– 2012 VASSE FELIX HEYTESBURY CHARDONNAY –
Remember that time when you could just go to WA for the weekend on a wine trip. Me neither… So we figured we would help you to refresh your memory with our Cellar Pick of the Week from Margaret River. And maybe, (after drinking the entire bottle), we can eventually even pretend we’re actually there!
Cellar Pick of the Week: 2012 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay
Origin: Margaret River, Western Australia
Grape varietal: Chardonnay
Many Australians describe Margaret River as the perfect region for viticulture. However, it wasn’t till 1966 that the first vineyard was planted by Perth cardiologist, Tom Cullity, who was influenced primarily by a research paper of University of Western Australia agronomist, Dr John Gladstones. In it, he examined the Margaret River’s suitability for viticulture and he believed that the only possible disadvantage of the region could be its heavy winter rainfall which would necessitate choosing vineyard land which had good drainage. Finally locating the ideal site, Tom planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Malbec and Riesling to establish the Vasse Felix vineyard in 1967 and officially signalled the beginnings of the wine industry of Western Australia.
So what makes Margaret River so unique? It sits in the south-western corner of Australia, around 270 kilometres from Western Australia’s capital city of Perth. A long, narrow region, it is hugged by the Indian Ocean on the north, west and Southern Ocean to the south. This stunning stretch of land is one of the most geographically isolated wine regions in the world, bestowed with ancient soils and unique biodiversity: 80% of its plant species are found nowhere else in the world. Its geography, soils and Mediterranean climate combine to create ideal grape-growing conditions – heavy winter rainfalls, cool sea breezes that give vibrancy to the fruit and a long, dry ripening season capable of ripening Cabernet Sauvignon right to the end of the season.
Even though Vasse Felix was officially founded in 1967, it took another 5 years to produce their first wine. It wasn’t till 1972 that they produce their first Riesling from a small crop. And it was an absolute success right away. It won its first Gold Medal in the same year at the Perth Show, and one year later another medal for their Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 1995 the first Heytesbury is made and is a runner up for the Jimmy Watson Trophy at the Melbourne Royal Wine Show in 1996. In 1996 a Reserve Chardonnay is made and is relabelled as Heytesbury Chardonnay in 1997. It’s this Chardonnay that starts drawing the attention and the 2010 Heytesbury Chardonnay wins no less than 11 trophies in wine shows to become one of the most awarded wines in Australian history. Vasse Felix adds the Heytesbury to his Icon range, together with award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec “Tom Cullity”.
It’s therefore that we have picked this wine for our Cellar Pick of the Week: The 2012 Heytesbury Chardonnay. 2012 was a good vintage. There were good finishing winter rains with moderate spring conditions that resulted in excellent canopy health. The summer ripening period was dry and warm with some above-average heat in late January prompting an early start to harvest. The weather tempered in early February and the fruit ripening slowed to a more typical pattern resulting in a long and steady vintage.
Small batches were selected from the finest sections of the best vineyards and clones. Each batch was very gently pressed and the juice then transferred to barriques with the inclusion of some solids to achieve more intense ferment characters and palate weight. Each batch was fermented wild with no yeast addition and was stirred throughout the nine months of maturation, allowing the yeast lees to impart further complexity, texture and palate weight to the wine. With bright, natural acidity a priority, no malolactic fermentation was encouraged.
The wine displays a powerful and engaging perfume. Infused with fresh lemon, white peach, river stone and beeswax at the top end of the spectrum, while wild ferment derived lamb fat and smokey struck match notes permeate up from the depths.
A juicy acid line combined with a fine, powdery texture sets a taut canvas for complex, elevated peach, lemon, lime and baby pineapple flavours that build and hit their stride in the long finish. Vibrant and inviting in its youth, this wine promises enhanced volume and savoury richness as it matures in bottle.