Thursday, 15 June 2017

Passel Estate – A New Name in Margaret River

Producer: Passel Estate

Owners Barry and Wendy Stimpson

After a spirited and educational afternoon evaluating some wines from the Barossa Valley, the organiser of the session asked if we would like to stay back for a few minutes to meet the owners of a small winery in Margaret River. I had initially planned to rush off to the next appointment, but as they were already there I decided it would be churlish not to at least taste the wines. I am glad I did. Barry and Wendy Stimpson are Singapore residents with high-powered careers in the fields of law and strategic consultancy, but they were bitten by the wine bug when visiting Margaret River. In 2011 they purchased the land that was to become Passel Estate. The inspiration for the name came when they volunteered part of the area as a refuge for endangered western ringtail possums (passel is the term for a group of possums). As it turns out, the peppermint trees ringing the vineyard provide the ideal shelter and food source for the tree dwellers. Plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz date back to 1994, now augmented with a parcel of Chardonnay.

Margaret River has long been one of my favourite wine regions, and almost everyone you meet there is happy to tell you that even though Western Australia produces less than 5% of Australia’s total volume of wine, nearly a quarter of the country’s premium wine is produced here. The Chardonnay in particular is exceptional, managing to deliver abundant concentration while maintaining a refreshing quality. The Gin Gin clone that is widely used in Margaret River is responsible for these intense flavours, although it also suffers from uneven ripening that results in small and large berries developing within the same bunch. Passel Estate uses both the Gin Gin clone and the Dijon clone from Burgundy, although at the moment the wine comprises only the former as the latter vines have not yet reached maturity.

Given the newness of the estate, it is impressive that the wines have found as sure a footing as they have. The guidance has been given by experienced winemaker Bruce Dukes, who as a veteran of Margaret River is able to sagely coax the best out of the vineyards into a representative style of the region. I’m also enamoured by the little designs in the label art (the link between the possum and the winery is obvious enough, but what about the cello? Turns out that Wendy is also an accomplished cellist in addition to her other talents). This is a winery I’ll be watching with great interest.

Tasting notes:

Passel Estate Chardonnay 2015 – Fermented at a cool 12°C to maintain fresh fruit flavours. A classy Margaret River Chardonnay that hits all the right notes of roasted cashew, green apple, and creamy nougat. There’s an expansive note of toasted oak but it is well-integrated and in tune with the concentrated fruit flavours. Medium bodied with fine length.

Passel Estate Shiraz 2015 – Displaying competent winemaking and generous fruit, this wine has notes of black cherry and a high dose of supple tannins. Lovely length on the finish.

Passel Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – An enticing savoury note accompanies this wine, which displays a more herbal dimension to the fruit. It’s a well-balanced and accessible wine. Although not stated on the label it is actually a blend of 87.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12.5% Merlot.

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