Faber Wines Retrospective Tasting – Part One: Verdelho and Riche Shiraz
Barry Weinman: 25th September 2017
At the recent Swan Valley Wine Show, there was a clear preference by the judges for elegant, refined red wines. This led to a discussion with John Griffith (winemaker/owner of Faber) around how styles come in and out of fashion.
The styles rewarded in the show do not always correlate with what is popular with the wider drinking public, where depth and generosity of fruit along with typicity may be highly valued. It must be tempting as a winemaker to adjust the style of their wines to please the show judges.
John emphasized the point that, at Faber, his primary aim was to make the best wine possible from grapes that are most suited to the region in which they are grown. In the Swan Valley, this is Shiraz, Verdelho and Muscat (for fortified wines).
To demonstrate the style of wine that Faber is striving to achieve, John opened a number of vintages of Shiraz and Verdelho, going back to the inaugural vintage of 2001. Whilst the focus of Faber is firmly on the Valley, they also produce a couple of wines from outside the district, including a Frankland River Cabernet Sauvignon.
Perhaps the hidden jewel of Western Australian wines, the Swan Valley is capable of producing high quality, age-worthy wines from Verdelho. Style can vary a little, depending on picking regimes. At Faber, John is looking for a little more fruit ripeness, to really capture the lovely stone fruit characters that the variety can produce. This is reflected in the alcohol content which is typically around 14%.
Faber – Verdelho –2006. From a cool year in the Valley, this has wonderful fragrant fruit. Hints of lanolin, pear, musk on the palate with gentle grip and bright acidity. Remarkably fresh for an 11 year old wine, with some toast just starting to show.
Faber – Verdelho –2009. A richer example showing lemon, apricot and nectarine notes. The aged characters are starting to develop, adding depth and complexity to the wine. A marvelous drink, yet capable of further aging.
Faber – Verdelho –2013. This bottle was even fresher than the one I tried a few weeks ago. The primary fruit still evident, though just starting to show some developed characters. Just a hint of toast to close. Great now or in 5 years.
Faber – Verdelho –2017. Wonderful floral, perfume aromatics that are reminiscent of fine Porongurups Riesling. The floral fruit carries through to the palate, where the pretty fruit is balanced by fine acidity and delicate texture. A lovely drink now, but very age-worthy. Vintage conditions resulted in a different style to the norm at Faber, and this is worth seeking out.
Riche – Shiraz
The Riche stands out for value, selling for $23 from the winery. The fruit is 100% Swan Valley, all from Hadrill Road where the winery is located. The free-run juice from fruit destined for the Reserve and Milliard forms the base for this wine.
The wine is aged in American Oak (1/3 new) for 10 months and is made in the same way each year, allowing vintage conditions to express in the wine. The first vintage was made in 2001 from three year-old vines, and the bottle I tried was the last one in the winery.
The increasing maturity of the vines was really evident by 2015, resulting in greater depth to the wine.
Faber – Shiraz – Riche – 2001. Developing some port-like notes, but the ripe, succulent fruit is still evident. The palate is finely textured and quite drying, with the fruit starting to fade on the finish. Drink up.
Faber – Shiraz – Riche – 2007. This was as a hot year in the Swan Valley, resulting in a wine that is ripe, succulent, juicy, and a joy to drink. The plum-like fruit is complemented by fine tannins and refreshing acidity. A great drinking wine that would suit a hearty stew.
Faber – Shiraz – Riche – 2010. The structure is more evident in this wine. The ripe fruit is balanced and poised, with fine tannins and a lick of oak adding depth. The length of flavours and mouth-feel are a highlight. Lovely drinking, but able to age further if desired.
Faber – Shiraz – Riche – 2015. Lovely fruit here. Licorice, spice, satsuma plum, and cherry. The palate is quite closed and tight, with the oak and dusty tannins keeping the fruit in check. Gets quite chewy to close. One for the cellar.
Faber – Shiraz – Riche – 2016. Fragrant, ripe fruit with spice and life. Initially, I thought this was going to be all about the succulent fruit, however the tannins, oak and acid pull on the reins, keeping the palate in check. The savoury finish makes this a great choice with a bowl of bolognaise.