New meets Old
Sittella, situated in the Swan Valley on the outskirts of Perth, is owned and run by the Berns family. The winery was built in 1997, with the cellar door and restaurant opening the following year.
Fruit is primarily sourced from the family’s vineyards in the Swan Valley and Margaret River, supplemented by purchased fruit from these regions as well as Frankland.
Senior winemaker Colby Quirk is ably assisted by the next generation of the Berns family – Yuri. The focus here is clearly on quality. 40% of production is sparkling wine, with the sparkling Chenin Blanc being the winery’s largest volume wine.
The quality focus is not only in the vineyard, but also in the winery. The sparkling wines are made in the traditional method (secondary fermentation in bottle), and are fairly dry in style (all under 10gm/l residual sugar). All fermentation tanks are refrigerated and the winery has gyro-pallets installed to assist with the riddling of the sparkling wines prior to disgorgement (they are one of only a few facilities in WA that are able to produce quality sparkling wines in quantity).
Whilst the focus is on the sparkling wines, it is the Chardonnays that shone in this tasting. That said, their yet to be released Coffee Rock Shiraz from 2013 was the most interesting wine that I tried. Whilst different in style to Faber’s Shiraz for example, it is an excellent illustration of what the Swan Valley can do with this most versatile variety.
Sittella – Chenin Blanc – NV (NR). Made entirely from Swan Valley fruit, even the entry level offering has low dosage (less than 10g/l of residual sugar) and is made in the traditional method. It is the vibrant, floral fruit that is the feature here. Great Sunday afternoon wine. (RRP $24).
Sittella – Chardonnay – Blanc de Blanc – NV (17-17.5). Refined and elegant nose, with white peach and nectarine. The palate is dry and restrained, with the taut chardonnay fruit coming to the fore, with lemon-like acidity to close. Long and fine, this is a serious effort. Fruit from Pemberton. (RRP $29).
Sittella – Chardonnay – Reserve – Wilyabrup – 2014 (18+). Melon, peach and grapefruit on the nose, with supple oak. Powerful, complex and worked, yet refined and with a degree of restraint on the finish. This is youthful and fresh, with lemony acid to close. Long and supple, but will be even better in a year or two. Not yet released.
Sittella – Chardonnay – Reserve – 2013 (18). Tighter and more refined than the 2014, but still with high quality fruit apparent. A modern iteration of Chardonnay, this needs a few years to open up and build. With air; flint, minerals, spice notes evolve. The taut oak is apparent, but in no way overt. The textural components build and are a highlight. Value for money. (RRP $29).
Sittella – Cabernet Sauvignon – Margaret River – 2011 (17.2). Decent concentration of fruit here, though it is in the cooler spectrum, with mint and herbal notes. The palate is chewy and dense, with fine tannins from the fruit and oak. The textured finish is a treat. Remarkably approachable now, but will live for years. (Available for under $12 from the cellar door!)
Sittella – Shiraz/Grenache/Tempranillo – 2014 (17.3). Fleshy, ripe and delicious, I like this. Decent fruit quality in a riper style. Long and mouth-filling, what this lacks in elegance, it makes up for in richness. Good balance to close. (RRP $18).
Sittella – Shiraz – Coffee Rock – 2013 (18). Chocolate, mint, spice and aniseed all vie for attention on the nose. The palate is balanced, textured, refined and very long. The tannins are polished and supple. Succulent fruit, but will live for years, courtesy of the acid balance. Good now, but will be even better in a few years. This comes from old vines, grown in coffee rock in the Swan Valley. Despite being 15.5% alc, this shows no signs of being hot in the mouth.