Swinney: 2022 Reds and ‘23 Riesling

“Magical Wines”
Swinney: 2022 Reds and ‘23 Riesling
In the words of Rob Mann, vintage 2022 has delivered a suite of “magical reds”. The Swinney site is primed for success in any case, and the combination of cool region and warm season played into the hands of the late-ripening Rhône varieties. A heat spike around Christmas was coolly handled thanks to the three-dimensional canopy of the bush vines, while Swinney's innovative use of shade cloth on VSP-trained Shiraz ensured this variety coasted to ideal maturity. “They’re complex, powerful, interesting wines and there’s a real varietal delineation between them,” says Mann. “You combine that regionality—this sort of ferrous quality—with this opulent fruit character, and you’ve got pretty exciting wines from ’22.”
The sole white here comes from 2023. Swinney swims somewhat against the tide with Riesling, favouring savoury nuance and textural interest over linear fruit and austere acidity. From a cool, dry vintage like ’23, the Swinney way has reached new heights. It is pure yet subtle, complex and concentrated, with a signature dense, saline core. The 2022 was remarkably good; the 2023 is even better. 
The quality of viticulture and winemaking at Frankland River’s pre-eminent estate is well-established. In just a few years, Matt and Janelle Swinney, alongside Mann, have guided this estate to the top order of Australian wine, amassing broad critical acclaim along the way. This meteoric rise is founded on uncompromising and daring viticultural standards and a steadfast belief in the merits of their pursuit. With Rhys Thomas—Viticulturist of the Year in this year’s WA Good Food Awards—now bringing his fanatical focus to the vineyard, the bar is set to rise even higher. We have written at length about what makes this estate so important in the ongoing evolution of Australian wine, and we encourage you to read more about this here.

This release is another landmark. “Big fan of this,” commented Mike Bennie of the Mourvèdre as a slew of rave reviews emerged on The Wine Front. “Rugged in the best sense. Amazing tannin profile.” It's apt to describe any of the reds, while Bennie’s colleague Kasia Sobiesiak spoke volumes for the Swinney way in her evocation of the Riesling: “It’s more than a sum of aromas and flavours, it’s liquid energy!”

The Wines

Swinney Riesling 2023

Swinney Riesling 2023

Vintage 2023 is, in the words of Rob Mann, “really exciting”. Conditions were ideal; cool and dry, with no prolonged heat spikes. The only downside was below-average yields owing to the dry conditions. As he is wont to do, Mann finds the silver lining, telling us the reduced crop levels meant fruit clarity, freshness and acidities were preserved.

The first key to understanding Swinney’s Riesling style is to appreciate the farming. All blocks are organic and dry-farmed, the vines are cane-pruned and the row orientation is north to south. The team uses shade cloth in the Riesling blocks, protecting the bunches from excessive sun exposure and avoiding any roasted character in the fruit. Such precise vineyard management goes some way to explaining the wine’s purity and transparency.

The second key is in the cellar, where Rob Manns’s search for structure and texture reigns supreme. The fruit (from two of Swinney’s oldest blocks in the Powderbark vineyard) is whole bunch-pressed and fermented with indigenous yeast in stainless steel with a high component of solids. This approach “builds nuance and a saline core in the wine”, according to Mann. He’s not looking for austerity, rather he is seeking something more textural and aromatic with flavour complexity and a high degree of fruit purity. In this, he’s nailed it; if you thought the 2022 was good, just wait.

“Striking pale straw with green hues. The nose is intense and aromatic with Meyer lemon, honeysuckle, beeswax and oyster shell. The palate is medium bodied with lively, pithy citrus fruits of pomelo and lime in addition to lychee and green papaya, complemented by a spine of slaty acidity and a moreish, briny dry finish.” Swinney

“Happy lemons! Fresh lemonade, lemon slices with a sprinkle of sugar. A bright sunny day. No worries. It has a satin texture, like icing sugar made with, well, lemon juice. In other words, excellent balance of concentrated fruitiness and abundance of cool and smooth limey acidity. This drinks like a charm, it’s moreish, so positive it puts a smile on your face. A beam of sunlight, a cool drink in hand on a hot day. Melting in the mouth with a minty aftertaste and it’s feather-light too. It’s more than a sum of aromas and flavours, it’s liquid energy!”
96 points, Kasia Sobiesiak, The Wine Front
“Swinney Vineyard is a powerhouse of fine wine releases – no slouch from its 2023 Riesling here. While compact and racy, there's a distinct savoury element, salted cashew or similar, set under the frisky lime and green apple crunch of fruit flavours. Great stuff, complexity writ large. Perfume is pretty, floral, but distinctly gingery and lemony, too. Among everything is a fine powderiness to the texture with a crackling, long, refreshing, acid-driven finish. Seamless all up, and drinkability is wicked. Dive in in its inimitable youth.”
95 points, Mike Bennie, The Wine Companion
“A very good mid-weighted wine that packs flavor, structure and punch, without the hardness and brittle acidity that can often be the bane of dry Aussie riesling. Composed and tense, with the strong aura of agability embedded in its structural latticework. Scents of mandarin skin, barley water, pink grapefruit and preserved lemon. A skein of acidity, salty and maritime, tows impressive length. A juicy, pithy punctuation at the finish. Impressive. Drink or better, hold for eight to 12 years. Screw cap.”
94 points, Ned Goodwin MW, jamessuckling.com
“Very pale lemon and lime tints through the glass. Lime zest and talcum aromas. Light and fresh as enters the palate with bright lime and lemon zest notes. A little sweetness fills in bringing an appealing softness to the drive of acidity. Good length and precision to the finish.”
93 points, Stuart Knox, The Real Review
Swinney Riesling 2023
Swinney Grenache 2022

Swinney Grenache 2022

Back in the late 1990s Grenache was hardly known in Western Australia, let alone in the Great Southern. But with a love of top southern Rhône and Priorat wines, Matt Swinney had a hunch and planted the region’s first bush-vine Grenache vineyard. He did so with mass-selection cuttings from David Hohnen and gave his new vines pride of place on the Swinney site’s ironstone hilltops.

Fruit for the 2022 Swinney Grenache was handpicked from the well-established, dry-grown bush vines on the Wilsons Pool vineyard’s rich gravel/loam soils. In the vineyard, each vine was passed over multiple times, ensuring only perfect fruit was harvested. In the cellar, the fruit was destemmed and sorted berry by berry. Fermentation occurred with 15% whole bunches in a combination of small wooden fermenters and stainless-steel tanks. The wine spent two weeks on skins before being pressed to a 3600-litre seasoned French vat for 11 months’ maturation.

Having spent many years working towards it, Mann was delighted to finally have a large enough crop to conduct what he terms “a proper large-oak fermentation”. Combined with the dense core of flavour from the dry-grown bush vines, this practice highlights the lucidity and freshness that you find in Swinney’s Grenache fruit. Dark-fruited and spicy, with signature sinewy structure, Swinney is setting a new standard for Australian Grenache.

“Deep, lively crimson. Pure and energetic. Lavender, rolled tobacco, summer pudding and cinnamon. Medum- to full-bodied with intense raspberry compote, salted liquorice and fresh concrete. The wonderful acid spine carries the flavours and balance beautifully, and the tight-knit tannins provide the structure for a long and morish finish.” Swinney

"Fragrant, highly perfumed and thoroughly delightful opening of this bouquet. The fruit intensity is stunning especially when you consider the medium palate weight. It’s such a vibrant and pure expression of the vineyard with a distinct ironstone, grainy character evident. Lifted red rose petal fruits with a trace of raspberry brightness. A distinctly linear wine with a high chalky acidity. Love it."
96 points, rayjordanwine.com.au
“This is a return to form after the previous vintage, which I felt was a little charmless. A sturdy, full-weighted grenache that is far from the pinot-esque zeitgeist found in McLaren Vale. Here, more brawn, dark spice and tannic sinew. More Rhone-like, as effete as the comparison may be. In fact, it is the courageous tannins that build across a scape of kirsch, damson, dried sage, anise, and pickled orange zest, that serve as the wine's opus. A scruff of whole-bunch thyme and tapenade to conclude. This will make good older bones. A very sturdy grenache. Best after 2027. Screw cap.”
95 points, jamessuckling.com
“Distinctive wines from Frankland River. If I put my nose in the glass, and had to guess the grape variety, I’d maybe think it was Shiraz. Then again, I’m not very good at that sort of thing. Well, sometimes I am, but you know, modesty prevails (sometimes). Ripe raspberry, spice, floral perfume, black tea, liquorice and iodine. It’s fleshy and ferrous, ripe and quite earthy/bloody, with lavish crushed rock tannin, ginger biscuits, blood plum and orange peel, strewn with dried herbs and a closes with a firm dry chewy finish of excellent length. Distinctive wine. Very good.”
94 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
"The 2022 Grenache is red fruited and lusty, with really entrenched fleshy fruit characters on the nose, and this translates fluidly in the mouth, where you find blood and pastrami, raspberry pip, red licorice, layers of pomegranate and ironstone, iodine and rust. This is a superb wine; it feels vast and open, rich and fresh. You can't fake this kind of fruit intensity; it's either in the vineyard, or it's not. And here, it is. 13.8% alcohol, sealed under screw cap."
96 points, Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate
Swinney Grenache 2022
Swinney Mourvedre 2022

Swinney Mourvedre 2022

The positive results of Swinney’s meticulous viticulture are, perhaps, felt most strongly in the Mourvèdre. Just a few years ago, Rob Mann was utilising this fruit in Swinney’s Mourvèdre Syrah Grenache bottling. Such was the quality that it became harder and harder to dilute this fruit, and last year the team took the plunge and bottled a straight Mourvèdre. Syrah (6%) and Grenache (4%) make a reappearance in 2022, but it’s very much in a supporting role—this is still the Mourvèdre show.

Swinney’s Mourvèdre is drawn from dry-grown bush vines on the Wilsons Pool vineyard which was planted in the early 2000s and has rich gravel/loam soils. The fruit for the 2022 was hand-picked over two days to optimise flavour and tannin maturity, then berry sorted and transferred to a single stainless-steel fermenter via gravity. A well-judged 20% whole-bunch portion was incorporated to highlight the “distinctive ferrous qualities, fine structure and wild spice” of the variety. This release spent 11 days on skins before being pressed to fine-grained, large-format French oak where it matured for 11 months.

Mann finds a real synergy with Mourvèdre in a cool region and a warm season. Working with the conditions, he picked earlier than the previous year, preserving freshness, vibrancy and mid-weight appeal. According to Mann, Swinney’s Mourvèdre is the wine that best expresses the site’s signature ferrous, rusty nail character; a trait this winemaker values and pursues in all his reds. The fruit shows beautiful white pepper spice, a wild edge, savoury depth and textural richness.

“Deep magenta with purple hues. Wild fruits with an intoxicating mix of pomegranate, strawberries and satsuma plums mixed with some white pepper and cassia bark. Medium- to full-bodied with lashings of red and blue fruits. Sizzling venison and Chinese five spice complexity, finishing with a chalky, savoury, and finely detailed tannin structure.” Swinney

“Hoo ah! Here’s a wild wine of emphatic personality. Blue fruit, white pepper and exotic spice, but also bloody and ferrous too. I’m thinking blood plum, dried orange peel offering a pleasingly biter cinch, chalky and chewy, so much dried herb and liquorice-laced meaty spicy goodness, smudgy and ashen, but kind of vibrant too, with a meaty/grainy/sappy finish of excellent length. A terrific expression of Mataro.”
95 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
“Superlative mourvèdre and certainly the leading light for the variety in Australia. Briny, chewy and gorgeous in its savory guise, this is a powerful expression bound to such a taut tannic fabric, underlain by spice and a tuft of dried herb, that there is not for a moment any excess of sweet fruit. Lots of chomp, depth and layers, oozing tapenade, saddle leather, sweet loamy earth, martini brine, menthol and violet notes, with raspberry bon-bon lurking. A wonderful wine deserving of serious praise and cellar time. Best after 2028. Screw cap.”
95 points, Ned Goodwin MW, jamessuckling.com
“This is a variety that is finding a safe, comfortable home in Frankland River. Lovely perfumed red fruits on the nose displaying a slightly earthy, dusty raspberry and light plummy character. The palate is soft and supple. It’s medium weight with a fine chalky ironstone thing treading through the palate. The cradle of tannins and fine oak, together with natural fruit energy holds a focussed long finish.”
95 points, rayjordanwine.com.au
"I'm such a big fan of this wine. As a variety, Mourvèdre can be a bit of a fickle beast in that it leans easily and readily into big, fleshy, earthy, purple fruited characters. It has the propensity for bolshiness. Yet in Frankland River and in the hands of Rob Mann at Swinney, Mourvèdre feels bright, exciting, fleshy, bloody, mineral, fine ... all the good things. Frankland is just so well suited to the variety, in my opinion. So, to the wine, this 2022 Mourvèdre leads with pink peppercorns, salted licorice, fresh blood and black pudding, mulberry, freshly turned earth and sea salt. The wine is mineral and almost steely, far finer and brighter even than the nose would suggest. This is a really exciting wine here. 14% alcohol, sealed under screw cap."
94 points, Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate
Swinney Mourvedre 2022
Swinney Syrah 2022

Swinney Syrah 2022

Over the years, Rob Mann has been steadily increasing his use of whole bunch in his red wines. This is especially true for his Syrah. By now you will know that this is a vigneron that seeks freshness, spice and structure in his reds—features he finds heightened in Syrah through careful use of whole bunches.

Swinney’s 2022 Syrah was hand-harvested from select parcels planted to a range of clones, including 470, Waldron and Jack Mann’s heritage mass-selection Syrah. Unlike the Grenache and Mourvèdre, the Syrah is trellised—although there are plans afoot for some single-stake Syrah in the future. In the warmer conditions of 2022, Swinney’s shade cloth played a pivotal role, creating soft, mottled light to protect the skins and lower the temperature in the bunch zone as well as preserving freshness, spice and varietal and regional typicity in the fruit.

In the winery, the berries were sorted and emptied into small wooden and stainless-steel fermenters via gravity. A well-integrated 28% whole-bunch component was included to build structure and texture, providing a robust frame for the lustrous Shiraz fruit. The 2022 spent 12 days on skins before being pressed directly to fine-grained, 600-litre demi-muids (7% new) for 11 months.

“Inky crimson-purple colour. Dark spice and brooding intensity with mulberry, Chinese five spice and squid ink. Medium- to full-bodied with saturated blueberry, satsuma plum and black pepper. Incredibly youthful and expressive with layers of flavour and texture underpinned by a fleshy, mouthcoating tannin structure carrying the fruit and spice into an enduring finish.” Swinney

“I looked at this over the course of 24 hours and fair to say that it transformed remarkably over that time. I wasn’t much of a fan on day one, so much so that I asked Gary to take a glance at it as well, which resulted in him using the descriptor “blood lip”, which was not only evocative, but deadly accurate. Blood lip. This wine tastes of blood and rust and iron. It’s a medium weight wine, smoky, meaty, sweet with roasted nut characters, peppery through the tannin as much as through the fruit, juiced with plum and red cherry but, as mentioned, bloody with it, ferrous, rusty, distinctive. It’s a dry wine, almost drying, but yet lengthy, and complex in shape as much as in flavour. In truth I disliked this wine, and then loved it. I’m not sure how that’s possible for the one same wine, but over the course of a day it was. As a result I’m recommending this wine, I think it’s excellent, but I’m also suggesting that it be given a decent-length decant.”
94 points, Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
“This is part of a triumvirate of wines that showcases the vineyard and winemaking that have crafted these super wines. This is not your fruit bomb Aussie shiraz. This is syrah and there is more than a little Old World style here. The fruit shows an almost luminosity that bursts from the glass. The palate picks up the vineyard characters with its ironstone gravelly rusty characters complementing the bright red fruits. You sense vineyard here with a deft touch of the winemaker simply coaxing a little more out of it.”
96 points, rayjordanwine.com.au
“A fine, mid-weighted syrah, reeling off scents of charcuterie, peony, lilac, clove and blue-fruit allusions, set in relief against a noble structural edifice. The tannins, often the masterstroke at this address, placate and suppress any stray fruit sweetness. Lovely strident tannins, doused in mace. Another wine to bury in the cellar for eight years or more, although drinkable now with a brisk decant. Screw cap.”
94 points, Ned Goodwin MW, jamessuckling.com
"The 2022 Syrah brings together a beautiful confluence of a lovely vineyard and a great season. Aromatically, we see sweet balsamic, blackberry, licorice, forest fruits, tea, steel, iodine and alpine herbs. This is a super wine, and I haven't even tasted it yet. On the palate, the wine is fresh and powerful. The tannins are pronounced but chewy and enlivening, with blood orange, saffron, a hint of sandalwood and blackberry. This is a really wonderful wine here, with the classic Frankland River splay of ferruginous tannin, rust and blood. It's super. Decant it; it will only get better, more svelte. 13.9% alcohol, sealed under screw cap."
95 points, Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate
Swinney Syrah 2022

“Winemaker Rob Mann, since his return from Newton Vineyards in the Napa Valley in 2018, has ushered in a new era of success for the vineyard, with his experience, his seemingly irrepressible ability to coax perfectly ripe, ductile tannins from the vineyard and his unwavering belief that great wine is made in the vineyard.” Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate

“There is a very bright future for Matt [Swinney] and Rob [Mann], and I have a feeling that these wines will gain a cult following in the UK just as they have in Australia, where many of these wines are sold on allocation only.” Matthew Jukes

“Swinney is the complete package.” Max Allen

“One of Australia’s finest versions of the [Grenache] variety, born of excellent farming and a unique place.” Mike Bennie

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