Monday, 14 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 12

Margaret River Weekend (Day 2)

Waking up in the Margaret River region is always a lovely experience.  The scenery is just stunning, no matter where you stay, and I made the most of the amazing autumn weather with a jog down to the beach.  The other purpose of this morning exercise was to clear my head ready for the vertical tasting we had booked at Voyager Estate.

the beautiful Cape Naturaliste coastline
In honour of founder Michael Wright, the Michael's Room tastings are designed to be an intimate experience (max. 8 people), hosted by Sommelier Claire Tonon.  We chose to attend the "Cellaring Styles Vertical:  Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot" and were very lucky to be the only two participants.  Basically, the tasting consists of the current vintage of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, as well as two back-vintages of each.

1. Chardonnay

Prior to jumping in to our sensory analysis, Claire provided some background on the use of different Chardonnay clones at Voyager Estate.  Originally, all Chardonnay was sourced from the Gin Gin Clone.  Interestingly, this clone (discovered in Gin Gin, Western Australia) resulted from a genetic mutation during fruit set.  Some of the fruit berries are very large and juicy with low acidity, and other berries are very small with high acidity.  When combined at harvest, the result is a powerful wine with significant fruit weight. 

For more recent vintages, an almost 50:50 blend between the 'bolder' Gin Gin Clone and a French Clone with 'flinty minerality' is utilised.  This allows for a more complex and refined wine to be produced, which really showed through when comparing the current release 2010 Chardonnay to the big, bold 2007 Chardonnay.  

It was also insightful to compare the 2007 and 2006 Chardonnays.  Despite the fact that the winemaking regime was almost identical between years, the climatic differences resulted in a stark contrast in characteristics.  The warm, sunny 2007 spring resulted in a weighty wine with a lemon butter cake aroma and texture.  On the other hand, the cool, wet 2006 season produced a wine with delicate acidity, which was both perfumed and floral.  Both were amazing wines - it really comes down to personal preference.

2. Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

Fruit from three different vineyards is utilised in the production of Voyager Estate's flagship wine - the Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. Each year, small additions of some 'Bordeaux blend' varieties such as petit verdot and malbec are used to enhance the texture of the wine.  

2009 is the current release and shows great length and balance.  Claire explained that the second oldest of the vineyard sites has started to demonstrate exceptional quality fruit in the past few vintages, with the result that this wine is actually 94% Cabernet Sauvignon (so technically 'Merlot' does not need to be included on the label).  

In contrast, the 2003 and 2002 had 79% and 85% Cabernet Sauvignon respectively.  Being from a warmer year, the 2003 displayed juicy prune and Christmas pudding aromas with chunky tannins.  The 2002 was from a much cooler year, and the result was a pine forest aroma and savoury, herbaceous tones.

this booklet accompanied our private tasting, providing a handy reference guide
Claire was an amazing host.  With her passionate commentary and patient answers to my barrage of questions, the session ended up going for two hours instead of one!