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Vasse Felix Heytesbury: In the Style of the Finest Bordeaux Blends

As I mentioned in my previous post, Vasse Felix, established in 1967, is the oldest commercial winery in the Margaret River. Interestingly, Kevin and Diana Cullen, who planted their experimental vineyards a year earlier than Vasse Felix, helped Tom Cullity acquire the 8 acre Wilyabrup estate that forms the core of the Vasse Felix holdings today. The site, with its gravelly loam, well drained soil and cool sea breezes (Vasse Felix is only 4 km from the coast) is considered ideal for growing cabernet sauvignon grapes in particular.

The winery was bought by the Holmes a Court family in 1987 and Virginia Willcock has been directing the winemaking operations for the the last four years. The cabernet, malbec and shiraz from the original vineyard planted in 1967 are still producing beautiful and consistent fruit. Dry irrigated, Willcock’s describes these old vines as having a distinctive peppy leaf character. Both the cabernet and malbec are used in the winery’s top wine, the Heytesbury red blend.

With the 2007 vintage, the Heytesbury moved towards a more typical Bordeaux style blend: 72 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 15 per cent malbec and 13 per cent petit verdot. The fruit for the Heytesbury is hand picked and after the initial fermentation the wine is drained to oak and basket pressed. All batches are vinified separately and following 18 months maturation in the finest French oak barriques, (92 per cent new) each batch undergoes a rigorous appraisal process to identify the best performing barrels for the final blend.

Lisa Perrotti-Brown of The Wine Advocate awarded the 2007 vintage 92 points:

Possessing a very deep garnet purple color, it’s scented of ripe blackberry and crushed blueberries with some graphite, coffee grounds, cedar and a faint whiff of thyme. Big and fruity in the mouth with refreshing medium to high acid and medium to firm tannins, the finish is long. Drink it 2012 to 2019+. (Wine Advocate # 191 Oct 2010, eRobertParker.com)

In his review of the 2007 Heytesbury, Gary Walsh of The Wine Front said he got into a heated debate with someone about whether Australian cabernet is as good as Bordeaux. In Walsh’s opinion, “most of the time, just as good, although different.” He scored the wine 96 points. Here’s his review:

Cassis, mulberry and tobacco with rich vanilla and cedar oak and just a little mint and regional leafiness on display. It’s full bodied with abundant sweet fruit – chocolate and berries mainly and some more savoury flavours. Beautiful tannins, ripe and controlling, running all the way to the finish line. Lovely tussle between restraint and power on show here. (The Wine Front, 26 July 2010)

I’m certainly looking forward to making more comparisons!

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