Wine Talk

Snooth User: Terence Pang

Vasse Felix, Felices(pl?) Margaret River, Western Australia

Posted by Terence Pang, Sep 18, 2013.

Bit of a wet cold spell sweeping through Melbourne at the moment, so what better than a curry night at a friend’s place (no washingup, hey score!). Might as well make a decent tasting out of this before our tastebuds get obliterated by lamb vindaloo.

Vasse Felix Classic Dry White 2012, Margaret River, WA
AUD$16. A blend of 67% Sauvignon Blanc and 33% Semillon. The VF vinification info says ‘These varieties are picked at reasonably low Baume’ and I’m left wondering, hmm.. for a vintage boasting good ripening conditions, is there a reason why you’d trumpet the low sugar levels? I’m probably overthinking this. Clear, pale straw yellow colour. Youthful aromas, slightly grassy with the clear presence of gooseberry, passionfruit, green apple and Thai green mango. A medium-bodied white wine, high steely acidity, 12% alc. Ripe flavours of lemon-lime citrus, bitey apple and a sprinkle of finely chopped green herbs. Long finish, a wine of good quality for a solid one glass, but I wouldn’t really push for more than 2 glasses. Drink now.

Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2012, Margaret River, WA
AUD$22. Fruit was harvested and fermented as individual parcels with wild yeasts. Pressed juice was matured in French oak barrels for 9 months. Clear pale yellow with a green tinge. Youthful aromas of white peach, apple, lemon and grapefruit, slight note of struck match and clove. It doesn’t have that weighty creamy impression, so I’d guess minimal working of lees for this wine. A medium-bodied wine with sweet lemon citrusy acidity, 12.5% alc. Solid peach and lemon mingled flavours, lingering on the long finish. A good clean finish, this might be nice with banana-roasted fish fillets. Wasn’t bad with pappadums. Drink now.

Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot 2011, Margaret River, WA
AUD$22. A blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 6% Malbec. Fruit from individual batches were crushed separately into stainless steel fermentation vessels and underwent different extraction processes. The Cabernet fruit underwent a 5-day warm maceration period to maximise tannin and colour extraction. The Merlot fruit underwent cold maceration prior to fermentation, and pressed off skins early to avoid excessive tannin extraction. The wine was matured in French oak barrels for 12 months, 8% new. Clear, intense ruby-purple colour. Youthful lifted aromas of blackcurrants, blackberries and red plums. Whiff of bay leaf. A medium+ bodied wine, high acidity, 13.5% alc. The young, fine-grained tannins give an initial dusty chocolate powder-like texture, and work well to give this wine an accessible structure at this young age. Rich flavours of blackberries, raspberry candy and plum. Long finish, with the fruit lingering at the back recesses of your mouth. Drink now to 2018.

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Margaret River, WA
AUD$36. The fruit for this wine come off vineyards in the northern end of the Margaret River region, to within 8km of the coastline so it is strongly influenced by the offshore winds. The soil composition is mostly gravel loam. Individual parcels of fruit were fermented on skinds for up to 30 days. Clear, intense purple ruby colour. An attractive, multilayered bouquet with youthful aromas of blackcurrants, black plums, 70% dark chocolate, anise, cedar oak and dried herbs. A dry, medium+ bodied wine drinking young right now, surprisingly not as full-bodied as I’d expected. A good presence of grainy tannins which form the angled, firm structure against which the fleshy acidity works to keep the dark fruity flavours fresh. Blackberries and red berry fruit dominate the palate, finishing cleanly. Drink now – 2020.


Reply by GregT, Sep 18, 2013.

Great producer. Not all that well - known in the US, but deserves to be.

Reply by Terence Pang, Sep 18, 2013.

The distributor for Vasse Felix is Negociants USA. It's worth trying them if you ever come across their cabernets or cab merlot blends. They've got several labels across a range of prices, quite reflective of the bottled quality. A consistent, good producer of mid-range Margaret River wines.

Negociants USA: Napa, California

Contact: Kathy Marlin
Phone: (1) 707 259 0993

Reply by EMark, Sep 19, 2013.

Very interesting, and I love the prices--especially when I checked the AUD/USD exchange rate.  These wines are priced very competitively vs. domestic U.S. wines

A question, though, Terrence.  I have never heard of "70% dark chocolate."  It sounds like chocolate may be graded by a percentage of some component.  Is that it?

Reply by zufrieden, Sep 19, 2013.

Good producer indeed... especially if you seek elegance over power.

Reply by Tbandcwfjourney, Sep 20, 2013.

To Emark, it's the percentage of chocolate mass (cocoa solids and cocoa butter).  Milk chocolate is roughly 34 to 48 percent, but can be up to the manufacturer's interpretation.  There are also US labeling rules, can't speak to those.

Reply by EMark, Sep 20, 2013.

Thank you, I was totally unaware.

Reply by Tbandcwfjourney, Sep 20, 2013.

The cool/fun thing about chocolate is that it is much like wine.  You have varieties of cocoa plants, earth rain, wind, then you have the chocolate maker's decisions such as which beans, how ripe, how process them, etc......

Reply by Terence Pang, Sep 22, 2013.

Mark, you should be able to find chocolate by Madecasse. They're a company operating out of Brooklyn that manufactures Madagascan chocolate. They've got a good solid range of chocolates. It's fun tasting the step up in weight and depth as you go from milk choc to 30-40% range to the 70%. 100% is simply insane though, like sucking a river pebble. (yes, I've attempted that before)((after washing away the moss))

Reply by GregT, Sep 23, 2013.

Emark - they take the cocoa beans and ferment or "ripen" them and the grind them really slowly for a long long time. They eventually liquify into a thick mass. Then you have what one might call "baking" chocolate.

Cocoa butter is in high demand for make-up, so producers take the fat out and then replace it with some cheap fat like palm kernel oil or something and Americans buy it on their Reeses peanut butter cups. It's basically brown wax that coats your mouth and tastes awful.  That's the tragedy of American chocolate.

When you separate the fat, you have solids left - cocoa powder. So since you have a little extra from the batch from which you've removed the fat, you can add some to your next batch, amping up the cocoa experience. Sort of like adding powdered tannins to your wine. So you can get it with 60% cocoa powder, 70%, 80% and so on.

And like wine, more is not better. And also like wine, there is not "milk" chocolate and "dark" chocolate any more than there is simply white wine and red wine. Back in the 1800s some guy named Henri Nestle in Germany figured out that he could add some dry milk to his chocolate and make it less bitter. But It all comes down to the raw material. If you have mediocre chocolate, adding more cocoa solids doesn't make it a better chocolate. And if you have great raw material, adding milk powder doesn't make it any less delicious.

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