2008 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Cabernets, Margaret River - Langton’s Classification – Excellent - Great Wine Estate of Western Australia - Release Date – Around May 2011
The first thing you notice when entering the Vasse Felix winery is the fastidious attention to detail. You could happily eat breakfast off the floor. Everything is in immaculate condition and all the equipment is stowed away in the right place. Every red wine barrel, stacked four or five high, has been stained around its waist with red wine. It’s not so much a scene of beauty, but cleanliness and order. There is real feeling of leadership and organisation. As David Hohnen put it “Vasse Felix is rocking.”
Winemaker Virginia Willcox has done a fabulous job in pulling the many strings together. She has tip-top resources, a very committed team of winemakers and that extra je-ne-sais-quoi that comes with transcendent winemaking. A half decent memory and climbing fitness is a pre-requisite here. The barrel storage is extensive to say the least and it’s not an easy task drawing samples. I tasted several barrel samples of the 2008 Heytesbury vintage with winemakers Laura Shattock and Jarrad Olsen. The wine is now a Cabernet based wine and is back more or less to a Margaret River origin. A touch of Frankland River material is used as to add buoyancy and minerality to the wine. Shiraz has been dropped out of more recent vintages which is a good thing. A Major source is the original Estate block first planted in 1975.
The 2008 shows gorgeous fresh blackcurrant pastille/ camomile/ sage aromas, plenty of fruit sweetness and loose-knit fine chalky tannins. Other sample showed classical cassis/ cedar aromas, savoury/ vanilla oak and fine grainy tannins. The beautifully fragrant Petit Verdot will give extra lift and camomile/ star jasmine notes. Malbec does particularly well in Margaret River. It’s black, dense, meaty and chocolate textured. All up you can see that the material is really good. The final blend will be a lovely scented and generously proportioned wine with plenty of fruit sweetness, cedary notes and savoury loose knit tannins. It would not surprise me if it landed up being one of the wines of the vintage. Its still early days but the wines have an understated power and considerable refinement of style.
The plush, intensely flavoured and chocolaty Heytesbury Cabernet Blend - named after the Holmes a’ Court family company – draws from the best parcels of the vintage. The wine is a house style reflecting winemaking philosophy and selection rather than the nuances of a single vineyard or region. Winemakers are seeking “restrained power and opulence”; the fruit is sourced from the Great Southern and Margaret River. Vineyards are “differentially harvested to allow for soil/vigour/yield/flavour/row orientation/clonal differences and these parcels of fruit are kept separate throughout the winemaking process. Batch Vinification, partial basket pressing, barrel fermentation and extended skin contact increase blending options. The wine - is matured in 55-60% new and old French oak for a period of 12 months. Heytesbury - a cellaring style - “expresses the very best of Vasse Felix”; selection/classification is narrowed down through a series of rigorous tastings. Winemaker Virginia Willcock is making wines of extraordinary energy and structure.
Andrew Caillard, MW
Located three hours south of Perth, Margaret River is Western Australia’s most prestigious wine-growing region. Serious vineyard development began only in the late 1960’s following the publication of a report by John Gladstones in 1965 stating that the area had a similar climate to Pomerol or St Emilion, with low frost risk, plenty of sunshine and equable temperatures within the growing season promoting even ripening. Margaret River’s climate is warm and maritime, with some cooling influence provided by southeast trade winds. The soils derive from granitic and a gneissic rock over which laterite has formed. The region can be divided in three sub-regions: the cooler south between Yallingup and Karridale with predominantly lateritic gravelly loamy sands and sandy loams; the warm and sunnier Willyabrup in the centre with predominantly gravelly loams, but some gritty sandy loams and granitic gravels; and Margaret River in the north with similar soils, but slightly cooler temperatures. This is entirely consistent with style; the wines from Willyabrup being more generous than the highly structured wines of the north and the elegant styles of the south. Margaret River is best known for high quality Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blends and top notch Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends. Over the years, the region has established an astonishing reputation illustrating a consistency in quality and a strongly focused winemaking culture.
Vasse Felix was the first commercial vineyard and winery to be established in Margaret River. The name is derived from Vasse (a French seaman who drowned last century while exploring the coastline on the ship Geographe under Captain Freycinet) and the French term for luck. Under the ownership of the Holmes a Court family Vasse Felix has carved an excellent reputation for its superbly made wines. The plush, intensely-flavoured and chocolaty Vasse Felix Heytesbury Cabernet Blend – a limited-release, best-of-vintage ‘Grand Vin’ – is a beacon of quality that is included in the Langton’s Classification. The Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon, also Langton's-Classified, captures regional rather than site-specific characters. Of equal reputation are the exemplary Chardonnays, both the 'standard' Vasse Felix and the flagship Heytesbury. The Shiraz is also excellent. The entry-level Filius range -- a Chardonnay and a Cabernet-Merlot -- offers exceptional quality and value, as do the even more affordable 'ground-floor' duo of Classic Dry White (Semillon-Sauvignon) and Classic Dry Red (Shiraz-Cabernet). Andrew Caillard MW, Langton's