Port Macquarie Hastings River might not be a region that most would associate with grape growing; however it’s a little known fact that the French-American hybrid grape varietal chambourcin began its successful history exactly there, under the Cassegrain family, owners of Cassegrain Wines.
Senior winemaker Alex Cassegrain explains that their family’s land had grown chambourcin vines beside the Hastings River from the early 1980s, chambourcin being chosen specifically for its resistance to fungal disease due to its relatively thick skin and loose bunch allowing for better natural airflow. Today however, with the vineyard’s land being mostly repurposed, the varietal’s fruit is sourced from the Hunter Valley. Cassegrain’s Edition Noir 2016 Chambourcin is a fascinating wine to explore: its savoury aromas of sour cherry plus tar and spice make it a wonderful wine matched with food. Its light body also features a herbaceous palate that’s pleasantly weighted with blood plum and violets – certainly a must-try wine when you’re in the area.
Nowadays Cassegrain sources premium fruit from ten key wine regions across NSW which include Orange, Canberra/Hilltops, Tumbarumba, Hunter Valley, New England and Mudgee. Harvesting is often timed for late afternoon or early evening and it’s then that the fresh grapes are trucked, often by John Cassegrain, Alex’s father and the winery’s instigator, in the dead of night ready for early morning pressing. While the reds can wait a while before crushing, a 2am delivery of white varietal grapes is processed immediately upon arrival.
Producing a wide range of French and Italian varietal wines, Cassegrain’s history extends back to family vineyards in France, with winemaking skills that have been passed down through the generations. John Cassegrain is highly regarded industry-wide both for his scientific approach to developing new wine regions and from his work with Tyrrells Wines. He has worked many vintages in France and has in turn passed the knowledge of traditional French winemaking methods on to Alex.
This rich heritage, combined with only the very best fruit being sourced, culminates in some of the most delicate, fragrant and beautifully textured wines Essentials has tasted. As a firm fixture within the Port Macquarie region and its Pacific Highway location the winery is a drawcard for tourists; but it is also highly respected by the region’s award winning restaurants who proudly pour its wines and feature their premium often cool climate aromatic whites matched to local seafoods in annual food and wine events.
We sampled a crisp and flinty 2016 Reserve Fromenteau Chardonnay, a clean modern wine featuring aromas of stone fruit and almonds with wonderful complex and slightly buttery elements born of barrel maturation and time on lees. It has a well-balanced softly texture-layered and filling palate combined with a fantastic acid balance.
Cassegrain’s 2018 Edition Noir Pinot Vierge, a wine made from blending Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, displays a beautiful yet accidental, lovely blush colour – this born from grape skin colour bleed into the fruit flesh during the long 10-11 hour transport north from Tumbarumba. Somewhat of a sleeper in terms of popularity, it was first made in the winery in the 90s, when few seemed to appreciate its fine aromatics; however Alex explains that the 2017 vintage completely sold out within a matter of weeks. The wine features stunning aromas of musk, strawberry and sour cherry, with a gentle and very approachable slightly savoury palate. It was one of our favourites.
This class leading winery features a striking barrel room entry to its partly underground, authentically French-styled cellar door. Here fifty wines in total are included in the winery’s portfolio, so we do recommend planning some time to work your way through a potentially, significantly lengthy tasting. cassegrainwines.com.au
Cellar Door open: Monday to Friday 9am-5pm,
Weekends 10am-5pm, Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
10 Winery Drive, Port Macquarie, NSW
Tel 02 6582 8377