Top price but Wright blend steals show

IT’S pleasing to see a winemaker take sauvignon blanc seriously. Voyager Estate of Margaret River has done just that with a recently released 1996 sauvignon blanc-semillon.

A wine that triggers memories of those known as Graves, the fine dry-whites of Bordeaux.

Like the Graves, the Voyager white has a backbone of good semillon blended in – but equally important is the woodwork applied to this bottle-aged white.

The 1996 Tom Price-sauvignon blanc semillon has been nurtured in a forest of oak and crafted by winemaker Stuart Ryan.

This oak was carved from French forests and coopered in Bordeaux. Certainly, the wood influence on the wine is a major but balanced factor on this thought-provoking white. In fact, you will have tasted sauvignon blanc-semillon blends from Margaret River in number, some of which are distinctive and most wear the title “classic” on their label.

Forget all those wines when you approach the Tom Price for this wine is out of the square and shows a vastly different demeanour.

Align your expectations to a wood matured semillon or even chardonnay and your taste buds won’t be too surprised.

The wine is named after Tom Price – the place that provided the Wright family with iron ore royalties that financed the 300-hectare Voyager Estate.

Of Margaret River’s many stunning wine estates, Voyager is a standout property, a monument of no mean proportions boasting almost as many gardeners as viticulturists. The place would make any self-respecting South African ill with homesickness.

The Cape Dutch architecture sits among the Margaret River landscape as if it was always meant to be there, quietly working like a magnet to attract welcome visitors.

Flying above the property, a magnificent, monstrous sized vexillologist’s pride in the form of a state flag signals to all.

Voyager Estate was first planted in 1978 before Michael Wright took a fancy to it in 1991.

Coming from a farming background, the horticultural aspect was a drawcard and he became determined to make the estate a showpiece.

Surely he has found success. In fact, he has all but out done the flamboyance of his neighbours at Leeuwin Estate next door.

Michael’s initial move was to expand so he bought three adjoining properties, bringing the total area up to 300 hectares.

Differing from Leeuwin Estate’s policies, Voyager, expose their wines to the show-judging circuit and the results have been confirmation of the quality and direction of the Voyager range.

The Tom Price sauvignon blanc-semillon as something of a peccadillo of Michael Wright who wanted to recognise the Hancock-Wright iron deposit that has contributed so strongly to the fortunes of WA and his family.

The strength of this white has iron-like qualities and complexities way beyond anything I’ve tasted from a WA blend of these significant varieties.

Both types revel in the conditions of Margaret River but few are taken into the inner-sanctum of the oak room to ferment in barrel and be crafted into a multifaceted, super white that will live in your cellar for a decade.

This is a serious wine and the price confirms that. In the retail world in a beautiful presentation box you would pay just under $40.

Not to be ignored is the Voyager Estate semillon.

The cut grass and citrus character remind you to put down your glass and go mow the lawn and prune the lemon tree.

This is a terrific regional dry-white which has been quietly oak treated. You can buy some 1998 around the place and with the two years of bottle age this is a fine semillon showing a hint of maturity. Retail price just under $24.

Perhaps this short period of pre-drinking maturity and the gentle oak is the answer to making semillon sexier, though to me semillons already have nymph qualities.

Perfect, with warm summer salads, roast veal and the never-ending festive ham on the bone.

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