In a recent article on Australian chardonnay, the Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman commented that when it comes to a preferred style of chardonnay, most people “want grace and elegance, but they want it to come with plenty of flavor and real charm.” (Action in Australian Chardonnay: New styles modeled on Burgundy make it the buzz of the country now by Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, 2 December 2011)

The multi-award winning Vasse Felix Heystesbury Chardonnay 2010 is certainly a very fine example of the style of chardonnay Steiman so succinctly describes. In the tasting notes, Vasse Felix’s Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock remarked that the palate of the 2010 vintage “exhibits that wonderful and rare quality: power with restraint.” In other words, it delivers what most people would consider the hallmarks of a great chardonnay:

A dramatic and powerful nose that is constantly evolving in the glass. Amongst the descriptors are sublime fragrant citron and baby pineapple, while wild notes of lamb’s fat and struck flint provide a beguiling complexity that lift the floral and spice fruit perfume and frame a stunning Heytesbury Chardonnay nose.

Palate. Super fine, textured and succulent with impeccable balance and poise driven by seamless natural acidity. Juicy white nectarine and preserved lemon puree form a strong fruit core which is embellished with flavours of spicy oak, lanolin and flint. (Vasse Felix tasting notes)

The 2010 Heytesbury Chardonnay is in fact Vasse Felix’s most awarded wine to date. The wine has picked up an unprecedented eight trophies from the top wine shows in the country, including the Royal Adelaide Wine Show, where it won the coveted top prize, “Most Outstanding Red or White Wine in Show.”

In many respects the 2010 vintage represents the most recent incarnation of a style of chardonnay that Willcock has been developing and refining since first joining Vasse Felix in 2006.

The handpicked fruit was selected from only the finest sections of Vasse Felix’s chardonnay vineyards, most of which are in Karridale – the southern part of Margaret River, where the cooler sea breezes and more regular cloud cover create tight, bright fruit with good natural acidity.

After a gentle pressing the juice with some solids was transferred to mostly new French barriques and underwent a wild yeast fermentation. The solids imparted complexity, texture and palate weight, which was further enhanced by regular lees stirring during the fermentation process. Fermentation was stopped shortly after the second, malolactic fermentation commenced in order to preserve the bright natural acidity of the fruit.

Hailed by Royal Adelaide Wine Show Judge Brian Walsh as representing “a new wave of chardonnay,” the 2010 Heytesbury Chardonnay is just one example of how under Willcock’s innovative direction, Margaret River’s first vineyard and winery is scaling even greater heights.

Merrill Witt, Editor


The Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2010 was released in May 2012 and retails for $60 a bottle. A selection of Vasse Felix wines are available on the Cellarit Wine Market.