Devil’s Lair New Releases (plus one not so new)

“Since 1981 when Devil’s Lair was established, the viticultural team, under the guiding hand of Simon Robertson, has overseen a site that is visually understated, yet stunning, with a varied landscape of undulating slopes, blanketed by vines and vegetation, supported by the cool, maritime climate of Margaret River. With a keen sense of the idiosyncrasies of each block, the microclimates within the estate and the ways in which each and every vine responds in different conditions, Simon brings a sense of continuity with what was originally envisaged, what Devil’s Lair has become and what the future holds.” (devils-lair.com.au)

Devil’s Lair Hidden Cave Chardonnay, 2017

“Fruit sourced from Southern Margs.  Fruit forward, generous.  More Gin Gin clone in the blend.  Tight and closed at the moment.  Pink grapefruit, white peach, yellow peach.  It’s elegant.  Bright and fresh – great value! Lovely structure.  Wine is put through 50% malo – looking for phenolics and lees complexity.”

91 points, $20RRP

Devil’s Lair Dance With The Devil Chardonnay, 2017

“Described as ‘a winemakers playground’, by winemaker Ben Miller.  100% barrel fermented with wild yeasts, higher solids content than the Hidden Cave, the wine spends 6 months in 30% new French oak, the rest goes into one and two year old barrels.  There is cashew, grilled almonds, bruleed yellow peach, it is complex and layered.  Softer and more rounded than the Hidden Cave. Impressive length. The intensity of fruit is very good.”

92 points and $25-30RRP

Devil’s Lair Chardonnay, Margaret River, 2016

“The nose here is far more restrained.  Finesse, concentration, length, texture.  50/50 Gin Gin/Davis clone (the Davis component ‘grown like a sparkling cropped 9T to the hectare’).  There is a focus in the vineyard on maintaining thick skins for texture and concentration.  That is certainly evident in the wine.  This spends 9 months in French oak, and 50% of it goes through malolactic fermentation, so the texture and feel is at once creamy and bright. 2016 was another great chardonnay vintage in Margaret River: the more I see of it the more I like.  This was no exception.”

94 points, $50RRP

Devil’s Lair 9th Chamber Chardonnay, Margaret River, 2015

“Well.  This beautiful wine is all concentration, steely finesse, elegance and power.  The fourth release of this wine (I discuss the 2011 further on), it, like the cabernet, is just the ten best barrels of the vintage.  If there is a particularly strong vintage, Ben Miller does not opt to increase production of the 9th Chamber wines, instead more great wine flows down the hierarchy.  Hurrah to there being so many great vintages! White peach, pepper, pink grapefruit, toasted cashew, and grilled yellow peach.  On the palate it is all lemon zest, sea salt, a fine but definite chalky texture, and great great great length of flavour.  Rich, but restrained.  A wonderful wine.  If the 2011 is anything to go by, it will age tremendously.”

96 points, $100RRP

 Devil’s Lair Hidden Cave Cabernet Shiraz, 2014

“This is silky and bright.  A lovely example of cool climate elegance.  There is a hint of jolly on the palate, accompanied by fine tannins.  The shiraz is from Southern Margs.  A medium bodied, bright and perfumed style.”

91 points, $20RRP

Devil’s Lair Dance With The Devil Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016

“Dusty, earthy, lovely Margaret River fruit on the nose.  Cassis and wild raspberry.  4% Malbec with some Cab Frabc (3%).  The wine is matured in large oak demi-muids (600L barrels).  Magnificent wine.  Exceptional value for money.  Captures the life and elegance of Margaret River cabernet.”  93 points, $25-30RRP

Devil’s Lair Cabernet, Margaret River, 2014

“2014 really has come out of the docks as an elegant, classic, cabernet vintage in Margaret River.  I am very happy here.  This is medium bodied and elegant, but it is also powerful and well structured.  The tannins are silky, but they’re grippy.  This has a desperately satisfying chewiness about it.  I love this.  The fruit is not overwhelmed by oak, it’s all about the tannins drawing out the finish.  It is red-fruited.  It’s all about freshness and balance.  Sarsaparilla, black cherry, pomegranate, raspberry and cassis.  10 days on skins, pressed in separate batches – no fining – blended back together.  16 months in French oak.  The fruit for the estate range is estate owned.  In this case, sourced from 3 vineyards in Wilyabrup.  A truly lovely wine.  The most temptingly drinkable of the reds, now.”

95 points $50RRP

Devil’s Lair 9th Chamber Cabernet, 2013

“The nose is very closed right now, but the power and concentration is evident here.  18 months in 100% new oak. 250 cases only. This is only the second ever release of this wine.  The juice spent 6 weeks on skins to develop tannin and colour, and it has both in spades.  The 10 best barrels to make up this wine are selected 18 months later – all from one vineyard too.  Resinous/charry oak.  It is built for longevity.  It is intense and concentrated.  Honestly, today I would be drinking the estate.  In ten, or fifteen, or twenty years, this will be where I’m heading.”

94+ points, $120 RRP


Devil’s Lair 9th Chamber Chardonnay, Margaret River 2011

“I opened this last night* for two reasons: 1) I was curious, after seeing all the wines above, I wanted to see how this guy was travelling; 2) I had a chardonnay thirsty friend coming round for dinner and I didn’t want to disappoint.  Boy, did it not.  On opening, this was pure concentration.  We’re talking ripe lemon juice, yellow peach, red apple skins, a touch of bitterness in line with pink grapefruit, and the kind of concentration of flavour and acidity that comes from a juicy mid-summer mango.  There was brine laced through every last morsel of fruit, and the length just kept going.  It was pure deliciousness.  There was even hints of the ol’ curry leaf and white pepper that I search for in great chardonnay.  I just loved it.  Plenty of minerality and finesse, a truly great wine.  Went down a treat.” 97+ points

 

If the ’15 heads in this direction I will be very happy.  Not surprised of course – 2015 was a great year.  In my book, 7 years is about right age to drink chardonnay.  It has complexity from its age, but it is still overwhelmingly bright.  I feel the richness of chardonnay is such a delicate balance that I don’t like to see tipped over the edge of youth… and here, it was still blushing.

 

*The label is badly damaged because it has been in the back of my Vintec – but seeing as it is quality glass it is fatter than the other bottles, and cops a beating between shelves.  A bit irritating for accessibility, and not great if I am hoping to present the bottle in the best light, but it tells a story, so I’m ok with it.

South by South West, Viognier Chardonnay 2017

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South by South West, Viognier Chardonnay, Margaret River, 2017

“Green apricot, lemon, orange blossom.  Something good and tart like cream cheese frosting.  White pepper, white peach, green mango, kiwi fruit and green apple.  The palate has epic bright acidity from the chardonnay, and richness from the viognier (not that the Margs chard doesn’t contribute its own whack of weight, concentration and drive).  Here, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Thoroughly enjoyable and textural.  I can’t remember the last time I looked at a viog/chard.  Interesting that the less popular (but previously stated “cool”) viognier is listed first on the label before chardonnay: perhaps a pointed effort to set itself apart from the crowd – there is a lot of MR chardonnay on the shelves.  A good move.  Lovely low alc at 12.8%.  YES.” $48, and 94+ points

Relevant winemaking information summed up perfectly on their website:

“The Carbunup Chardonnay was de-stemmed, pressed, inoculated, and went through both a primary and secondary (malolactic) fermentation in charry toasted new French oak. This juice was matured on yeast lees and with regular bâttonage for 6-8 weeks to enhance mouth feel and complexity, then aged for 6 months.

The Wilyabrup Viognier was inoculated with the same Burgundian yeast strain in a stainless steel tank and, once the Chardonnay completed the secondary fermentation, blended together in equal portions into a barrel. With a naturally higher sulphur level present in the Viognier, blending the Chardonnay that underwent Malolactic fermentation was a perfect match.”

 

2014 Vasse Felix ‘Tom Cullity’, Margaret River

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2014 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity, Margaret River

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot

(Slightly more Cab than the 2013, less Malbec, the same PV)

100% basket pressed / 100% whole berry ferment / 100% wild yeast / 24 days on skins / French oak barriques 62% new, 38% 1-4 year old, 18 months / Unfined

“The red fruits shine here.  This is incredible.  Raspberry, pomegranate, red apple skins, pink peppercorns, hints of strawberry, blackcurrant, mulberry, seaweed/nori (an injection of iodine, beetroot).  The tannins are polished, like whipped egg white: chewy and sumptuous.  The flavours extend through the palate and into the length.  Very very long.  I can write long after it is gone.  Alive.  Energy.  Doesn’t want to finish, it doesn’t want to let go.  It lingers.  Great depth of flavour.  Effortlessly long.  In fact… it needs the extra linger time just to make sure its covered all of its flavours and textures.  Super fine, powerful, long, structured and delicate.  Perfect.” 

If this represents where Margaret River has come to, then we are indeed in a magnificent place.  

To put this into perspective: Margaret River vintage charts are pretty bland – the range is very good to exceptional.  There are ‘typical’ years, ‘plush’ years’, ‘leaner’ years, ‘warmer’ years… but they’re all good.  They all age prodigiously.  The 86’s are still alive and kicking: not bad for a wine region which at the time, was trailblazing towards a brave new wine world.  In 2017, Margaret River celebrated its 50th year, and along with it, Vasse Felix, it’s 50th vintage.  2018 sees the release of the 2014 Tom Cullity.  Perhaps one of the best cabernets to come out of Australia. Perfect.  99 points (or 19.5pts).

 

“A single-vineyard evolution of the estate’s previous icon red, the HEYTESBURY, named in recognition of our founder – Dr Tom Cullity.  It descends from his original vines and is the pinnacle of Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon”