James tells the story of those behind Burch Family Wines, explaining how each individual has been instrumental to the brand's success.
It's easy to understand the infrastructure of a successful winery such as Burch Family Wines, harder to unravel the dynamics of those who have created it.
Jeff Burch had run a highly successful packaging business from his base in Perth before he purchased a family holiday house in Margaret River in the early '80s, surfing being a long-held passion. Open-faced and easy going, he hides the focus he brought to all his activities and hence his success.
His wife Amy is the iron lady who is (officially) the general manager, a title that does her scant justice. Nothing escapes her notice as she sees through you, not at you. Few, if any, business decisions are made without her say so. When the winery was built in Margaret River in 2000, Amy ensured it incorporated Feng Shui principles.
Janice McDonald became the fourth chief winemaker in the 30-year history of the business when she joined the team in February 2011. Thirty years earlier she had been Phil Sexton's right hand in establishing Devil's Lair after they had worked together with Matilda Bay Brewery. Sexton has one of the finest brains in the industry, McDonald the same intellectual rigour.
Ten years ago, winemaker Pascal Marchand, a French-Canadian by birth but now part of the fabric of Burgundy, formed a joint venture (Marchand & Burch) to make chardonnay and pinot noir with Burch, introducing the biodynamic principles now adopted across the 289ha of owned or leased vineyards of Burch Family Wines.
Jeff Burch has been the cement needed to secure this pool of talent, establishing a price/volume pyramid starting with MadFish at $18, Gold Turtle MadFish at $25; through to the Howard Park range from $28 for regionals up to $135 for the flagship Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon. The Marchand & Burch wines neatly fill the gap, ranging from $26 for the new-release rosé through to $73. All over-deliver on the quality/price ratio.
2015 Howard Park Porongurup Riesling
From the former Gibraltar Rock vineyard, one of the two oldest in Porongurup, acquired by Burch Family in 2010. The wine has changed (for the better) since September ’15, its flowery blossom bouquet introducing a palate that comes thundering home on the finish, with all banners flying well into the aftertaste. 12% alc.
RRP $34, drink to 2026
2015 MadFish Shiraz Rosé
85% Margaret River shiraz, 15% Great Southern pinot noir, wild and cultured yeast, matured in used French barriques for three months. Bright, light pink; a highly fragrant burst of red fruits on the bouquet, with more of the same on the palate, the spicy notes ex-barrel ferment also well in the game. 13.5% alc.
RRP $18, drink to 2017
2013 Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon
83% Mount Barker, 17% Margaret River, wild-fermented, extended maceration, matured for 20 months in French barriques (60% new). Has class stamped all over it in big letters from start to finish. The bouquet is full of fragrant cassis fruit and high quality cedary oak, the medium-bodied, but intense, palate with perfectly balanced fruit, tannins and oak. A great wine of startling elegance. 14% alc.
RRP $135, drink to 2043
Next article: read James' thoughts on the state of the Australian wine industry