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Vasse Felix releases 2020 Tom Cullity

By J'aime Cardillo

3 May, 2024

Vasse Felix has released its 2020 Tom Cullity. It's just the eighth release of the Margaret River wine.

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Margaret River icon winery Vasse Felix has released its 2020 Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec. Only in its eighth release, the flagship wine has shot to fame, and it has never been scored under 96 points by the Halliday Tasting Team.

"This is the most passionate wine. It is the ultimate in great wines, because it's from a single site, it is a beautiful, naturally made wine that represents the vintage and the place. It speaks of geology, climate, people, culture, history, art – everything that humanity loves and depends on, this wine encompasses. And it's just one of those things that when great wines come together, it's why we love them, and why human beings love high-end wines," says chief winemaker Virginia Willcock.

Virginia WillcockChief winemaker Virginia Willcock.

When reflecting back on 2020, Virginia says that, outside of the pandemic, vintage didn't pose any threats. "Things were looking pretty dire for the world right before the Tom Cullity harvest." She says all casual workers returned home to their families. "We closed our restaurant and cellar door and all of our permanent staff came to work in the vineyard and winery because we had to keep making wine." The Tom Cullity blocks are some of the last blocks to be picked, and so the permanent team hand-harvested grapes to ensure Vasse Felix was able to see out vintage. 

"It pulled our team together... they got to see it from grapes through to wine. There's reflections of Covid where people find the shining light in a dark cloud, and for us this is one of them, because it brought the team together. It showed how strong we all were, and how much we loved being here and doing what we do."

Virginia says when it comes to drinking the 2020 Tom Cullity, it's ready to go. "It's pretty bloody delicious right now." But she also loves a 10-year-old cabernet. "I love to see them when they're old and tell even deeper, older stories. I wouldn't hesitate to drink Tom Cullity as a 30-year-old wine, but you don't want to miss an opportunity to taste it now, because it's outright gorgeous. It's a different wine. It is elegance, restraint and it's a gift that these vines give us."

Vasse Felix home vineyardThe Vasse Felix Home vineyard.

In the vineyard is chief viticulturist Bart Molony. Virginia says during vintage the two are in the vineyard every day, working out what they'll pick next and making sure the viticulture team and the winery team are both happy.

"We're kind of the mum and dad of vintage, and that means that we probably behave a little bit like mum and dad. There's the odd tension in trying to get things right, but there's always a beautiful resolve and a hug at the end."

Looking toward the future of the Tom Cullity, Virginia says she believes it will be one of the world's great wines, and one that drives the legacy of the Margaret River region. "We've got to keep maintaining these vines and maintain this property as part of the history and culture of the early days of Margaret River coming into the modern times. It's not a fashion wine, it's a wine of provenance and of place and history and culture."

Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2020

2020 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec Margaret River

Winemaker Virginia Willcock worries about her flagship wines leaving the fold, as in Heytesbury Chardonnay and Tom Cullity, released too young, she says. And while she’s right, anyone buying them knows time will reward the patient. It’s built for ageing, but I’m impatient, and this Tom Cullity is youthful but also complete. Malbec, off the original plantings, comprises 16 per cent of the blend; three per cent petit verdot, too, is fundamental to the shape and flavour profile. Dark-fruited, meaty, spicy, complex, roasted chicory accented, floral and beguiling. Fuller bodied with exceptional tannins, all textural, expansive and long, working in tandem with the acidity to a long finish. – Jane Faulkner, Halliday Wine Companion, 97 points

RRP $200 | Drink to 2040

Image credit: Vasse Felix.