Size & Type
It’s one thing to aim for the stars; it’s quite another to have the tools to get there. Matt Swinney had a powerful vision to establish a benchmark and unique vineyard on his family’s property, situated on the gravelly, ironstone soils of the Frankland. His intention was always to found a benchmark wine label using only the finest fruit, but good things take time—especially when it comes to vines! Most plantings occurred in 1998, and the site quickly garnered a reputation for quality and originality. Innovations such as planting bush vines (the first in modern-day WA, where they are virtually unknown) and taking the leap with Grenache and Mourvèdre (in a region that many felt was too cool for these Mediterranean varieties) certainly raised eyebrows. Today, both these decisions have proven to be inspiring.
Fast forward to today, and the Swinney estate has become regarded by many as the finest Shiraz vineyard in WA, not to mention an excellent source for Frankland River Riesling. They have also staked their claim (pardon the pun!) as one of the world’s great sites for both Grenache and Mourvèdre—if you think we’re exaggerating, then we look forward to showing you the upcoming releases. More recently, in 2018, the Swinneys invited renowned winemaker Rob Mann to join the team. Mann is the grandson of the legendary Jack Mann—the godfather of Western Australian wine—and is internationally respected in his own right after his work at Cape Mentelle, Hardy’s Tintara and Newton in the Napa. By his own account, Mann took one look at the vineyard and asked, “Where do I sign on?”
“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 – Australian Vineyard of The Year 2020
The Swinneys have been no less careful about who they entrusted their vines. Following celebrated viticulturist Lee Haselgrove’s tenure, in 2021 Rhys Thomas joined the team as viticulturalist and vineyard manager. A long-term buyer of Swinney fruit, Thomas has been walking the blocks and rows of the Swinney vineyards for over 15 years and was a leading force in the family’s drive towards pure quality and sustainability. His soil and aspect-driven approach will only further help peel back the layers of the Swinny’s outstanding terroir.
Drilling down, the Farvie vines are rooted in the deep, gravelly, ironstone crests of the Swinney estate’s upper, northeast-facing hillsides. The vines are exposed to the cool breezes off the river, and the prevalence of rusting lateritic gravel in the soil allows for excellent drainage and deep access to moisture. This specific soil type and aspect has been identified as delivering the purest earth-to-glass expression (described by winemaker Rob Mann as a ferrous or bloody note) and providing purity, restraint and a noble tannin profile. Rob Mann notes with some pride that this combination of soil and vine repeatedly delivers regardless of the season. They chose well.
The vines are dry-farmed according to organic principles, and there’s a complex root pruning program to encourage the deep rooting system the vines require to cope with this growing regime. The canopy management is meticulous, with fastidious shoot and fruit-thinning and deliberate bunch selection. There’s shade cloth for the Shiraz to assist with lower temperatures in the bunch zone. And, while the Grenache and Mourvèdre are exclusively bush vines, the canopies are also managed to ensure soft light on the bunches. Each vine is picked over multiple passes at harvest time (typically a week earlier than the Swinney wines made from the same vineyards), with only the very best bunches—those found in the dappled light of the vine’s architecture—set aside for Farvie.
Over the last handful of vintages, the Swinney label has been celebrated by critics worldwide in a way that is most unusual for such a young producer. Despite their sizeable holdings, the Swinneys produce very limited volumes of their own wine, cherry-picking a tiny percentage of their parcels for their own production.
The winemaking philosophy here is equally precise yet straightforward. Both Mann and the Swinney family want to reflect and preserve the personality of each individual vineyard site in that season. They want people to be reminded of the place rather than the maker. After careful sorting, fermentations are natural; Robb Mann also favours co-fermentation and the flavour and structural integration this brings. Gravity flow is utilised to avoid pumping, maximising the percentage of whole berries and minimising maceration. Mann is looking for an infusion-style, gentle extraction, and this approach goes a long way to explaining the remarkable balance and purity of the wines. The reds are aged in mostly seasoned wood, ranging from 500-litre demi muids to 36-hl wooden vats. The resulting wines are outstanding and shine with character, craft and respect for the land.
Swinny’s Farvie label represents the finest quality and purest vineyard expression from the family’s best, organically managed sites. These are wines made from specific vines and bunches, farmed in the kind of obsessive fashion that we associate with the most outstanding growers worldwide. The Farvie vines are rooted in the deep, gravelly, ironstone crests of the Swinney Estate’s upper, northeast-facing hillsides. The vines are exposed to the cool breezes off the river, and the prevalence of rusting lateritic gravel in the soil allows for excellent drainage and deep access to moisture. This specific soil type and aspect has been identified as delivering the purest earth-to-glass expression (described by winemaker Rob Mann as a ferrous or bloody note) and also providing purity, restraint and a noble tannin profile. Both the Grenache and the Shiraz are stimulating, cutting-edge wines born from skilful and fanatical farming practices.
“The best wines you make are the ones you have to do the least amount to,” notes Mann. The resulting wines speak volumes of this meticulous and thoughtful approach.
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Riesling | West Australia, Australia
Shiraz/Syrah | West Australia, Australia
Grenache | West Australia, Australia
Mourvèrdre | West Australia, Australia
Shiraz/Syrah | West Australia, Australia