“... Michael (Wright) has never done things by halves, and has had the financial resources to turn Voyager Estate into one of the best vineyards and wineries in the region..”***** Outstanding Winery, James Halliday, 2015 Australian Wine Companion
This impeccably run Estate crafts a set of wines that ooze style and class. Even better, the quality just keeps getting better and better, reflecting the continual evolution in the vineyard and winery. It was Michael Wright who immaculately built this property into the beacon it has become today. While Voyager's founder and visionary sadly passed away in 2012, he left a powerful legacy of an absolute commitment to quality that today pervades every corner of Voyager. The Estate remains family owned, with Michael’s daughter, Alex Burt (nee Wright), matching her father's fanatical attention to detail with an environmental conscience that has opened another important chapter in the history of this Estate.
The Voyager vineyard (oldest vines 1978) lies in the cool micro-climate of Stevens Valley within the greater Wallcliffe sub region of the Margaret River (also home to Leeuwin and Cape Mentelle). It is this location that is paramount to understanding the Voyager wines’ style and quality. Long regarded as key sub region for the finest Margaret River Chardonnay it is also capable of producing much finer and fresher Cabernet than the sub regions further north. The geology here is amongst the oldest in Australia and the gravel soils (free draining with a high mineral content), aspect and consistent maritime influence make up the foundations of Voyager's perfumed, elegantly-proportioned wines.
It's one thing to have a great patch of gravel, quite another to make the finest quality wine from it. Steve James, a Voyager veteran of some 15 tours-of-duty looks after both the wine production and the vineyards with the same kind of exactitude and intuition that he became renowned for in his previous capacity as viticulturist. It’s interesting to point out that Steve’s title is “Manager of Winemaking & Viticulture” a role that sees him bring together both key elements of the production team. This is a significant evolution from the previous (and typical) set up of having a chief winemaker and a viticulturist and has already led to some significant, quality driven changes being implemented. There has been extensive soil profiling across the Estate in order to match the correct variety or clone to the correct soil. There are specific clones matched to appropriate soil types and each plot of soil is micro-managed with specific viticulture and harvest dates, with the fruit of each parcel fermented separately. All of the fruit for the top wines are hand harvested (far from typical practise in the Margaret River).
The Estate follows a “balanced and sustainable” form of viticulture drawing on many organic principals with organic composts and seaweed extracts now replacing commercial fertilizer. James’ meticulous approach is also evident in the winery where he is aptly aided by winemaker and winery manager Travis Lemm. The emphasis is on using nature when possible and only making use of technology where it aids quality. Recently a state-of-the-art sorting table (a rarity in Australia) has been brought in to further refine fruit selection alongside a high-precision peristaltic pump, in order to move the wines around as delicately as possible. This latter is the same the kind of technology used to circulate the blood during bypass surgery. These are just a few of the many clues as to why the wines here transcend the more excessive, showy style that can come out of 'the River'. At their best, these are wines of remarkable finesse and elegance and offer a clarity and precision that we really admire.
The Wines The two marquee wines, the Chardonnay and the Cabernet/Merlot are both rightly critically feted as amongst the regions benchmarks. The Chardonnay has all the presence, elegance and purity of fruit that has made Margaret River Chardonnay renowned. In particular it reflects the cooler climate of the Wallcliffe subregion (or to be precise in this case, Stevens Valley) and it’s pre-eminence as the Margaret’s finest Chardonnay zone. It's worth noting that this wine has progressed significantly and become even finer in recent times thanks to the evolution of both viti and vinicultural work hinted at above. Since the watershed 2001 release Voyager Cabernet/Merlot continues to go from strength to strength. Based on fruit from the 35-year-old Estate block with the addition of some fruit from the precocious and exciting Block 12 and a smidge of Willy Merlot and Cabernet this is distinguished Margaret River at its finest. There is an intensity matched with a wonderful coolness and that classic bay leaf sappiness that makes this wine very special and very, very drinkable. The more recent introduction of the deuxième Cab/Merlot, Girt By Sea, offers the drinker a glimpse of the class and balance of the top wine, at a fraction of the cost. Perhaps the surprise package, Voyager's Shiraz typically shows intense, pristine plummy fruit and ripe silky tannins. If you have been underwhelmed by this grape's Margaret River performance in the past, then you really need to try this wine. The quality is only getting better too as Voyager’s clonal work comes on line. Voyager also produces one of the most popular and well-made examples of Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc. Lower than average yields and a percentage of barrel ferment and lees work lend this wine a creamy depth to offset it's mouth-wateringly taut, zingy spine. There is also a Chenin Blanc with a cult following that, while bearing little stylistic resemblance to the Chenin's of northern France, is a terrifically fun, freshly-fruited alternative to the generic Sauvignon Blancs that proliferate on the market.