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Sunday 28 August 2016

Voyager Estate shows extreme bravery

It takes tremendous chutzpah - and belief in your own product - to do what Margaret River winery Voyager Estate does each year with its Masterclass roadshow. 

The Voyager Estate winemaking team of Steve James and Travis Lemm selects four or five benchmark chardonnays and cabernets from around the globe - and then visits Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane inviting sommeliers, wine buyers and journalists to taste them in a blind line-up alongside several Voyager wines. 

The Voyager team could be on a hiding to nothing choosing big names like Hubert Lamy from Burgundy, Neudorf from New Zealand and Hamilton Russell from South Africa in the chardonnay line-up and Bordeaux's Cos d'Estournel and Tuscany's Ornellaia in the cabernet bracket along with a couple of crack Californians.

Given some of the big names retail for five or six times the price of the Voyager wines across the estate, block and Tom Price ranges, there was always the danger they could blow the Margaret River wines out the water. 

Fortunately for Voyager, their wines stood up to the challenge in both brackets I tasted at Supernormal in Melbourne, with at least one Voyager wine finishing in the top three in both categories.

The statement was successfully made: the Voyager wines are good enough to match it with some of the best in the world - and certainly offer superb value on a global stage.

The late mining magnate Michael Wright, who purchased Voyager Estate 25 years ago, would doubtless be proud of the quality now being produced. Wright was a teetotaller, but a stickler for excellence. 

Voyage Estate now produces around 40,000 cases of wine a year and exports around the world. 

Here are my favourites from this year's Melbourne tasting: 


1. Flowers 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. $80. For more restrained than many Californian chardonnays, this is tight, minerally and delicious. 
2. Neudorf 2014 Moutere Chardonnay. $68. Elegant but with underlying power, this organic, dry-grown wine is beautifully balanced. 
3. Voyager Estate 2014 Broadvale Block 5 Chardonnay. $65. Pure, ripe fruit to the fore with an intense flinty backbone. Matched superbly with a post-tasting Supernormal lobster roll.


1. Woodlands 2012 "Thomas" Cabernet Sauvignon. $150. From a friendly neighbour of Voyager, this was dark, inky and powerful but intriguingly restrained. One for the cellar.
2. Chateau Cos d'Estournel 2012. $365. One for lovers of leaner-style Bordeauxs; I found this fine and well balanced. Others thought it too green. 
3=. Ornellaia 2012. $290. With attractive fruit and savoury notes, this blend of four varieties has big oak but handles it well. Unmistakably Italian with a bit of swagger. 
3=. Voyager Estate 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. $70. Fresh and vibrant fruit rules on a palate that is plush and approachable. Drinking well in its youth. 

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