28/03/2006 - 21:00

Swan Valley legend offers its first commercial vintage

28/03/2006 - 21:00

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Dennis Yagmich is able to trace grape growing and wine production in his family as far back as the 15th century.

Swan Valley legend offers its first commercial vintage

There is something old and something new about the Swan Valley’s latest producer Yagmich Estate.

New because the soon to be released 2005 shiraz marks the first commercial vintage for the small family owned winery but old in that the Yagmich family has been part of the Swan Valley for more than 80 years.

The Yagmich family, like many Croatian immigrants, were instrumental in laying the foundations for the Swan Valley winemaking tradition. The passion for viticulture they brought with them to Australia in the early 1900s quickly took up root in the fertile soils of the Swan Valley where many chose to settle.

The Yagmich family, like the Talijancich, Kosovich and other families, were at the beginning of the wine industry in Western Australia. Their sacrifices, vision and passion for winemaking continue to directly influence Swan Valley winemaking techniques and practices.

And as with many wine traditions in the Valley, once you scratch the surface of the Yagmich story, there is a wealth of tradition behind this new brand.

Dennis Yagmich is proprietor of the Yagmich Estate. He is an ex-state and World Series Cup cricket player who later was instrumental in setting up the annual Lilac Hill cricket match.

But before all that he learnt to play cricket on Jack Mann’s veranda with Tony Mann and the other boys. His father had purchased 22 acres next door to the Houghton property in 1947 but the land had previous belonged to the family in the early part of the century.

So while a small patch of land would eventually produce two world-class cricketers, it also would have something to offer the wine industry.

Dorham Mann, who didn’t pursue a cricketing career, went to Roseworthy College and eventually took over the reigns from his father Jack. And Mr Yagmich, returned to the family property in the 1970s to begin commercial viticulture.

Mr Yagmich is able to trace grape growing and wine production in his family as far back as the 15th century. It was a rich tradition his grandfather, Jakov brought with him to Western Australia in 1920 when he arrived from Croatia. His father, Ned, set about forging his own chapter with the purchase of the Middle Swan property and its supplement development into a successful viticulture enterprise.

Production of grapes for commercial viticulture began in earnest in 1970s both as a way to supplement the family income as well as to maintain precious cultural links with a family tradition of winemaking.

Since then, the Yagmich grapes have been on-sold to leading Swan Valley wine producers as well as winemakers from across the state.

But the decision to cross the increasingly dangerous precipice between grower and producer was largely fuelled by the sad passing of Ned Yagmich in October last year.

So with a backdrop of 86 years of heritage, the Yagmich first commercial vintage became something of a tribute to Ned Yagmich, a man of indomitable spirit, who continued to toil in his vineyard despite ill health, until the end. “The wine is really a testament to him and an acknowledgement of all his hard work and sacrifice. It is the end product of his work that he never saw brought to fruition,” Mr Yagmich said.

The wine, which has a similar cultural impetus behind it as Houghton’s Jack Mann cabernet blend, comes at a time when the community is getting to a stage where those generations who can remember first hand the beginnings of the Swan Valley’s wine tradition, are starting to vanish.

So wines like this, which remind those who drink them of the rich history of the valley, are of increasing importance.

 This aside, the wine is made in a distinctly Swan Valley manner. Made from shiraz, it is fast becoming something of an iconic variety for the valley for its ability to grow well on clay soils and sandy gravel.

Beginning with a most attractive colour of ruby red, this medium bodied wine has a palate rich in fruit flavours of ripe berries and plums, a secondary oak influence imparts structure and finesse.

The wine uses grapes grown exclusively at the family-owned and operated vineyard and has been made by Julie Wright from the Jane Brook Winery, who is also credited by many for turning around the fortunes of the winery.

The decision of which contract winemaker to choose is also quickly becoming a prohibitive factor for many would-be wine producers with the decision of indescribable importance.

“I was very conscious of getting the right winemaker,” Mr Yagmich said. “Someone who understands progression in wine. And I think Julie is someone who is attune to making wine for modern-day palates.”

And as for entering into the crowded market of wine producers, with such an extensive background to the local wine industry, no one could accuse Mr Yagmich of going in unawares.

“We are a small scale winery, something I think the Swan Valley does best. But there is a lot of competition out there, marketing your wine is the biggest problem for new producers,” Mr Yagmich said.

“But I think we are slowly getting away from the stigma of the Swan Valley being only a fortified wine producing region. More care is now being taken with the wines being made here”.

The 2005 Yagmich Estate Shiraz is a limited release and there are plans to follow it with a 2006 white, either chenin or semillon.

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