2020 marks the 57th year at Wantirna Estate. During that time, the Egans have seen fashions come and go, likewise new ideas on viticulture and winemaking. “Many have been trialled by Reg, many ideas discarded, many implemented,” reflects Maryann. Years later some of those same trials have been come up again as ‘new’ thoughts – Maryann’s turn to give things a try. “The wheel really just turns and often ends up close to where it started, albeit with some tweaks here and there, some improvements and adjustments.”
One external factor that’s changed is the climate, with the Egans constantly striving to adjust to seasons that are now commonly drier and warmer than in years past. The vines have adapted as they’ve grown older, their roots plunging deep into the soil. The grapes more clearly reflect the provenance of this plot of land. “We very much want our wines to reflect the soil, the place and the climate in which they are grown, with every year being a slightly different version of the previous,” says Maryann. “A reflection of the season. For us, each year should produce different wines, but always with the Wantirna Estate personality.”
That personality is always breath of fresh air. Especially in times like these, you can’t put too high a price on the comforting joy of a friendly face and a constant, warm and honest voice. In times like this, you can’t go past the wines of Wantirna Estate.
2019 Wantirna Estate Isabella Chardonnay RRP $87
This is one of our classic Chardonnays. And it was indeed a reflection of just what is possible when you have a small vineyard that allows you to truly decide when to harvest the grapes, and aren’t bound by contract processing, or have so much fruit that the grapes need to be picked to a schedule to keep the winery processing timetable.
2019 was a year of many seasons. January was the hottest on record, then for nearly all of February, it was one of the coolest. And just when we were beginning to get ready to pick the grapes, the 10-day forecast announced some pretty hot days. So our decision was to pick half the Chardonnay just before the weather warmed, and leave the rest until after. And we love the result. The early pick was probably near to the sugar ripeness we like, and the second pick had some beautiful flavours. It is amazing how resilient the chardonnay grapes are.
The pleasing thing, compared to the 2020 vintage, was the quantity. For us it was almost an average year: six barriques and one 200-litre stainless steel drum. We try to have a small amount in stainless steel each year to preserve the bright, fresh fruitiness in the wine, something that you don’t get from barrel aged wine. It is a nice addition to the blend, and something we have been doing for a few years now.
The 2019 Isabella we think is going to age beautifully as well as drinking well now. The fruit is pure, the gentle line of phenolics marries with the acid to balance the wine’s richness and contributes to a lovely, long finish. – Maryann Egan
It’s a wine of texture, line and length principally but the slips of fresh pear, the echoes of meal, the sweet nut and nectarine characters; they really do seduce. This release feels super-young and unevolved but for the cellar it looks a monty. 94 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front October 2020
2019 Wantirna Estate Lily Pinot Noir RRP $87
The Pinot Noir grapes were the first grapes to be welcomed into our new little winery extension. Oh and what bliss – you wouldn’t think that a slab of concrete, three walls and a roof could first give so much grief in terms of application to the council, nor could it bring so much pleasure to the winemakers. We had space to move around and there was no lugging heavy pumps or hoses up and downstairs. Just a lot more time to focus on the grapes and looking after the ferments. Don’t even think there were any visits to the physio either!
Like the Chardonnay, the Pinot Noir harvest was a story of two halves. The first we picked before the hot weather, and it was the correct decision. The earlier grapes came in with some lovely fruit, bright and red berried in flavour. The second pick had endured the heat remarkably well thanks to our hard work in the vineyard. The mulch we use and altered vine training to allow some shade helped despite losing some of the leaves. This fruit was riper, full of dark plum flavours and had a fantastic intensity. The eventual combination really works with the wine being generous but with restraint from the earlier pick.
In the end we had quite a few small ferments going, some which saw some longer post ferment skin contact to really allow the tannins to release into the wines and also to give the wine some lovely savoury tones. The blend of the fruity early pick and the generous riper pick is lovely. Like the Chardonnay the 2019 Pinot is in relatively good supply. Unfortunately, also like the Chardonnay, there are only two barrels of the 2020.
The 2019 is more like the much loved 2017 and 2015 – is there something to do with the odd years? – Maryann Egan
This is an interesting wine. It’s robust in varietal terms, a bit backward, a bit reductive, a bit “in waiting”. I’ve noticed a number of notable Australian Pinot Noirs heading towards a more backward (i.e. less fruit-forward) style in recent years, which may be deliberate or may be vintage condition related, I’m not sure. This is a wine of excellent, steady complexity; it’s a firm-handed wine, muscular pretty much, as if it knows a bit about physical education itself. It shows some warmth but it’s not at the expense of flavour; there’s no thinning here, the savoury-spice notes run through the tannin, as do macerated cherry characters. Indeed the tannin here is arguably the wine’s strongest feature; a good thing given that this wine won’t make its main drinking run for a while yet. 93+ points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front October 2020
2018 Wantirna Estate Amelia Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot RRP $87
The 2018 season was one of the earliest we’ve had. Flowering in the spring had been ahead of usual and this pattern continued, with Merlot coming into the winery in the first week of March. The fruit was perfect, ripe and with great tannins. As each year is a little different in terms of the way the varieties perform in the vineyard, we get slightly varying amounts of each grape. The 2018 Amelia is about usual for the proportion of the past few years, with around 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot and Cabernet Franc mix and the remaining 8% being Petit Verdot.
Yarra Cabernet blends are considered as the wines that put the region on the map. And it is easy to see why. Elegance, but with generous fruit flavours, soft yet fine, ripe tannins. Tannin is such an important part of these wines. It is the absolute backbone and gives such excellent structure. If you could say our wine has evolved over the years, we’d say that our focus on getting the best tannin we can is one of the most important things. For us it comes from the post ferment maceration. It is actually one of the most exciting times of vintage, to lift the lid on the closed macerating tank and to taste. The fruit is still so lovely but the tannin – even in a wine that is so young – is already just so savoury and, frankly, exciting.
The 2018 Amelia has a terrific balance of the Cabernet character with blackberry, boysenberry, all small black fruits, and the backbone of dusty lingering tannins. The 2017 Amelia was much praised by our visiting customers, and the wine writers, and we think the 2018 a fabulous follow-up. – Maryann Egan
This is a beauty. In that, it’s a wine of beauty, in the glass, on the table. It’s sure, it’s composed, it’s cohesive and most of all, it’s convincing. It’s a final word of a wine. It tastes of currants and bay leaves, choc and sweet herbs but rattling off flavours is beside the point. This is a wine with a good heart, a good finish and a good story to tell, all of which comes draped over a structure of classic design. 95 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front October 2020
ALSO AVAILABLE IN LIMITED QUANTITIES…
2018 Wantirna Estate Isabella Chardonnay RRP $87
Ripe peachy expression with butter menthol, mint, wheatgerm and spice. Juicy pear and peach, a certain citrus cut through the gloss and glide of this flavoursome little number, some flint, savoury umami character, juicy and chalky through a nice long finish. It’s a proper Chardonnay, and feels pretty much ready, almost raring, to go. 94 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front October 2019
2018 Wantirna Estate Lily Pinot Noir RRP $87
Deepish, bright red/purple hue, the palate dry and savoury, strong and rich and sustained. The structure is solid and firm, the tannins lingering long on the farewell, in balance with the flavour. A big-flavoured and structured pinot which has muscle and staying power. Impressive, concentrated, and here for the long-haul. 96 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review February 2019
2017 Wantirna Estate Amelia Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot RRP $87
Glorious Cabernet perfume of violet and pencil shavings, mint, blackcurrant and boysenberry, with the theme being intense small black fruit, I guess. It’s medium-bodied, dense and tightly knit, juiciness of blueberry and blackcurrant, layered in with more savoury tobacco flavour, graphite tannin, cool acidity, and a long, almost chocolaty finish. What a delight. Superb. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front October 2019