MARGARET RIVER’S FOUNDING WINE ESTATE
Established in 1967 by regional pioneer Dr Tom Cullity, Vasse Felix is Margaret River’s founding wine estate.
Pristine isolation, ancient lands and twin oceans make Margaret River a wine paradise and one of the world’s greatest environments to grow ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. These varieties, alongside Shiraz and Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blends are the primary focus at Vasse Felix.
All wines are grown in Vasse Felix’s four Margaret River vineyards then vinified and bottled within the modern winery, situated at the Home Vineyard overlooking the Wilyabrup Brook.
The Vasse Felix Cellar Door – also located at the Home Vineyard – is renowned. Featuring a tasting room, wine lounge, art gallery, wine museum and one of Australia’s most acclaimed restaurants, visitors are welcomed from all around the world, eager for the ultimate Vasse Felix experience.
There are many things that make Vasse Felix the special place it is: the incredible environment and climate of Margaret River, their secure family ownership, their treasured heritage, and their priceless vineyards. But above all, it’s the dedication of the entire team to continue Dr Cullity’s original aim for Vasse Felix: “to make the best possible wine”.
A LOOK AT HISTORY
Vasse Felix was established in 1967, here’s a snapshot of some milestones throughout history that have contributed to the Estate you experience today.
Following Professor Harold Olmo’s (University of California Davis) report recommending Australia’s south-west to plant wine grapes, Dr John Gladstones (University of Western Australia) publishes a report isolating the Margaret River cape for it’s climatic similarities to Bordeaux. His report was published in the local Margaret River newspaper.
THE FIRST VINES
Dr Thomas Cullity had been trial planting vines in the South-West since 1965. Upon learning of Dr Gladstones’ report, he spent around a year searching for the perfect site of “red gravel in redgum country, with clay about 18 inches below the surface.”
Finally locating the ideal site, he planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Malbec and Riesling to establish the Vasse Felix vineyard; Margaret River’s oldest vines.
THE FIRST VINTAGE
The first vintage, off 4 year-old vines, was in 1971. The harvest was a disaster due to bunch-rot and silver-eyes (native birds). The winery vats and machinery were built and purchased in the preceding months.
“I will not forget the exhaustion and disappointment.” Dr Thomas Cullity
THE FIRST WINES
The first Vasse Felix – and Margaret River – wines are made and included a Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling.
“In 1972, off a small crop, we produced a Riesling wine that created quite a stir at the Perth Show [it won a gold medal]… It was this wine and the subsequent publicity that brought Margaret River wines to the attention of the Australian public. We had similar success with the Cabernet Sauvignon in 1973.” Dr Thomas Cullity.
FIRST CABERNET TROPHY NEW WINEMAKER
Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon wins a Gold Medal at the Perth Royal Show. (Pictured left, Cullity with Stuart Verman at 1973 Perth Royal Show).
David Gregg is appointed winemaker of Vasse Felix. (Pictured centre, newspaper article, 1973).
GREGG FAMILY ACQUIRE VASSE FELIX
The Gregg family purchase Vasse Felix from Dr Thomas Cullity. This vintage Vasse Felix turned global, with headlines reading ‘Vasse Felix hits the big apple’.
HOLMES A COURT FAMILY ACQUIRE VASSE FELIX
After noticing the estate listed for sale in the classified section of The West Australian newspaper, The Holmes a Court Family acquires Vasse Felix. The Family has remained owners of Vasse Felix since.
The first vintage of Vasse Felix Classic Dry White is made.
VASSE FELIX RESTAURANT OPENS
The Vasse Felix Restaurant opens. It was originally built as a ‘champagne room’ which had been the dream of former owner David Gregg. The Restaurant today is recognised as one of Australia’s best.
ONE VINTAGE SOLD OUT IN THREE DAYS!
The 1988 Hermitage wins the ‘Chairman’s Trophy for Best Wine at the WA Wine Awards’ and sells out in three days.
Clive Otto joins Vasse Felix as winemaker (he becomes Chief Winemaker in 1992).
THE FIRST HEYTESBURY
The first Heytesbury is made, and is a runner up for the Jimmy Watson Trophy at the Melbourne Royal Wine Show in 1996.
In 1996 a Reserve Chardonnay is made and is relabelled as Heytesbury Chardonnay in 1997.
NEW WINERY OPENS
A new state-of-the-art winery was built and opened and the old winery and barrel hall is converted into an Art Gallery.
HOME VINEYARD EXPANSION
Vasse Felix’s Home Vineyard in Wilyabrup begins its most significant expansion since establishment as the Estate narrows its focus to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Virginia Willcock is appointed Chief Winemaker (October, 2006)
VASSE FELIX ADDS VINEYARD IN KARRIDALE
Vasse Felix acquires a new vineyard in Karridale, a ‘sub-region’ located at the south of Margaret River’s cape which experiences a slightly cooler climate due to its increased cloud cover and sea breezes off the Southern Ocean.
The vineyard is a specialty site for white varieties Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
HEYTESBURY CHARDONNAY MAKES HISTORY
The 2010 Heytesbury Chardonnay wins 11 trophies in wine shows to become one of the most awarded in Australian history. A year of significant critical acclaim:
- Top 100 International Winery, Wine & Spirits USA
- Wine, Winery & Winemaker of Year, West Aust. Good Wine Guide
- Australian Winemaker of Year (Virginia Willcock), Gourmet Traveller WINE
- Regional Restaurant of Year, West Aust. Good Food Guide
VASSE FELIX ADDS GNARAWARY VINEYARD
The Vasse Felix Estate expands to include a fourth specialty vineyard, Gnarawary, located in the Walcliffe sub-region of Margaret River. The site has exceptional potential for Chardonnay and Shiraz.
VASSE FELIX CELEBRATES 50 YEARS & RELEASES THE INAUGURAL TOM CULLITY
2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Vasse Felix and the modern Margaret River wine industry. The pinnacle of the ‘Golden Jubilee’ celebrations was the release of the inaugural TOM CULLITY Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec, our highest scoring Cabernet ever:
- 99 points & No. 4 – James Suckling Top 100 Wines of 2017
- 98 points, James Halliday
- Two Golds & Judges Selection Awards for ‘Country – Australia Red’ & ‘Style – Bordeaux or Bordeaux-styled Red Blend’, TEXSOM International Wine Awards
VASSE FELIX AWARDED ‘NEW WORLD WINERY OF THE YEAR’
Vasse Felix was awarded ‘New World Winery of the Year’ at Wine Enthusiast’s 18th Annual Wine Star Awards Gala in January.
Vasse Felix is the first Margaret River and West Australian winery to receive the US publication’s award, surpassing estates from major international regions, including Stellenbosch (De Toren), Auckland (Kumeu River), Argentina (Trapiche) and Chile (Vina Ventisquero) to receive the coveted award.
VASSE FELIX ADDS WATERSHED VINEYARD
Vasse Felix acquires the balance of the Watershed Vineyard in Margaret River’s Walcliffe area, neighbouring the Gnarawary blocks purchased in 2015. This is an idyllic site for Chardonnay, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc.
Virginia’s Winemaking Philosophy:
Make the wines you love to drink. As winemakers we scour the world to find those rare and precious wines we will most love. So at Vasse Felix, with our pristine environment and historic vineyards, we must strive to make just that. To perfect a distinctive style that is unique and special, that people all over the world will recognise.
As a teenager, Virginia saw the happiness and joy wine brought to her parents and their friends after a hard day’s work in their small vineyard. It was here she decided winemaking was going to be her career. “I loved the idea of growing fruit, and then turning it into something that could be more beautiful and would make people happy.”
Virginia Willcock is now the Chief Winemaker behind some of Australia’s most critically acclaimed wines, at Margaret River’s founding wine estate, Vasse Felix. She joined as Chief Winemaker in October 2006.
Virginia has an insatiable curiosity for the role microbiology plays in grapes and vineyards in making more environmentally expressive wines. This has driven the revolutionary development in winemaking style at Vasse Felix and served as inspiration for many other producers around Australia – in particular her work with wild-yeast fermentation in Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Virginia is one of the most awarded female winemakers in Australia, having been named ‘Gourmet Traveller WINE Australian Winemaker of the Year’ in 2012 (she was also a finalist in 2010), ‘Winemaker of the Year’ by The West Australian Good Wine Guide 2013, and ‘Winemaker of the Year’ in the 2017 Australian Women in Wine Awards. Virginia was also nominated as ‘Winemaker of the Year’ in Wine Enthusiast Magazine USA’s 2014 Wine Star Awards, and ‘Winemaker of the Year’ in the ASVO (Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology) Award for excellence 2016. A respected authority on Margaret River winemaking, Virginia has represented the region as presenter and panellist of numerous international media, trade conventions and masterclasses, in addition to being a sought-after regional wine show judge. She also served on the board of the Margaret River Wine Industry Association for several years.
Virginia has completed 27 vintages in Margaret River, and worked international vintages in Albania, Italy in Trentino, Sicily and Abruzzo as well as New Zealand.
BOUTIQUE APPROACH TO WINEMAKING
All wines are made and bottled within our modern winery situated at our Home Vineyard, enabling full quality control of every bottle.
Every parcel of fruit is kept separate from the time it is harvested, through its unique fermentation style and maturation, creating precise, site-expressive wines. This approach enables traceability back to each individual vineyard block. With this visability, the viticulturists and winemakers can work more effectively with the soil and vine structure to refine and improve quality, beginning in the vineyard.
Our winemaking philosophy is founded on the beliefs that great wines are made in the vineyard, must be authentic expressions of their place, and are the work of a great team of passionate people.
ESTATE GROWN, ESTATE BOTTLED
Our wines reflect the strengths of Margaret River, with a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, as well as Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blends. Each parcel of fruit is vinified with minimal intervention and bottled within our modern winery, situated at our Home Vineyard overlooking the Wilyabrup Brook.
Each vineyard is matched to the best possible varieties and clones, and farmed sustainably using traditional and organic practices. By nurturing our soils, we achieve better plant health and balance which leads to higher quality fruit. It’s a long game with great reward.
The Estate includes four distinct and exceptional vineyards and a modern winery and bottling facility.
FOUR SPECIALTY VINEYARDS
Vasse Felix has four distinct and exceptional vineyards located in selected sites throughout Margaret River, including the region’s oldest vineyard – our Home Vineyard in the Wilyabrup area. This vineyard collection grows fruit for the entire Vasse Felix wine family.
Each vineyard is matched to the best possible varieties and clones, and farmed sustainably using traditional and organic practices. By nurturing our soils, we achieve better plant health and balance which leads to higher quality fruit. We don’t use synthetic herbicides, fungicides, pesticides or fertilisers.
The varieties grown are Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
A constant focus on soil biology and environmental health is maintained in all vineyards. This is enhanced with Margaret River’s natural suitability to viticulture as a result of it’s climatic and environmental attributes.
Some examples from the environmental program include:
Natural Fertilisers A natural compost program is operated for recycling matter. This fertile mixture is used for topsoil enrichment.
Weed Control Sheep grazing of pastures at Carbunup vineyard throughout winter offers natural weed management.
Water Catchments The sole water supply for Vasse Felix comes from dams and rainwater tanks.