Western Australian Snapshot

The vineyards of Western Australia lie a few hours south of Perth, more coastal areas like Margaret River blessed with a temperate climate moderated by the ocean, while further south and inland cooler conditions prevail. Margaret River, the most famous appellation of Western Australia, has been compared with Bordeaux and its Atlantic-influenced position, and indeed it has long been a stronghold of Cabernet Sauvignion and other Bordeaux grape varieties. The vast Great Southern region to the south and east favours Syrah and cooler climate styles.

A dozen years ago I judged at the Western Australian Wine Show and when it came down to naming the supreme champion wine from the gold-medal contenders, I was one of the judges who chose a Syrah up against a raft of Cabernets, much to the consternation of some others. That faith in Syrah has been borne out as more and more producers believe in and make some terrific wines from the variety, which is now well established. This was an interesting opportunity to line up three Syrahs and three Cabernet-based wines as a snapshot of the state of play.

The Wines

(2021) From 25-year-old vines in Frankland River, individual batches were aged in barrels (10% new) for additional 15 months before blending. 6% Tempranillo was included in the blend. Powerful, super-sweet and concentrated blackcurrant and blueberry aromas, a litle violet lift and a sprinkle of white pepper. After a buoyant and bright opening, the palate does not disappoint, the creamy ripeness of black fruit persisting, but there's a bittersweet edge to this, a rasp of plum-skin bite to the tannins and edge of the fruit, and keen acidity adding another sharpening angle. The finish is all about fruit, just underpinned by the charry barrel component.
(2021) Open-top fermentation included a s small parcel (7%) of whole bunches, before 15 months in 3,500 litre French oak foudres (25% new). There is a small addition of Viognier. Creamy, gently smoky berries, a little more red fruited than the Plan B!, quite perfumed, but still dark and glossy. Lots and lots of unctuous black fruit on the palate has succulence and flesh, though nicely judged and very tight tannins and juicy black fruit acidity extends the finsih. Very nice drinking. No UK stockists at time of review.
(2021) Vines for this wine are aged between 15 and 47 years, crushed to both open and closed fermenters, with a small percentage of whole bunches. 4% is co-fermented with Viognier and it spends 17 months in French (65%) and American (35%) oak barriques (18% new). Some Alicante Bouschet with a touch of Cabernet and Grenache are added too. Dramatically dark in colour and less floral/lifted than the two previous wines, more on the meaty and Rhone-ish end of the spectrum. The palate has a weight of black fruit, a little more savoury and earthy in style, grippier tannins too, though there is a hint of vanilla and even mint that rounds things out towards a long, very nicely-pitched finish.
(2021) Nine blocks of fruit were harvested over a period of two weeks and matured in 20% new French oak for 14 months, and little bits of other Bordeaux varietals are blended in. A little black olive tapenade plays against blackcurrant fruit, very much on the savoury side, a little roasted meatiness from mostly older oak. In the mouth a really lovely volume of sweet fruit swells across the palate, lots of firm, juicy black cherry and blackcurrant. The tannins add a lot of serious, slightly ashy dryness towards the finish, which really is well balanced, long and spicy black fruit and acidity powering the finish.
(2021) Maturation took place in 40% new French oak barriques for 12 months, parcels of fruit fermented and matured separately. There's a bit of steeliness and more pert raspberry cutting through black fruit here, a background of leafiness. The palate has loads of juiciness, with a sour cherry tang at the core, to the fruit and acidity, and big, drying tannins making their presence felt in the finish.
(2021) Fermentation with wild yeast for this wine, with a higher portion of Petit Verdot (compared to previous vintages) and a small portion of Malbec in the blend. 18 months in French oak barriques (44% new). Very intense in colour, there's lift and fragrance here for sure, some smokiness and roasted chestnut, a touch of blood and savoury tapenade and a substantial base of black fruit. In the mouth immense sweet fruit forms a solid core, with lots of energy from the juicy acidity, tannins roughening like plum skins, and the barrel component enhancing the dark espresso roast of the finish.

2 comments

  1. The Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Syrah is a great wine. It also ages very well in that the 2004 in magnum (as well as the 09 riesling of the same name) were the star wines of our wedding earlier this year among some stiff competition!

    1. Very good to know Dave. I would love to try a mature example of it – and any of these really – at some time. I’m also a fan of their Rieslings so thanks for the update.

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