Swinney Release Premium Farvie Wines
March 10, 2020
F A R V I E R E L E A S E
M A R C H 2 0 2 0
Today, March 10th marks the first release of an astounding pair of wines: the Farvie Grenache and the Farvie Syrah from the Swinney Vineyard in Frankland River. A significant part of this story involves bush vines, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Frankland River, as you may or may not know already, is getting a reputation – and fast – for focused, structured, delicious wines. The Swinney family were pioneers in the region, and settled their estate ‘Franklands’ in 1922. Since then, their already significant land-holdings have increased and the area under vine grows every year (almost). This is a family on the move.
T H E B U S H V I N E S
The dirt in the bush vine vineyard on the Swinney property is the start. The ironstone gravel is rich and almost spongy. Walking over it yields a spring, a bounce, almost. It holds its crumbling shape in the hand and is teeming with life. On a (very) hot afternoon in February, I was walking with viticulturist Lee Haselgrove in the grenache vineyard, “we have ironstone gravel on this side of the ridge, and clay on the other side. This is the side we pick from to make the Farvie wines. One of our team once mentioned to us, [about the soil texture while using the deep ripper] ‘it’s like pulling a knife through blue metal, then over the ridge it goes quiet.’ That sort of feedback is priceless and led to us defining the difference in the two areas.” Walking over that ridge, the difference is the dirt is distinct. It makes sense.
It’s beautiful soil and it definitely responds to the work we give it. – Lee Haselgrove, viticulturist
During the growing season, the vines are closely managed over a number of weeks from veraison and any imperfections or perceived blocks to perfection are removed – this includes dropped bunches, and leaf and bunch thinning. The attention to detail required to tend a bush vine vineyard goes even further when the time comes to pick the grapes, “…we don’t pick this row’, Rob Mann says as he points over to his left ‘we don’t pick the first vines on the ends, and we’re selective about which bushes we pick from”. But it’s not just selective vines… it’s bunches within the vines. ‘That looks like a Farvie bunch, that’s going into Swinney etc’. The grapes are picked over several passes, to ensure that everything going in is perfect. During harvest the ‘eyes are picked out’ for Farvie, typically a week earlier than the Swinney wines that are made from the same vineyard. Once picked and in the winery, the berries are subjected to an air knife over a vibrating table, plus four humans picking out and discarding imperfect berries. All this, and they haven’t even embarked upon the winemaking side of the journey yet.
Matt Swinney: We planted the bush vines in 1997/1998. We always planned to make wine, but we wanted to give the vines time to age and [we got the opportunity] to learn along the way. With our time spent travelling, Nells [Matt Swinney’s sister, and partner in the vineyard] and I saw what could be done with a great fruit resource. We always wanted to make the best of their kind – the best of their peer groups. When Rob joined us in 2018, he shared the same vision.
Rob Mann: I walked into that bush vine grenache vineyard for the first time and I said, ‘I’m in.’ It was as easy as that. I knew.
MS: Things crystallised for us. We were fortunate that it was a good vintage for our first attempt. We really wanted to show what our vineyards were capable of. They are uniquely Frankland, and uniquely home for us. We had no desire to make something that was international, we wanted to make something that spoke of the site. We had that clear vision from the start. Nells and I are tremendously proud of who we have working for us: Rob Mann [winemaker], Peter Dawson [consultant winemaker who has been involved with the Swinney wines since the mid nineties], Lee Haselgrove [viticulturist] and a host of other people who are all very skilled in their fields.
RM: It’s the Leeuwin Block 20 Chardonnay of Frankland River [of the vineyard site]
Frankland River will do for Australian Grenache what Tasmania has done for Australian pinot. – Peter Dawson, consultant winemaker
The wines speak for themselves.
Swinney 2018, Farvie Grenache, Frankland River
Release date: 10th March 2020, 150 cases produced
Tasted November 2019: Bright raspberry, pomegranate molasses and blackcurrant fruit on the nose. The colour is a saturated fuchsia, vibrant and luminous. The palate leads with palate quenching dark berries, a sprinkling of black spice and firm, fine tannins that hold the quivering fruit through the very long finish. Utterly shimmering. Bush vine fruit from the Swinney vineyard in Frankland River holds the key to this wine; concentrated, intense, focused and precise. 7% of bush vine Mouvedre contributes to the textural complexity through the mid-palate and smooths out the already impossibly silky feels. I feel like this is the best grenache in Australia. Is it? I think it is. Rob Mann, WA welcomes you home!
Tasted February 2020: The Grenache is pulling away this second tasting… if possible, this seems to have actually gotten better in such a short time. It is salty (be still my heart), iodine, crushed slate, red licorice. The concentration of flavour is astounding. It permeates every corner of my mouth and forges a path over my tongue. There’s not a better Australian Grenache. Exclusively bush vine fruit. 93% Grenache, 7% Mouvedre. The two vineyards are adjacent, separated by a gravel path. Co-fermented in a 1600L oak vat. Hand-picked, sorted and gravity fed to French large format oak. 10 days on skins prior to basket pressing directly into French oak followed by ageing for 11 months prior to bottling.
14% ALC, $150
Swinney 2018, Farvie Syrah, Frankland River
Release date: 10th March 2020, 150 cases produced
Tasted November 2019: The colour is an outrageous deep magenta hue, promising the world. The nose is a little restrained at this stage, but is showing sarsaparilla, mulberry, black pepper, raspberry and tight, lightly spiced French oak. The palate gives everything the nose promises and more – the tannins working to lengthen and extend the already elegant and focused fruit. This is super fine, concentrated, long and powerful; the 55% whole-bunch lending an extra layer of spice and texture. The acidity is perfectly balanced with the exuberance of the fruit, and in combination with the masterful handling of tannins, this wine is weightlessly suspended in perfect tension. Deeper and darker than the grenache, and impossible to pit above or below. An astoundingly alluring pair of wines, and an authoritative first release.
Tasted February 2020: The oak has resinous overtones this time, toasted tobacco. Powerful. Concentrated. The beauty reveals itself mid-palate, incredible length. Aristocratic. Very serious. Powderbark spice, pepper and plush berry. Vibrancy. Power without weight and with a coolness to the finish. Two thirds wholebunch. Structure, perfume, spice, fragrance, chalk, mulberry, bitumen, graphite. Velvety finish. This has changed so much in the time it’s been in bottle. The fuschia youth that was almost overwhelming (in a good way) that I noticed in our first meeting has been replaced by serious depth and darkness. Still excellent, but expressed in a rockstar brood kind of way right now.
Fruit was hand-picked from two parcels of 21yr old syrah vines, hand-sorted and gravity fed to a 1600L French oak vat and two demi-muids. 55% whole bunch, wild ferment. 11 days on skins prior to basket pressing directly to French oak (35% new), 11 months of ageing prior to bottling.
14% ALC, $150