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Wines of Margaret River

© 2009 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on Margaret River, Australia.


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Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
Lovely grassy nose, with a certain lushness, a richness of fig and a nice creamy quality. There's a delicate herbal note. Around 17% of this is barrel fermented. The palate has lovely balance and thrust, with very fine mineral acidity. The oak adds only a little creaminess and perfume. 12.5% alcohol. 90/100. This wine not in the UK.

Semillon 2009
35% barrel ferment, with a very tight, punchy, citrusy nose. Lots of lime zest, but fine, floral, delicate perfumes too. The palate has lovely clarity too. A fine, structural texture with just a touch of oaky cream and weight. A bit of that freshening, fresh cut grass comes through, moving on from the mid-palate sweetness to a crisp, racy finish. 89/100.

Chardonnay 2008
Another wine with just 12.5% alcohol, no malolactic with lots of solids in the ferment and ambient yeasts. 40% new French oak. Lots of trials with sulphur levels to manage amounts that let yeasts survive. Delicious green fig richness and creamy, dense weight. Terrific lemony zest and pithy character too though with a peach down character. Has a cut of green bean and plenty of zesty acidity, even hinting at that crisp Sauvignon character. 90/100.

Heytesbury Chardonnay 2007
Paul Homes à Court now owns the Heytesbury group, of which Vasse Felix is part (as well as beef and a stud farms). A barrel selection, this has a beautifully rich, all those buttery, figgy overtones. Lots of green fruits, with a fine sense of ripeness but terrific clarity. ON the palate some bright, orangy fruit, and a whilst there's a creamy, dense texture, the fruit is very punchy. Delicious stuff, and has great balance of power and finesse. 93/100.

Heytesbury Chardonnay 2008
Definitely a more reserved, delightfully fresh style, with a really focused, almost mineral character. The palate has cool apple fruit, with just that creamy, gently toasty and spicy background. Lovely palate weight and texture again, a bit of phenolic bite that fits beautifully. A really lovely shape to this wine already (which won't be released for six months). Has that gentlest hint of under-ripeness, but this is Virginia's intention: moving this to a style that uses a lot of solids in the winemaking, keeping it a bit reductive, no malo, natural yeasts, soaks up the oak. 93/100.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
A little Malbec in this too. Difficult vintage, but Virginia really likes a lot of the wines that have come good. Herbal notes here, with a definite character of sage leaves that are in the herbal spectrum, but again Virginia's argument is persuasive that this is not under-ripeness, but a savoury herb quality of the region. The palate has a fine black fruit quality, with an earthy, juicy quality that powers through. The tannins are ripe, just adding a chewiness to the quite fat berry fruits and well-balanced acidity. 92/100.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
From a really warm year, the herby quality is not so pronounced, but that little smoky, gentle sage leaf character is definitely still there. The fat, sweet fruit, is more glossy and full on the nose and onto the palate, more into the cassis spectrum, the oak building in the finish to give lots of savoury, dry tannin - fruit tannin that is firm but has a certain juiciness. Lovely finish too. Lots of sweetness. 92/100.

Heytesbury 2007
Traditionally a Barrel selection blend of anything and everything that they thought would make the best red, including Merlot and Shiraz. Virginia doesn't like the combination of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, so now a blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet. Merlot might be used in certain years. No lack of plush, coffee-tinged, ripe aromas, with touches of violet and mint leaf. That intriguing sage note is still there, giving the delicate herbal notes that are a hallmark of the estate. The palate is big and dry, with a savoury, meaty component, and all the cedary, spicy finesse playing against the structure and the sweet, ripe fruit. 94/100.

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