‘Don’t fall for the winemaker,’ a friend warned Genevieve Mann. Then she met Rob and – happily for us – they ended up making beautiful wines together in WA.
Rob Mann’s family made wine at Houghton between 1910 and 1972 (great grandfather George from 1910, his grandfather Jack for 51 vintages). His uncle, Dorham, continued the pioneering work as government viticulturist in the early days of both the Great Southern and Margaret River regions. As a youngster, he helped his dad, Test cricketer Tony, plant the 3ha family vineyard, now the source of Corymbia’s Swan Valley wines. He spent eight years at Hardy’s Tintara, the last two as senior winemaker, before moving to Cape Mentelle in 2005. He spent nine years there, during which time he made several of their finest cabernets.
Gen Mann was born in South Africa and lived in Hong Kong until the family emigrated to Perth when she was 16. In search of an occupation that challenged her, she did a vintage with Virginia Willcock in Margaret River, following that up with vintages around the world before settling at Hardy’s Tintara. As her referee for the job, Willcock gave her one piece of advice: “Don’t fall in love with the winemaker.” The first person she met at Tintara was Rob Mann.
They became an item until they both headed west, working at Howard Park in the Margaret River region.
In 2007, Rob had the opportunity to do a vintage at Newton in the Napa Valley, making a huge impression when he took charge of the winery at short notice. At the same time, he learnt a great deal about close planting, rootstock and the importance of sourcing the best possible clones. He was asked to return in 2014 as winemaker and estate director and did four vintages there. He had the opportunity to plan and supervise replanting the 40-year-old Spring Mountain Vineyard (post-phylloxera) drought-tolerant new rootstocks, clones and massale-selected Bordeaux varietals, new row orientations and water management. He also redefined the Newton styles, making them fresher and lower in alcohol.
The lure of the west and family meant a return was inevitable. The pair had spent 10 years looking for the ideal site for a vineyard within 2-3km from the ocean and south of Margaret River. In 2017, they were able to lease and then buy the established vineyard of the Crappsley brothers at Redgate (Bill had worked with grandfather Jack Mann back in the day. That helped). Corymbia was born.
What has brought the Manns once again to prominence has been the release of the first three vintages of the Swinney Farvie range.
The Manns have a clear love for Swan Valley, especially its precious resource of old vines and vineyards planted on the best deep alluvial loam or gravelly ironstone soils. The couple are part of a powerful movement to revitalise the wines of the region.
The Corymbia chenin is bright, fresh and vibrant, tight with finesse and a wonderful dry finish; the tempranillo malbec is a field blend that is smooth, medium-bodied and restrained but with impressive depth of flavour.
Unquestionably what has brought the Manns once again to prominence, at least in Australia, has been the release of the first three vintages of the Swinney Farvie range. Rob has been very much involved in the work of the team in the vineyard and delighted with the focus on syrah, grenache and mourvèdre in the Swinney reds. Winemaking involves handpicking, whole berry sorting and the use of gravity rather than pumping, while the reds are aged on lees for about 11 months. Where blends are produced, co-fermentation is standard practice and the use of oak is always restrained.
The Farvie reds are stunning. The 2020 grenache shows enticing black berry aromatics with surprising power yet finesse, medium body and fleshy even silky texture before a pleasantly firm finish that suggests the need for time in the bottle. Just sublime. Expensive flagship wines yet remarkably fair value.
The Farvie wines are made by Rob and Gen, with Gen suggesting that Rob has the vision for and the dream of what the finished wines will look like and the raw talent to realise that. She sees her role as that of the hands-on sous chef and believes that they make a good combination. “It’s a little different with Corymbia,” she says with a smile.
FACTS AND FIGURES
REGION | Swan Valley, Margaret River, Great Southern
YEARS IN INDUSTRY | Rob, 26 years; Gen, 22 years
ANNUAL CRUSH | 70 tonnes
STAND-OUT WINES | 2020 Swinney Farvie Grenache; 2020 Corymbia Rocket’s Vineyard Tempranillo Malbec
Photography courtesy of Frances Andrijich.