An easy day-trip out of Perth is the first inland settled town in Western Australia – York. The cute country town in amongst the green rolling hills is a mere 100km from Perth city. It was my first visit to York since moving to WA and I was pleasantly surprised to see signs throughout the town saying “York Wines”.
After some quick research I found out that York Wines is in fact the first commercial boutique vineyard and winery in the Avon Valley The vineyard is about 8kms out-of-town nestled in a secluded valley – the further you drive, the further any city stress seems to be.
The small vineyard grows mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grape varieties. What is unique about York Wines is that they are dry grown vines. This simply means they use no irrigation (they rely on the rain only, which I presume could be a bit stressful since they are located in WA) and no chemicals (they don’t spray anything on the vines). Alongside these practices the married couple behind the winery also use no preservatives in their wine and leave itunfiltered resulting in pretty much ‘a la natural’ wines.
What is also cool about York Wines is that they do everything on the property themselves and literally everything is done in the shed where their cellar door is housed. You can have a good look around at the equipment used and if you ask nicely you can see the barrel room as well as where the bottles are hand labeled and finished off ready for purchase.
The couple behind these friendly ‘naked’ wines is Mick and Jeni Delich who established the vineyard in 1998. Their first vintage release was in 2002. They handpick the grapes, make the wine, bottle the wine, label it all themselves and of course sell it through the cellar door.
They were originally producing 5,000 bottles per year however the 2009 and 2010 vintages were a lot bigger and they began producing 8-9,000 bottles.
The vineyard itself is 6.5acres and alongside the grapes mentioned above they also dabble in growing some Grenache. The Grenache is always late picked so it has higher sugar content.
What I really had to ask when I was chatting with Jeni, was whether or not preservative free wine can age at all? She explained to me that yes they can in fact and what I tried during my visit was actually 2009 and 2010 wines, so they themselves are quite old for this type of wine. This sort of natural wine will last for a maximum of around 4 years and then it will head south. Better for cooking with once it gets to this point.
On the topic of being unfiltered (i.e. not using any byproducts like egg whites, peanuts and fish products) Jeni said she would recommend decanting all their wines as you may find sediment in the bottles.
In terms of aging the wines, York Wines use a range of mediums from stainless steel tanks to American oak and also Croatian oak, which I found rather interesting.
In terms of quality Jeni said she still believes French oak is the best but that Croatian oak is not a bad substitute. I asked why they used Croatian oak and basically it came down to a supplier that lives nearby who actually supplies to a lot of the wineries in the Swan Valley as well. Jeni explained that it is something different and it gives your wines a different dimension. I like to think of it as something new for a wine drinker to experience.
Now let’s get onto the wines. They have 7 reds under their belt these range from full-bodied down to a light-fruity red which is a rose style and Jeni suggested that it is lovely chilled on a summer’s day.
So for my tasting experience I started with the 2009 straight Shiraz produced in stainless steel – I have to admit it wasn’t a favorite. Rather green and harsh on the palate. Next up I moved onto the 2009 aged in Croatian oak, which was 10 times smoother, and I could really pick up on those typical fruit and black pepper flavours of Shiraz coming through. Next up I moved onto the 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. I was just about to chuck it straight away when I smelt it’s nail polish remover aroma however the palate was the complete opposite, full of voluptuous sweet fruits. Basically ribena with tannins. Not my cup of tea but I know a few people who will love it.
During my chat with Jeni I also found out that they are actually selling the property, which is rather sad to hear. 2010 was in fact their last vintage however they do hope once the property is sold that the new owners will continue to run York Wines instead of letting it phase out. I hope so too!
To be honest for nearly $30 a bottle, the style didn’t really suit me. However I can image that they would be wonderful wines for people who have allergies (getting flushed from drinking wine), asthmatics, cancer treatment patients, vegans and celiacs due to their natural style.
I would definitely recommend paying York Wines a visit if you’re in the area. It is great to see a completely different approach to winemaking. For further details, please check their website by clicking here.