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The New Swinney Releases: Set your Phasers to Stunning

Rob Mann (left) and Swinney’s new viticulturalist, Rhys Thomas
“The Swinney vineyard represents modern viticulture interwoven with Old-World techniques, executed with precision through a combination of exhaustive manual work and state-of-the-art technology, and all underpinned by an environmental focus...and the quality of the resulting wines, is truly extraordinary and inspiring.” Young Gun of Wine, Inaugural Australian Vineyard of The Year 2020
“There is a very bright future for Matt [Swinney] and Rob [Mann], and I have a feeling that these wines will gain a cult following in the UK just as they have in Australia, where many of these wines are sold on allocation only.” Matthew Jukes
“Swinney is the complete package.” Max Allen
“One of Australia’s finest versions of the [Grenache] variety, born of excellent farming and a unique place.” Mike Bennie
“When [Matt] Swinney first planted non-trellised bush wines of grenache and mourvèdre back in the 1990s, most people thought he was mad, but the fact that the first release of a wine named after his great-grandfather—the 2018 Farvie Grenache, produced from those vines—was amongst the most celebrated release [of 2020] and redefined the variety in Western Australia, was sweet validation.” Nick Ryan
In his introduction to the first Vineyard of the Year awards, Max Allen reminded us, “We don’t talk enough about vineyards in Australia or the people that grow grapes.” So, it was fitting the inaugural winner of the headline award was Swinney. Be it the plunging tannin of the Syrah, the crystalline purity of the Riesling or the radiant elegance of the Grenache—every nuance can be traced directly to the unique Frankland River site and Swinney’s no-compromise farming philosophy.
 
In the blink of an eye, this producer has ripped up the rule book about what was considered possible in the Frankland River region. We have written at length on what makes this vineyard so important in the pantheon of Australian viticulture, and we encourage anyone unfamiliar with the Swinney story to touch base with that article. To summarise, the Swinneys produce very limited volumes of their own wine, cherry-picking a tiny percentage of their parcels for their own label. Rooted in ironstone gravel hilltops above the Frankland River, these vines are farmed “our way,” according to Matt Swinney. The Swinney way means these sites are micromanaged to produce the finest and most expressive fruit the team can grow. Mostly dry-farmed, these parcels are low-cropped (around five tonnes per hectare), and the canopy management is meticulous. There’s shoot and bunch thinning and shade cloth for the Shiraz and Riesling fruit (creating soft, dappled light and lower temperatures in the bunch zone). In the case of Grenache—which is grown as bush vines—each plant is harvested three times to pick only perfectly ripe fruit. Even then, the fruit is further graded to ensure that only perfect berries are selected. It’s an obsessive style of viticulture that draws parallels with the great wine growers of Europe, and this shines through in the wines.
 
The winemaking philosophy is equally precise yet straightforward. Winemaker Rob Mann wants to preserve the personality of each parcel in each season, to remind people of the place rather than the maker. After careful sorting, fermentations are natural. Gravity flow is utilised to avoid pumping, maximising the percentage of whole berries and minimising maceration. Mann looks for an infusion-style, gentle extraction, and this approach goes a long way to explaining the remarkable balance and purity of the wines. Accordingly, very little new oak is used across the range.
 
Regarding the 2021 vintage, Rob Mann describes the season as “a really good, classical vintage”. Some welcome mid-summer rain guided the dry-grown sites through the warmer periods, yields were modest and the resulting quality was exceptionally high. Importantly, this vintage also marks the Swinney's first single-varietal Mourvèdre release (which replaces the Mourvèdre Syrah Grenache). Behind the scenes, the Swinney team have been brimming with enthusiasm about the evolution of their bush-vine Mourvèdre. Such was the quality being reached in the vineyard, early last year Rob Mann waxed lyrical, telling us that it was getting ever more difficult to dilute the Mourvèdre into a blend. Now we know what had him so excited, and why the decision was made: it’s a wine that underlines the Swinney portfolio as one composed solely of benchmarks.
 
I think it was Henri Jayer who said that to make great wine, you must first love working in the vineyard. Regardless of the saying’s origin, Swinney’s new releases radiate with such a sentiment.

View the full available range here.

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