Brendan Jansen MW: 7th October 2019
There is no shortage of passion in the wine industry. But rarely is the confluence of factors of passion, technical know-how, economic backing and singularity of focus found together.
Sittella wines is, I believe, an example of such an establishment. Founded in 1993, with the winery built in 1998, what began as a hobby has become a sophisticated operation.
The winemaking duo of Yuri Berns and Colby Quirk have set out an ambitious program of crafting the very best of several wine styles, to reflect the character if the WA fruit they grow or source. Colby Quirk has a wisdom far beyond his years, and both he and Yuri Berns have an insatiable hunger for wine knowledge. Importantly, they work well together. Theirs is a complex mini portfolio, crushing 150 tonnes of fruit per year, focusing on regionality, and including fruit from the Swan Valley, Margaret River, Pemberton and Frankland River.
Most notable is their sparkling wine project, in which a growing cache of reserve wine adds to complexity of their cuvees, and extended time on lees (24 months for the Sitella Cuvee Blanc NV) matches the best Champagne houses. I echo the comments they have received about comparisons to Charles Heidsieck – their wines share the same depth, texture and complexity.
In addition to the sparkling wine project, still Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are all faithfully and pristinely represented, as well as varieties adding a savoury, European, food-friendly note to their wines – including Grenache and Tempranillo. Below is just a small selection of Sittella wines tasted recently:
Sittella – Avant Garde – Blanc de Blanc – NV (18.5/20pts). A deep straw colour, this cuvee has Pemberton fruit from the 2011, 2012, 2013 vintages in addition to the 2014 base. The chardonnay fruit underwent primary fermentation in oak puncheons. Tirage of 48 months adds a toasty, brioche complexity to this wine.
Sittella – Buckshot Ridge – Chardonnay – 2018 (18.3/20pts). The gravel site was purchased in 2009, the fruit is hand-picked, whole bunch fermented with natural yeasts in 40% new oak; there is no malolactic fermentation. Naturally slim-lined, without the ‘corseted’ impression of other chardonnays – could be confused with a premier cru St Aubin. Interestingly, the clones are Dijon 95 and 96 and not Gin Gin. 18.3
Sittella – Avant Garde- Pemberton – Pinot Noir – 2018 (18.5/20pts – $36). Dijon 115 clone, whole berry destemmed, 20% whole bunch fermentation, natural yeasts – a silky structure and dark cherry fruit results and even though 50% of the oak is new French (Vosges) oak, it is but a minor player.
Sittella – Golden Mile Rare Series – Grenache – 2018 (18.6/20pts). Old bush-vine Grenache, the wine spends 7 months in oak and is bottled unfined and unfiltered, 13.5% alc. This is a pretty, textured and crunchy Grenache that will only get more pinot-like with bottle age – if restraint is possible!