Reviewed: 14th May 2014
Situated in the Willyabrup sub-region of Margaret River, Vasse Felix can lay claim to being the oldest producer of wines in this prestigious region. Established in 1967 by Dr Tom Cullity, the first release was the 1972 vintage.
Since then, the winery has gone from strength to strength as the range has been refined and stratified. The focus is now on three distinct pillars, Cabernet Sauvignon based wines, Chardonnay and Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blends. A consistent approach to stratification is also being gradually adopted.
At the top of the quality tree is the Heytesbury, (gold peregrine on the label). Currently, this is limited to the Cabernet and the Chardonnay. That said, Virginia Willcock and the team are working towards a Heytesbury SSB. A small batch was released from the 2011 vintage and the wine produced in 2013 is excellent. Time will tell if this will end up under the Heytesbury label.
Sitting just below this, from a quality perspective, is the Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. These are set to be joined by a chardonnay from the 2013 vintage. (These wines have the burgundy coloured peregrine on the label and a burgundy capsule). The Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and “standard” Chardonnay sit below this. These wines will be re-labelled Filius from the next vintage to avoid confusion.
Finally, there is the Classic range with a Dry White and a Dry Red.
I rate Vasse Felix in the top five wineries in the region. Their wines are consistently outstanding. If you ask nicely, they may even give you a 20% discount for dozen lots at the cellar door, which makes the wines extraordinary value.
A special thanks must go to Francine and the team at Vasse Felix for making our visit so enjoyable.
Vasse Felix – Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – 2013. Fragrant and complex with lovely lemon and lanolin notes. The grassy notes come out with air. Whilst fresh and lively, there is an undertone of complexity that comes from the 19% of fruit that was fermented in new oak. A small portion was also fermented on skins which helps to add depth to the palate.
Vasse Felix – Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc – “White Cap” – 2012. Made in a similar way to white Bordeaux: All fruit was fermented/aged in new oak for nine months with a further six months in older oak. 60% Semillon, a portion of the SB was fermented on skins. This is a powerful wine that is creamy and textured, with lemon curd, lanolin, minerals and a touch of struck match/flintiness. That said, this is a fine wine that will take some years in the bottle. Destined to become Heytesbury?
Vasse Felix – Chardonnay – 2012. A very fine and delicate style that has lovely, peach-like stone fruit aromas. The palate is quite linear at present, reflecting the youthful nature of this wine. The limey acid provides excellent drive on the finish. Matured in a mix of new, one and two year old oak, though this is just a whisper on the finish. Really needs a year or two to fill out and open up. (Will be labelled Filius from 2013).
Vasse Felix – Chardonnay – Burgundy Capsule – 2013. Very tight and restrained, with bright fruit and refreshing acidity. The palate is creamy, though the fruit is shy at present. The finish is near seamless, with supple oak adding depth and mouth-feel. Needs a few years, but will be worth the wait. Soon to be released, this is destined to be the first “burgundy capsuled” chardonnay.
Vasse Felix – Chardonnay – Heytesbury – 2012. Very powerful nose blending stone fruit, pineapple and complex winemaker’s inputs (struck match minerality and creamy barrel ferment and lees aromas). The powerful fruit continues on a palate that is complex, balanced and very long. Seamless palate transition, with the texture really building on the close. A superb effort that retains freshness and poise. Lovely now, but better in a few years.
Vasse Felix – Semillon – 2012. Always a delight to drink as this wine balances approachable fruit characters with a finish that is supple, textural and long. Destined to be the last semillon made by Vasse Felix as the fruit used in this wine will be used in the SSB going forward.
Vasse Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – 2011. An excellent expression of this style, showing perfumed fruit with hints of violet and summer berries. The palate adds hints of leather, spice and earthy notes to the red fruits, with herbal notes and fine, supple tannins to close. Like many wines made from this blend in the region, this is made in a more approachable style. (Will be labelled Filius in future years).
Vasse Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2011. Classic minty, blackcurrant fruit on the nose over spice and cedary oak. The palate is silky and very long, though this needs years to reach its peak. A very fine wine.
Vasse Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon – Heytesbury – 2011. The fruit and winemaking here is nothing short of spectacular. The nose is filled with fragrant fruit over supple savoury/spicy notes. This is a very complex wine. The palate is breathtaking, displaying fruit that is very powerful, yet refined and very elegant. The chewy, structural notes build on a finish that is silky, balanced and very long. An iron fist in a velvet glove. A brilliant wine that will comfortably take 20 years in the cellar.