Stellar Suckfizzle

Stella Bella/Suckfizzle winemaker Luke Joliffe. (Photo: Stella Bella Wines)

‘Rabelaisian’ is an adjective that means raucous, ribald, bawdy, even debauched. It probably owes as much of its inspiration to Rabelais’s character the Great Lord Suckfizzle as to the writer himself.

Merriam-Webster says Rabelaisian describes someone or something that is “marked by gross robust humour, extravagance of caricature, or bold naturalism”.

The vineyard was planted in 1988 and Stella Bella has a long-term lease on the property. The first Suckfizzle vintage was 2008.

Suckfizzle, a sub-brand of Margaret River winery Stella Bella, is pretty tame in comparison. Perhaps it all depends on how you use the product.

Suckfizzle has for some time been a flagship brand of Stella Bella; what was less understood is that it’s always been a single-vineyard wine. Moreover, that vineyard is located at Augusta, which is as far south in the Margaret River region as you can get without floating off towards Antarctica. The vineyard is actually in the Augusta township.

Winemaker Luke Joliffe explains that it’s much cooler down there than in northern and central Margaret River. Indeed, there’s a four to five-degree difference in maximum January temperatures between Augusta and Wilyabrup.

“The maximums are lower but the minimums are higher, because of the mass of water in the Blackwood River estuary,” he says. “It’s two degrees warmer at night.”

The vineyard was planted in 1988 and Stella Bella has a long-term lease on the property. The first Suckfizzle vintage was 2008.

Suckfizzle has consistently produced a sauvignon blanc semillon blend (the 2015 is about to be released at AUD $40), and an occasional cabernet sauvignon, but this year for the first time there’s a Suckfizzle Chardonnay: the 2017 will be released on November 1st at AUD $62, priced just below the flagship Stella Bella Luminosa Chardonnay (the 2017 will be AUD $65 when released in early October).

The Suckfizzle Chardonnay is a beautiful wine, with a certain salty, sea-brine character in addition to its cashew and citrus notes. Luke Joliffe describes this character as ‘estuarine’ and believes the salty sea air influences the bouquet of the Suckfizzle wines.

This strikes a chord: in the Wallcliffe area, cabernet sauvignon often displays a peaty, iodine-like note which evokes descriptors such as seaweed and nori. Indian Ocean terroir?

Back to Augusta. Joliffe says the Suckfizzle soil is quite different from anything else in Margaret River: it’s alluvial soil over lateritic bedrock – an old river delta.

Joliffe also sees this saltiness in the 2015 Suckfizzle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, although the strident varietal characters of these grapes undoubtedly dominate the wine. It has a guava, tropical note as well as cumquat and orange citrus notes, embellished by a little flinty, smoky sulfide. Happily, the oak influence is lower than in previous vintages.

As a kind of footnote, because they are from the company’s Isca vineyard in Margaret River proper, Stella Bella’s two new Luminosa wines are exceptional. The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon (AUD $90) is beautifully balanced, delivering power with great elegance, and the 2017 Chardonnay (AUD $65) is classic Gingin-clone Margaret River: concentrated grapefruit, cashew and almond meal.

All Luminosa wines are from the Isca vineyard, which is on Gnarawary Road, opposite Leeuwin Estate – another outstanding terroir.

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