A New Grenache Benchmark from the West

History may show that the Swinney Farvie Frankland River Grenache 2020 was the wine that redefined this variety in WA. And who would have thought that a variety which had previously suffered the ignominy of relegation to a second class caste-off for bulk wines, rosés and fortifieds should get 99 points, a score I have never previously given to a Grenache.

This is the third release of the Farvie which from the initial 2018 has had the wine world grasping for superlatives. It comes from Matt Swinney’s Wilson’s Pool vineyard in Frankland River, where the now well established, low, dry-grown bush vines are working their magic to produce a distinctive style of fruit. And Swinney could not have chosen a better winemaker than Rob Mann to make the wines. When Mann says that it doesn’t take much winemaking to make these wines, I think he does himself a disservice.

Mann’s deft touch is like almost no other Aussie winemaker. He knows when to let the grapes do their thing in the winery and when to subtly intervene. And that’s an artform. In the vineyard a meticulous process of fruit thinning and selective hand picking over multiple passes results in the most pristine fruit. In the winery Mann adopts almost a Pinot Noir approach. The berries are sorted and gravity fed to 600-litre French vats, with a portion of whole bunch in a wild fermentation. From there it spends 10 days on skins before pressing to large format seasoned French oak for 11 months ageing.

If you want to think about where it sits among the three releases so far, there’s the opulence of the 2018, the linear precisions and elegance of the 2019 plus another raw and wild factor that takes it into a rarefied zone of distinction. The wine has just been released in small volumes and is super limited.

Swinney Farvie Grenache 2020 ($150)
99 Points
Best drinking: Now to 2037

The combination of subtle floral perfumes and more rustic slightly herb and ferrous aromas is engaging. The mouthfeel and palate take this wine into a heady zone with the chalky mouthfeel and fruit intensity working harmoniously. There is a distinct ferrous ironstone character with that slightly wild influence that comes from a small volume of naturally fermented Mourvèdre. Tasted over three days and each time it revealed something new and exciting. It is rare to see a genre redefined, yet here it is.

Swinney Farvie Syrah 2020 ($150)
98 Points
Drink 2026 – 2045

This is a Syrah that will make the wine world sit-up and think what is possible for this variety in Frankland River. In fact, it is one of a number from several producers showing a new direction and exploration for Syrah from this region. The typical Australian model for Shiraz has been tossed out here. It has an incredibly deep and dense colour, and once again that regional ironstone, ferruginous character comes through. There’s an inky pepperiness with a subtle liqueured prune character and dark chocolate notes, albeit slightly understated. The texture and brightness of the palate is a feature. It is also a wine that is unafraid to show its tannins. Winemaker Rob Mann says it is inspired a lot by what is drunk in Europe. He has adopted a similar oak regime to the Grenache and makes it in a reductive way so there is no pumping over. The whole bunches and berries go into upright older oak vats where it is left achieving a slightly carbonic style. Of course, all this is possible because of the fastidious approach adopted by owner Matt Swinney in the vineyard where the search is for the best bunches on the vines. It’s an obsessive and uncompromising approach which yields just 3 tonnes to the hectare. A wine that redefines Syrah in much the same way the Grenache has redefined that variety.



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