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Appellation Farvie

“A Tale of Greatness” [Halliday]: Swinney’s Flagship 2022 Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre
Appellation Farvie
Matt Swinney and Rob Mann made clear from the outset their ambition to grow wines that sit alongside the best in the world. Judging by how well the 2022 Farvie wines performed at a series of benchmarking tastings earlier this year—featuring top grower wines from Priorat, Côte-Rôtie, Bandol, etc.—one could say they have already fulfilled their ambition. Yet, it wasn’t simply the quality of Swinney’s Farvie wines that stood out at these events; it was their identity.

In a keynote essay to The Wine Writers’ Symposium, Andrew Jefford recently wrote: “It’s places which generate the most compelling differences in wine: that is terroir.” Terroir is a concept we still tend to tip-toe around in Australia. Or rather, we don’t yet afford it the same admiration as they do in Europe. Here was a set of Australian wines as original and pure as any poured at those tastings. Each wine is made from a different variety. Yet, each is threaded with the same savoury, ferrous watermark―a legacy of the gravelly ironstone ridges above the Frankland River―that the Farvie wines have borne since the first release in 2018. This terroir-driven originality can only come from a single place of land farmed with attention to detail that is second to none.

Late last year, winemaker Rob Mann recalled that 2022 was an outstanding year―magical, in Rob’s words―for Frankland River’s reds. It was a lovely warm season, giving modest yields of “incredibly deep and opulent fruit”. It’s in years like this that Swinney’s deep focus on the vineyards pays dividends. “What we don’t want to do in a very concentrated year is to make big, heavy, thick wines,” Mann told us. “We’re trying to impart more elegance.”

He and his team are picking earlier to capture freshness, vibrancy and natural acidity, combining the opulence and density of a great vintage with a restrained approach in site and cellar. With concentration already achieved in the vineyard, extraction is exceptionally gentle, with the wines spending as little as 12 days on skins. There is no pumping over or plunging, and no new oak—maturation occurs in seasoned French oak puncheons, demi-muids and large oak vats. “The best wines you make are the ones you have to do the least amount to,” notes Mann, echoing a similar quote from Dominique Lafon: “A winemaker must have the courage to do nothing”.

This year marks a mini-milestone in Farvie’s five-year history: 2022 is the first year all three wines―Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre―have been released together. We’ll let others decide if they agree with Rob Mann that 2022 is the best set of Farvie wines. For us, the quality of the farming, the year and the winemaking has resulted in a predictably stunning and unique range of wines.

The Wines

Swinney Farvie Grenache 2022

Swinney Farvie Grenache 2022

In the late 1990s, Grenache was hardly known in Western Australia, let alone in Great Southern. But, inspired by the great wines of France and Spain—and believing that Grenache could do well in a region already building a reputation for high-quality Syrah—Matt Swinney ignored the experts (who said Grenache would never ripen in the cool climate of Frankland River) and planted the region’s first bush-vine Grenache vineyard. He did so with mass-selection cuttings provided by David Hohnen and gave his new vines pride of place on the site’s hilltops.

Take a walk through Swinney’s untrellised Grenache bush vines, and things change about halfway down the block planted in 2004 on the estate’s upper northeast-facing hillside crest. The soil gets leaner and shallower, with more gravel and a higher clay content. “That’s Farvie,” says Rob Mann. This fruit is different, too; it is more ferrous and mineral with fine, velvety tannins and so much complexity. Vines are picked over multiple passes, with only the best bunches from each vine—those sitting in the dappled light of the vine’s architecture—set aside for Farvie.

Once in the winery, the bunches are berry sorted, then gravity-fed to French oak for natural fermentation, incorporating 28% whole bunches. With Mourvèdre now a mainstay in the Farvie range in its own right, its inclusion in this wine has steadily decreased each year. This year, just 4% of Mourvèdre co-fermented with the Grenache (compared to 7% in 2020 and 14% in 2019). The wine spent 11 days on skins before being pressed to large, fine-grained, seasoned French oak vessels, where it matured for 11 months.

“Hand-picked, 28% whole bunches, berry and bunch sorted; 11 days on skins, then basket-pressed to used large format French oak for 11 months. Bright crimson-purple, the bouquet floral, the red and blue fruits and silky tannins on song.”
96 points, James Halliday, The Weekend Australian Magazine
“Now that Farvie is a trio, and not a duo, and the Mourvèdre sits neatly in between the Grenache and Syrah in terms of hue, timbre and attitude, this Grenache seems more succulent, fragrant and blushingly attractive than ever. It is imperceptibly lighter, more rhubarb and pomegranate-tinged and creamier than ever. The colour is a crimson and carmine amalgam, and the nose is akin to a stroll through an Amazonian arboretum. It is sexy, and it knows it, and before it gets too lascivious, on cue, it firms up, dries out and ends with a vicious lick of stern acidity. After such a lavish welcome, this finish is fantastic because it snaps your senses to attention and reminds you that while Farvie Grenache is a consummate charmer, beneath the surface, it is a weaponised wine with extraordinary skill.”
19+/20, Matthew Jukes, matthewjukes.com
“Nice to have this wine back in town after an absence in 2021. The power and concentration of the vineyard and the style is immediately evident. The intensity strikes immediately on the nose, while once the wine starts to roll across your palate you know you in a head zone of great power. It was a warm and concentrated vintage. Brilliant crimson colour with a bright luminosity and brilliant purity that lifts effortlessly from the glass. Floral notes with a dried herbie sage bush character engages immediately. Dry chalky tannins with a trace of minerally iron filings. It’s vibrant and fleshy with real volume of flavour. Continues to mark its turf as an Australian classic.”
98 points, Ray Jordan, rayjordan.com.au
“Deep red-purple colour with a bold aroma of spices and earth, toasty woodsy overtones and a (clean) meaty character. The wine is full-bodied and firm, with richness and good structure for ageing. Mouth-coating tannins and a chewy finish. Impressive structure for a pure grenache. A robust wine of character, that really should be cellared for best results.”
94 points, Huon Hooke, The Real Review
Swinney Farvie Grenache 2022
Swinney Farvie Mourvedre 2022

Swinney Farvie Mourvedre 2022

This is just the second release of Farvie Mourvèdre, a wine crafted from a draconian selection of dry-grown bush vine Mourvèdre on the same kidney-shaped patch of dirt as the vines for the Farvie Grenache in the Wilson’s Pool vineyard. The vines here face northeast on leaner topsoil and with a higher percentage of coarse lateritic gravel; the roots have now made it down into the clay beneath. Meticulous fruit-thinning and selective hand-harvesting over multiple passes ensured Swinney achieved fruit as close to perfect as possible.

Last year’s release fermented entirely as whole bunches. This year, the bunches and berries were smaller, requiring Mann to tweak the percentage (66%) to achieve the perfect balance. According to Mann, the Farvie Mourvèdre loves bunches: “It helps to balance the wildness, gaminess and rustiness of the fruit while accentuating the spice element of the wine.” Regarding the process, the wine spent 11 days on skins before being pressed to large, fine-grained, seasoned French oak vessels, where it matured for 11 months.

As if last year’s wine didn’t set the bar high enough! “It might be my favourite wine I’ve ever made from Swinney,” says Rob Mann. “It’s so pretty; there’s a lovely natural balance and vitality that’s sometimes hard to capture. It’s pretty close to being a very, very good wine.”

“This wine’s fanfare is all-encompassing, with an epic nose that is striking, fruit-packed and sophisticated. There are abundant rose petals, plum and red cherry notes, and sensual waves of florality and bounteous juiciness are countered by intense, brittle minerality. The acid line scours the palate with masochistic striations that form the tramlines on which this wine delivers its message with tireless accuracy. And then you notice that something is missing. Unlike virtually every other mesmeric Mourvèdre on earth, oak is seemingly missing. Of course, this is an illusion because behind every cache of flavour molecules sits a silent oak nuance, hidden from view but doing the covert task of adding grandeur and detail without craving any credit. This is another jaw-dropping wine, and it stands a chance of running a longer race than the 2021, too, so be sure to secure your stock.
19.5/20, Matthew Jukes, matthewjukes.com
“The second iteration of this wine (tasted pre-release), which is quickly rising to icon status in Swinney’s portfolio. Tiny production from bushvines, the fruit is harvested in three passes wild fermented in whole bunches and matured in old oak. Currently tightly wound and holding its cards close to its chest, its starry journey ahead is clear. Vibrant, densely knit dark black plum aromas with a jewel-like clarity, along with violets, star anise, eucalypt, heady ferrous notes and crushed earth. Tannins might be tight and bunched up in their youth, but they are chalky and fine in structure, and the long line of delicate acidity helps deliver waves of flavour long after the last sip. Complex, vivacious and nuanced; a new Mourvèdre benchmark has been set.”
98 points, Cassandra Charlick, Decanter
“Dry grown bush vines, fruit-thinned and sorted; 66% whole bunch, 11 days on skins, pressed direct to a used 1600l French vat for 11 months. The fresh flavour profile introduces a savoury element to the dark berry fruits and a delicious lingering finish.”
96 points, James Halliday, The Weekend Australian Magazine
“This is the second vintage of the Farvie Mourvedre and takes the excellent ’21 up a notch. It has a dry, savoury and slightly ferruginous rusty nail character offsetting the sweet floral notes on the nose. The palate is a superb interpretation of the variety in these Frankland soils. There is a slightly greater volume of fruit than ’21, bit it retains the same Old-World charm and expression. Chalky tannins and balanced use of oak. Tasted this about 4 months apart and already the shy middle palate I first saw has started to unfurl. Energy and vibrancy set this apart. A worthy addition to the Farvie triumvirate.”
98 points, Ray Jordan, rayjordan.com.au
Swinney Farvie Mourvedre 2022
Swinney Farvie Syrah 2022

Swinney Farvie Syrah 2022

Farvie gives a remarkable expression of Australian Shiraz and puts Western Australia back in the conversation regarding benchmarks for this variety. Only a selected soil area in the Wilson’s Pool and Powderbark blocks is earmarked for Farvie Syrah, with the vines fostered to nourish and balance the fruit to optimum levels, allowing for dry farming.

Swinney’s 2022 Syrah was hand-harvested from select parcels planted to a range of clones, including 470, Waldron and Jack Mann’s heritage mass-selection Syrah. In the warmer conditions of 2022, Swinney’s shade cloth played a pivotal role, creating soft, mottled light to protect the skins and lower the temperature in the bunch zone. The fruit was sorted berry-by-berry in the winery, and this year, Rob Mann increased the whole bunch component from 58% (in 2021) to 65% to further promote ethereal structure and lightness of texture while also encouraging bright, spicy aromatics. Everything was gravity-fed to a French oak vat and two demi-muids for wild fermentation. The wine spent only 12 days on skins before being basket-pressed directly to large, fine-grained, seasoned French oak, where it rested for 14 months before bottling.

Mann fosters the Farvie plot’s innate savoury, ironstone and ferrous character, pushing it to take a lead role in the wine. Importantly, no new oak is used in the Farvie Syrah. “By using no new oak, you have to think a bit harder about how to build complexity, structure and perfume in Syrah,” explains Mann. “We build that complexity through viticulture, through bunches and time on lees. I think it’s another reason our Syrah is so distinctly different.”

“The colour alone stops you in your tracks because it is as near-black as possible, interwoven with ravishing midnight blue and sanguineous red tones. The nose seems to take its instruction from the colour, with a profoundly deep engine of malevolent, night-walker-style blackberry and black cherry tones, shot through with Swedish liquorice, fresh peaty soil and cracked black peppercorns. If Nosferatu, Voldemort, Moriarty and Sauron caught up on a day off, they would drink this wine. And given its freshness and purity, it wouldn’t leave them slow off the mark after their rendezvous because, for all of the awe-inspiring qualities in the glass, this is one of the most dynamic Syrahs on earth. Lividity and dynamism join forces to make this another remarkable declaration of the power and poise found in the great Frankland River terroir brought to the fore by inspirational winemaking.”
19.5+/20, Matthew Jukes, matthewjukes.com
“Dry grown on a vertical trellis, shade cloth intercepting the afternoon sun; 65%whole bunch; 12 days on skins; pressed to large format oak, 14 months maturation. The bouquet has warm spices, licorice and black fruits; superb mouthfeel, balance and texture, thanks to the shimmering tannins. Silk and satin rather than velvet.”
97 points, James Halliday, The Weekend Australian Magazine
“I think this has claims to be the finest Farvie Syrah yet in its relatedly short history. The colour is just brilliant and bright with a glowing purely crimson hue. Power, intensity and concentration delivered with such poise. Bright red fruits with floral dark cherry and a little black olive adds to its nuanced capture on the nose. The palate is sublime, almost perfect, in its structure, poise and delivery. The sweet natural fruits are balanced and aligned with the fine minerally, ironstone ferruginous characters. Continues to redefine the Australian varietal style.”
99 points, Ray Jordan, rayjordan.com.au
“Bright red, inky and opaque in the glass. Fabulously evocative in colour. Broodingly opulent aromas of mulberry, stewed satsuma plum, iodine, smoked meats, black pudding, licorice and Asian spice. Sheesh, there's plenty going on here. The flavours likewise are concentrated, plush and with a seriously firm drive of shapely, granular tannins and snappy, punchy acidity. Flavours are in the plum, rhubarb, and wild cherry realm, along with nutty, creamy oak, a brambly funkines and a ferrous edge. Built for the long haul—impressive gear.”
96 points, Aaron Brasher, The Real Review
Swinney Farvie Syrah 2022

“Swinney’s Farvie wines are a tale of greatness.” James Halliday, The Weekend Australian, January 2024

“Swinney is in the process of making a very powerful statement about the Frankland River region via the delivery of these world-class wines.” Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate

“This elite scion of the Swinney portfolio debuted with the 2018 vintage, and in five short years, Farvie has carved out an indelible identity right at the top tier of the world wine scene.” Matthew Jukes, matthewjukes.com

“The scale of the vineyard, coupled with their pinpoint focus and pursuit of innovation, and the quality of the resulting wines, is truly extraordinary and inspiring.” 2020 Vineyard of the Year, Young Gun of Wine Vineyard of the Year Awards

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