, we eat. The food matches the wine, not the other way around.
3. If you have to be seen to be ordering Pinot to keep up appearances or for your own safety, that's fine, but you may not swallow.
4. While Cabernet can be serious, the Society never is.
We were thrilled to again receive Two Hats at the 2019 Australian Good Food Guide Awards in Melbourne this October. The Vasse Felix Restaurant was one of only four WA Restaurants, all from the Margaret River Region, to receive this prestigious accolade.
This is the second year in a row that our Restaurant has received Two Hats since this rating system was extended to the West Coast two years ago. It is a great achievement for our Restaurant team who work hard to consistently showcase the best regional produce to complement our Wine Collection.
"A Margaret River founding winery, still pushing boundaries from vine to plate... Service leads the pack in the region, the dining room is warm and stylish, hewn from wood and stone. But the real draw here is still the meeting of culinary and wine talent." 16/20, Two Hats, Australian Good Food Guide 2019
This is one of a few glowing reviews the Restaurant has received recently, the latest of which was from Max Veenhuyzen in Gourmet Traveller who wrote, "The service remains polished, the dining world-class, and Carr's successor, Brendan Pratt (The Fat Duck, The Ledbury), is a young go-getter who brings both humility and serious kitchen experience to the role. After a year in the hot seat, Pratt has made the menu his own. Grilled marron is paired with bonito cream and crunchy farro, puréed corn with mushroom XO sauce demonstrates respect for vegetarians, and bigoli with hazelnut, pecorino and shavings of truffle exemplifies the kitchen's broad reach."
This is in addition to our recent success in the WA Good Food Guide Awards, where Vasse Felix was named #7 of the Top 50 WA Restaurants. A stellar month for Vasse Felix and the Margaret River dining scene!
More information on the Good Food Guide Awards here.
Pictured: Kingfish, cucumber, shallot, endive.
On Friday 7 September, we delved into the world of Margaret River Chardonnay, tasting unfinished Chardonnay barrel samples from the most recent 2018 vintage. Over 40 producers throughout the region shared 80 samples for the tasting.
The vintage discussion was led by Clive Otto of Fraser Gallop Estate and Vasse Felix Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock, and centred around the Margaret River heritage Gingin clone, as well as key highlights of the 2018 vintage.
What did we learn? The 2018 vintage was once again a cooler vintage, producing more elegant wines with fresh acidity and prominent fragrance. The pristine environment of our Wine Paradise is allowing more producers to embrace wild ferments and create unique site expressive wines.
And the Vasse Felix samples? They looked very complex and true to their individual vineyard character in the large tasting group!
Langton’s Classification of Australian wine is the paramount form guide to Australia’s finest wines. Entry into the Classification is based on a wine’s reputation. Compiled since 1990 and released at approximately four-year intervals, the Classification tracks the leading wines, and documents the dramatic growth and increasing maturity of the Australian fine wine scene over the years.
The latest Classification - VII includes only 136 Australian wines, and of Western Australia’s 12 Classified wines, 10 are from Margaret River - three of which are Vasse Felix wines.
The TOM CULLITY was awarded an ‘Outstanding’ classification while both the Heytesbury Chardonnay (new to the Classification) and the Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon received an ‘Excellent’ classification.
Classification Tier Descriptions
The most highly prized of all Australian fine wines. Representing generations of effort and character of place.
The best of Australian winemaking practices, vineyard provenance and regional voice.
Australian wines of consistent merit. Steadfast, popular and expressive.
Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec - Outstanding
"Sourced from the original vines planted in 1967 by Doctor Tom Cullity, the Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec represents a multi-generational journey of innovation based on trial and error. Based on Houghton clone cabernet sauvignon and malbec, refined vinification techniques and maturation for 18 months in French oak, this wine validates and continues the Heytesbury narrative. Vibrant blackcurrant and herb garden aromas, fine-grained tannins, sous-bois (forrest floor) notes, generous concentration and integrated new oak mark the style."
Heytesbury Chardonnay - Excellent
"The glorious and expressive Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay is made up of individual sections of the Gin Gin clone. It evokes an exquisite balance between vineyards, emotional sensibility and technical brilliance. Batch vinification, bâttonage and maturation for nine months in around 60% (barely detectable) new and seasoned French oak results in a benchmark style with superb grapefruit and flinty aromatics, al dente textures and creamy complexity."
Cabernet Sauvignon - Excellent
"The historic, estate-grown Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon is the bellwether champion of the Margaret River region. Vasse Felix made the first cabernet sauvignon in Margaret River in 1972, and this wine has been made every year since. Comprised of cabernet sauvignon (88%) based primarily on Houghton clone material, this blend also often includes merlot, petit verdot or cabernet franc. Traditionally vinified and matured in new (40-55%) and seasoned French barriques for 16 to 18 months, it is an intensely fragrant style with blackcurrant, cedar and herb garden aromas, generous flavours and fine-grained tannins."
Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock was this year invited to present at both the Australia Decanted and TEXSOM events in the US.
Virginia was one of 13 winemakers to present at Australia Decanted from 22-26 July at Lake Tahoe, an event that was attended by over 100 US trade and media. Virginia was part of the panel who hosted the Cabernet Sauvignon Terroirs session, exploring the three great regions for Australian Cabernet Sauvignon: Margaret River, Coonawarra and the Yarra Valley. The Australia Decanted event was an incredible platform for Virginia to share our passion for the Margaret River wine region and the unique style of wine it produces.
Following the very successful Australia Decanted event, Virginia travelled to Las Colinas, Texas for the 2018 TEXSOM Sommelier Conference. It is an incredibly rare opportunity to be invited by the Master Sommeliers to present at the TEXSOM conference. The attendees include some of the most intellectual Sommeliers and Masters of Wine in the US wine market.
Virginia hosted an 'Iconic retrospective vertical tasting' which featured an impressive lineup of Vasse Felix historical wines, including the 1985 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon of which there are only six bottles left at the Estate! For Virginia to be able to present to this market and have them blown away by our wines, the Estate and the Margaret River region was simply phenomenal.
We hope that these efforts will continue to grow the recognition and appreciation of the quality of Margaret River wine.
James Halliday's Australian Wine Companion 2019 has officially been released, with both Vasse Felix Icon wines receiving excellent reviews, both receiving a rating of 97 points.
“The reach and power is something to behold.” (2014 TOM CULLITY)
"The touch is light, the effect dramatic." (2015 Cabernet Sauvignon)
"Has the intensity, complexity and drive expected of Vasse Felix.." (2016 Chardonnay)
The Halliday Wine Companion, recognised as the industry benchmark for Australian wine is eagerly anticipated year after year for winemakers and wine lovers alike.
James Halliday's Reviews:
2014 TOM CULLITY - 97 POINTS
The ship slowly turns and sets sail for the future. It’s not the deepest or darkest of wines at first, but give it time
to breathe and the reach and power is something to behold. It tastes of blackcurrant and camphor, bay leaves
and black olives, smoky oak applied as an infusion rather then anything terribly overt. Flavour - most certainly.
Tannic power - oh yes. Explosive length - most definitely. Screwcap. 14.5% alc. Rating 97. Drink To 2039.
2016 HEYTESBURY CHARDONNAY - 97 POINTS
A wine all about finesse and length - extreme length. The inexorable drive and logic of the bouquet and
(in particular) the palate leaves little room for argument, but plenty for discussion. Pink grapefruit, pear,
nectarine and a satin bow of oak are all as one. Screwcap. 13% alc. Rating 97. Drink to 2030.
2015 SHIRAZ - 96 POINTS
This is a medium to full-bodied shiraz that has such pinpoint clarity it is able to tread lightly. It’s all about high
quality fruit that has been given the oak support it needs, but not one iota more. Its texture and structure are
admirable, the black fruits with a slightly savoury twist by the carefully extracted tannins. Screwcap. 14% alc.
Rating 96. Drink To 2035.
2016 CHARDONNAY - 95 POINTS
Has the intensity, complexity and drive expected of Vasse Felix, with layers of white peach, pear and sotto
voce grapefruit paired with the all-important acidity. There’s an argument to be made - this offers the best
value of the three ‘16 Vasse Felix Chardonnays. Screwcap. 13% alc. Rating 95. Drink To 2027.
2015 CABERNET SAUVIGNON - 95 POINTS
A medium-weight cabernet to show more bulkier renditions a clean set of heels. This is a slashing way to
present cabernet. Energetic and bright, yet fluid and soft. It boasts just enough weight and power to build
good momentum through the palate, but at no point does it press too hard, or for too much. Bay leaf, black
olive and blackcurrant flavours are the main conveyors here. Tannin is a light sheet through the back half of
the wine. The touch is light, the effect dramatic. Screwcap. 14% alc. Rating 95. Drink to 2035.
2017 SAUVIGNON BLANC SEMILLON - 94 POINTS
Stamped with class. The texture, the intensity of flavour, the acceleration of the finish. Indeed it’s difficult - and
pointless - to single out individual flavours because it all seems so unified. It’s an excellent white wine from all
angles, with elegance included. Screwcap. 12.5% alc. Rating 94. Drink To 2023.
2017 CLASSIC DRY WHITE - 93 POINTS
2016 FILIUS CABERNET MERLOT - 92 POINTS
2016 FILIUS CHARDONNAY - 90 POINTS
2016 CLASSIC DRY RED - 90 POINTS
We were thrilled to host a number of long-term Icon Collectors from the Alumni Club at the Estate earlier this month, for an intimate tasting of some key back vintage Cabernets from the past 30 years.
Welcomed by Paul Holmes à Court, Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock and Estate Sommelier Evan Gill, the morning commenced with a tour of our new museum space The Vault.
The tasting was held in the Art Gallery, where Virginia guided the guests through a selection of Vasse Felix museum wines, including a ten year vertical of Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon (2000 - 2009) and finishing a comparison of the 2014 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon and newly released 2014 TOM CULLITY.
Standouts from the impressive lineup included the savoury 1998 Heytesbury, the restrained yet elegant 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the precise, delicate 2014 TOM CULLITY.
Tasting notes for the event are listed below.
Vasse Felix museum wines are stored in The Vault, to view them yourself, please visit the Estate or book ‘The Cellar Experience’ tour here.
72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Shiraz, 3% Malbec, 1% Merlot
Late summer rains dashed many hopes and un-netted vineyards were dive bombed by squadrons of silvereyes. It turned out to be quite a difficult vintage. Waiting out the unseasonable rains before picking saw good batches of fruit come in. Some exceptional wines were made - especially Cabernet.
Winestate Magazine, 5 Stars
2000 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Shiraz, 5% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec
The 2000 vintage in Margaret River again showed its true colours for consistency, with a few potential damaging rains from remnants of tropical cyclones in the North of Western Australia. The 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon fruit was sourced from several vineyards in the Margaret River Region. The warmer northern sites provide rich berry fruit characters and the southern areas provide fruit showing mint, eucalyptus and leafy notes.
2002 Qantas Wine Show of WA - Gold
2003 Cusine Magazine (NZ), Best Australian Red Wine
2001 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 3% Merlot
A warm year in Margaret River in 2001 ripened the Cabernet Sauvignon earlier than normal with good sugar levels and lower acidities. The blend, being from the two oldest and unirrigated vineyards respectively, both averaging 36 years old make for a deep, rich and complex Cabernet Sauvignon with notable power and concentration. The wine was fermented in rotary fermenters before being pressed off skins and run to new French oak barriques to complete fermentation. The wines were subsequently matured for 18 months in barrel.
2003 Qantas Wine Show of WA - Gold; Best Cabernet Sauvignon;
Best Red Wine; Best Wine in Show
2002 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 5% Merlot
2002 was our coolest vintage since 1993, resulting in most varieties being picked approximately 3 weeks later than normal. As a result the wines have lower alcohol levels, a welcome trend given the blockbuster levels we have experienced in recent vintages. The acidity levels were also balanced naturally and did not require any adjustment. The vineyards in the northern part of Margaret River delivered the best intense and ripe Cabernet Sauvignon, making up the major parcel of the wine. At the Willyabrup original vineyard site, the Cabernet Sauvignon showed
more leafiness and mint characteristics. A small portion of Merlot and Malbec were blended in increased volumes to soften the palate, elivering a wine with generous cassis and berry fruit flavours.
Winestate Annual - 4 stars; Best of the New Releases
2003 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 3% Merlot, 3% Shiraz
A warm, dry spring and warm to hot conditions leading up to vintage in a low yielding year lead to an extremly early and compressed vintage. Great colours and high sugar ripeness and lower acidities we a feature of the 2003 vintage.
The small portion of Merlot and Malbec help soften the tannin profile of the palate and give a perfumed floral lift to the nose.
Margaret River Wine Show - Gold
Winestate Magazine Annual, 4 stars; Best of Style
2004 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Shiraz, 4% Malbec, 2% Merlot
2004 vintage in Margaret River was near perfect for reds in terms of quality and yield. A cool spring/summer promoted slow growth and highly concentrated fruit flavours. A long warm Autumn ensured ideal sugar/acid/alcohol ratios. Irrigation management in the vineyard was minimal. The Merlot grapes benefited from a heat wave that struck in late March, while the Cabernet enjoyed the long mild slowripening conditions throughout April to obtain optimal ripeness. Vinification took place in chilled rotary fermenters and gently pressed to refrigerated stainless steel tanks for completion of fermentation. The wine was transferred to older French oak barriques for maturation before final blending in November 2005. Winestate Magazine - 5 stars; Best Wines of 2007
2005 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 5% Shiraz, 3% Malbec
The 2005 vintage was very distinct with a warm Spring with adequate ground moisture setting the vines up well during the early growing season and a cool, mild summer period in early February, allowing good vigour and vegetative growth without stress. The season also experienced some humidity with several rainfall periods providing plenty of water to the vines.
James Halliday Wine Companion - 94 points
Campbell Mattinson - 94 points
2006 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Shiraz, 5% Malbec
2006 was the coolest vintage Margaret River’s history. Ripening of all varieties occurred up to three weeks later than previous years and a great deal of work was required in the form of leaf plucking, green harvesting and fruit thinning to ensure ideal, physiological ripeness was achieved. As a result, the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon has classic died
herbal notes typical of Cabernet from Margaret River. The Malbec and Shiraz parcels provide a more lifted berry character, combining perfectly with the savoury, herbaceous notes typical of 2006 Cabernet. The Cabernet Sauvignon batches were fermented separately and matured in new and older French oak barriques, before batch selection and final blending, which included small amounts of Shiraz and Malbec to add further complexity.
Winestate Magazine - 4 stars; Best Wines of 2009
2007 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 5% Merlot
A dry, warm spring then summer created a compact and action-packed vintage. Ripening of all varieties occurred up to two weeks earlier than previous years recorded and once the fruit began rolling in it didn’t stop. There was no distinguishable break between white and red varieties. Each variety displayed a depth of aroma and density of palate.
Individual vineyard sections were fermented in parcels then matured in French Oak barriques before batch selection and final blending. The tannin influence was controlled through traditional oxidative handling, creating a deeply coloured wine with great structure and length.
Perth Royal Wine Show - Gold; Best Cabernet Sauvignon
James Halliday Wine Companion - 95points; Best of the Best by Variety
Ray Jordan The West Australian - Top 100 Reds; Best of the Best
2008 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec
A variable Spring and hotter than usual Summer was fortunately followed by cooling conditions in early Autumn. Beautiful sunny days, but cool nights allowed for ideal, even physiological ripening. Individual vineyard sections were fermented in parcels then matured in French Oak barriques before batch selection and final blending. The tannin influence was controlled through traditional oxidative handling, creating a deeply coloured wine with great structure and length.
Langtons Classification of Australian Wine - Distinguished
James Halliday Wine Companion - 95points; Best of the Best by Variety
2009 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 1% Merlot
Two cold springs in 2007 and 2008 contributed to low yields in 2009. Summer was moderate and fine conditions remained throughout harvest. These conditions produced superbly ripe and balanced fruit displaying all the hallmarks of a fine vintage. Individual vineyard sections were fermented in parcels with many left on skins for up to 30 days. The
tannin influence is controlled through traditional oxidative handling, creating a deeply coloured wine with great structure and length.
Australian Finacial Review, Tim White - 95 points
Gourmet Traveller Wine, Huon Hooke - 5 Stars; 95 Points
2014 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Deep maroon with a bright ruby red hue. The nose heralds a pure, refreshing and sophisticated wine. Elevated regional fragrance of cassis, licorice, bay leaf and violets with savoury mushroom, loamy earth, dark chocolate and dry twiggy details combining to form an alluring Cabernet bouquet. The palate is compact and concentrated in flavour but well resolved in structure with a stunning silky texture at such a young age. There is a seemingly bottomless
depth of blue and purple berries, nuances of herb and licorice, cedar and light wood smoke, with a gentle mouth-coating tannin persisting.
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Merlot
This wine expresses the distinct regional profile of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon and the site characters it takes from the Vasse Felix vineyards, with a focus on Wilyabrup. It was the first red wine produced in Margaret River and has been made every year since 1972. Cabernet is a robust variety ideally suited to Margaret River’s climate and deep, well drained soils. Cabernet parcels grown in the coastal, northern reaches of Margaret River on ancient, well drained gravel loam soils produce wines of great varietal purity and character. These wonderful, often tiny, vineyard sections are individually fermented using indigenous yeasts, with many experiencing maceration periods of up to 30 days. Natural fermentation and extended maceration are coupled with traditional oxidative handling to clearly define the intricate personality of each vineyard site before blending. Malbec complements and enhances the Cabernet profile.
James Halliday Wine Companion - 96 points
James Suckling - 95 points
2014 TOM CULLITY
Light maroon with a purple tinge. A very pointed and pristine perfume with immense complexity. Lively fruit from this vintage is preserved precisely. The oak and savoury complexity is intricately interwoven yet the immense power of the fruit, while delicate, is brimming with character. Notes of red currant, cranberry jam and raspberry pips give way to agar, gravel, a hint of peppermint tree, mushroom and bark. The palate is vibrant with mouth-watering cranberry freshness and while light, is juicy, precise and balanced with remarkable fine grained tannins. Long cassis and cherry pip flavoured tannins create a dry and fine finish. A significant Cabernet of uniquely delicate proportions.
80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot
The TOM CULLITY descends from Dr Tom Cullity’s original vines and represents the pinnacle of Vasse Felix. Reasonable yields were obtained despite a handful of blocks being exposed to heavy storms in spring reducing their cropping potential, but overall quality is excellent. All blocks were destemmed only, without crushing and then allowed to ferment naturally. The Petit Verdot, a small section of Malbec and small portion of Cabernet (making up 24%) were open fermented, hand plunged and pressed dry. The remaining 76% of the Cabernet and Malbec was static- fermented, gently pumped over through a splash tub and then left on skins for up to 34 days; allowing the wine to stabilise and become structurally sound in such a brilliant year for tannin ripeness. The small sections were basket pressed to fine French oak and matured for 18 months with minimal racking.
Ray Jordan, The West Australia - 99 points
James Suckling - 98 pts
On Friday 4 May, we hosted over 50 producers from the Margaret River Region for the annual Regional Cabernet Tasting. These producers generously shared close to 90 unfinished, anonymous Cabernet barrel samples from the 2017 vintage, allowing winemakers and viticulturists to examine the different techniques and styles used to create beautiful Margaret River Cabernet.
Winemaker Julian Grounds and Viticulturalist Mike Sleegers from McHenry Hohnen led this year’s discussion on the 2017 vintage, which fittingly (in what is the region’s 51st year) centered around creating Great Wine long term for a sustainable future in Wine Paradise. Winemakers discussed the journey towards achieving true expression of terroir, as well as the importance of canopy management to prevent disease and achieve earlier ripening.
The standout wines from this tasting were elegant, balanced, and medium bodied, with excellent tannin quality. Considering the nerve-wrecking vintage that was 2017, the quality of these wines is a definite feather in the cap for our region’s viticulturists and winemakers.
By Chief Viticulturist Bart Molony and Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock
Similar to 2017, this has been a season of cooler than average conditions. Spring and December delivered intermittent summer and winter weeks leading into the growing season, then average temperatures 1.5 degrees lower than the 18 year average followed in January and February. When some late January rain arrived we became rather nervous about ripening.
Somehow, Margaret River has delivered a beautiful growing season for the vines, with ample sunshine to aid vine function, while strong daily sea breezes have preserved vibrant fruit flavours and acidity.
Harvest began on 7 February, one week later than our 10 year average, although two weeks earlier than last year. Our white varieties ripened with beautiful sugar and flavour, and for the third consecutive year maintained high acidity. The weight, flavour and structure in our Chardonnay is amazing, and while we are looking forward to some malolactic fermentation to moderate acidity, the Chardonnays look very exciting.
Also exciting, was the first harvest of Gingin Chardonnay that was grafted into our Gnarawary Vineyard in Wallcliffe in 2016. The only disappointment across all vineyards? Chardonnay yields are low. We believe this is due to spring conditions which affected fruitful shoot development and flowering.
Sauvignon Blanc has been a lovely surprise this year, achieving wonderful ripeness in the cooler season. There was considerable disease pressure in Sauvignon Blanc from our most southern Karridale Vineyard, however our Viticulture team managed this superbly. Damage was minimised and excellent ripeness achieved from their tireless work, opening canopies with leaf plucking and fruit thinning.
We've developed multiple winemaking projects this year with Sauvignon Blanc. These include our first carbonic macerated Sauvignon Blanc, adding to the existing full skins Sauvignon Blanc project. The main aim for these projects is to challenge and improve our winemaking for the Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. Both are looking fantastic.
A continuation of dry, sunny but moderate to cool conditions allowed Cabernet to ripen beautifully with excellent flavour ripeness and retention of fruit perfume. The cool dry conditions allowed hanging to deliver fine tannins at a high quality level with the similar development time to the 10 years average.
In between the harvest, our vintage crew ensured that each block received a good drink post harvest to aid the vines in preparing for winter dormancy. This is an essential part of closing the vintage season successfully and setting the foundations for a fruitful following year.
Whilst we haven’t had as much fruit as we usually do, the vineyard itself is looking healthy and sustainable for the next season.