New blog series: Negociants UK Winemaker Tour
Six winemakers from Australia and New Zealand hit the road last week as Negociants embarked on its first ever UK winemaker tour, in order to re-establish close links with the trade. In the first of a new series, Virginia Willcock, chief winemaker at Vasse Felix in the Margaret River, blogs about her return to the UK and what's happening at the vineyard back home in Oz.
"Finally returning to the UK is heaven - being able to talk about and show our wines to some of the most wine-savvy in the world. It's been about five years since my last visit, as normally when a member of the Vasse Felix team comes to the UK it is in May and around the time of the London International Wine Fair. This is typically when the last of our Cabernet Sauvignon parcels are soaking on skins. There isn't much that would take me away from finishing them off, so I am thrilled to have this special opportunity to return to the UK with the Negociants tour. There is so much to share. I suppose a lot of our recent and forward direction has felt somewhat like a ‘coming of age' - Vasse Felix and the Margaret River Wine Region are only 45 years old, so we are at a significant time in our journey. In recent times, we are working better with the environment, the vineyards and doing ‘less' in the winery, to let the wine ‘be what it wants to be,' from our stunning terroir. Often nerve-wrecking, but very rewarding.
We have been focused on making only those wines we believe are most suited to our region, and making them in a style that is more expressive of Margaret River and our vineyards. It's been a blessing that Margaret River has given us a series of great seasons over the last six vintages.
Cabernet Sauvignon has always been the heart of Vasse Felix, with Margaret River's first Cabernet being made by founder Dr Tom Cullity in 1972. We have special and historic vines and we've been delving deeper into understanding the intricate details of clonal and site influences, and how to work most respectably with each to express the elegant, fine nature of Cabernet from this part of the world.
A few years ago, we also undertook significant new plantings on land adjacent to our original Wilyabrup Vineyard. As with our original blocks, this land has the ideal soil type and environmental conditions, and we have matched selected clones of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to it. The new plantings are still very much in their infant years, but are showing outstanding potential.
For our Chardonnays, we have been picking our fruit earlier for a tighter and more vibrant style, we don't clarify the juice, and we ferment with only the fruit's natural yeast. Together with our refined oak regime, we've observed a true evolution for this variety in a style that I hope, will ultimately be recognised over time in line ups as ‘the Vasse Felix wine'.
Margaret River is also regarded for its aromatic and vibrant Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends. These varieties from across the Margaret River appellation have rather site specific ‘sub-regional' characteristics and with the acquisition of our southern Karridale Vineyard in 2010, our Sauvignon Blanc Semillon style is also reaching new heights in embracing the nuances and complexities of this blend.
I could honestly write for hours on this stuff, but my word count is out! I hope this gives you a bit of an insight into some of what's been happening at Vasse Felix since I was last in town, and if you haven't tried our wines for a while, it's time. Could I be so brazen to say, it is the Margaret River era?".