Let’s get the bad news out of the way. In a year when grape yields across southeast Australia were down as much as 60%, this gorgeous little vineyard wasn’t spared. Its beloved Chardonnay only managed to fill a measly two barrels in 2020, making this year’s spring release a one-wine offer.
On the bright side, lovingly tending vines in between shepherding beautiful juice to barrel and bottle is seen as essential work. That’s good for the cheerful disposition of the Egan family. Another boost comes from the pretty much constant feedback on how their heartfelt, personal wines were a source of comfort and joy for many throughout lockdown.
And vineyards respond to love. Compost, sward ground covers plus minimal input of sprays makes for a sustainable vineyard. The Egans are managing their land responsibly and growing the best fruit they can from their small acreage.
Even so, some of the old vines have become too unproductive, so after some careful planning they have embarked on gradual regeneration and replanting of the vineyard. And since Wantirna Estate begins and ends on this precious site, they’ve had to remove some of the old vines to be able to replant with new ones. This will be done over a couple of years.
So, after the 2021 harvest the Egans made a start and took out some vines. They’ll leave the land fallow for a year before replanting in spring 2022. It’ll thus be a while till production ticks up. But wine is a long game; 2021 marks Wantirna Estate’s 58th year, after all! It was a wonderful harvest, too, so there is more to look forward to on that front.
And so we end on an uplifting note. There may be only one wine, but what a wine it is! A beautiful Bordeaux blend from a lovely family, and a very special, storied patch of dirt on the edge of the Yarra Valley.
2019 Wantirna Estate Amelia Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot RRP $95
The 2019 growing season was certainly one of many parts. After the hottest and driest January on record, February was up and down in temperature with March pretty warm to start with. But after a run of warm days, autumn seemed to arrive, and we had lovely cool nights and mild days for the last three weeks of the Merlot and Cabernet ripening.
And the nice part of the story is that there was quite a decent crop across the varieties. We harvested the grapes over two weeks, bringing the Cabernet Franc and Merlot in first, followed by the Cabernet Sauvignon and finally the last variety to be harvested: Petit Verdot.
2019 was the first year in our new winery. So much space. Not only were we happy winemakers but we were able to utilise many small 1000-litre fermenters. Each batch is hand-plunged and/or pumped over a couple of times a day. This keeps the ferment temperature under control, allows the skins and juice to stay amalgamated and begins to gently extract flavours and tannins. Sugar fermentation usually takes about seven days from start to finish, and it’s during this time that the beautiful aromas fill the winery, especially from the fruity Cabernet Franc.
As is now common in our winemaking, all the ferments except Petit Verdot have extended post-ferment time on skins, with nine days for the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon. We love the fine tannins that this treatment gives the wine and the rich fruit flavours that are extracted.
The moment of truth – when we lift the lid on the ‘locked-down’ ferment – is always filled with a little apprehension, as well as excitement; not having been able to taste nor analyse the wine during that time can make a winemaker nervous. Having said that, the wines thus far have always been terrific and none of the wild ideas of the things that could go wrong are apparent!
The 2019 is from a warmer year but the wine has the trademark elegance that Amelia is known for. It has terrific fruit and lovely long tannins that round the wine off beautifully as well as giving it structure and the ability to age very well. – Maryann Egan
One of my most favourite wines.
Blackcurrant, blackberry, sarsaparilla/liquorice pastille, so much violet here, and spiced cedar oak. Medium-bodied, dark fruit with some redcurrant in the mix, tobacco and pencils, a little chew to gravelly tannin, fresh too, with a firm long finish. Delivers so much flavour without being heavy. Beautiful. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front October 2021