Meet Cellr’s Weekly Crushes: Jacqui Holmes and Jez (Jeremy) Hodgson from the Western Australian winery making wine fit for royalty, Fermoy Estate. A lot has changed at Fermoy Estate since their 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon was served at the wedding reception of Danish Royal Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary in May 2004, but the high standard of wine they produce hasn’t. We were lucky enough to chat with winemaker, Jez, and Cellar Door Manager, Jacqui, about the wine and marketing side of things at Fermoy Estate, and their winery dogs too- of course.
Let’s start off with the hard hitting questions, do you have a winery dog?
We have three Wine Dogs here at Fermoy Estate. Billie, our winemakers much loved dog and Fermoy superstar (Billie made the official WineDogs publication a couple of years back). Andy, our Vineyard Manager has his sidekick Archie and the newest recruit to the Fermoy Fur Family is Mister Morris, our Cellar Door dog, at just five months old he is already taking his duty of greeting guests at the door for pats very seriously and is fast becoming just as popular as our wines.
On Fermoy Estate Wine …We asked Jez to talk to us about all things winemaking and wine at Fermoy Eststate
So Jeremy, you came onboard the Fermoy Estate team as a senior winemaker in 2015 with a first-class degree in oenology and viticulture under your belt in addition to many years of experience working with a number of Western Australian wineries. What was it that kicked off your winemaking career, and how has your passion evolved up until now?
I spent a year travelling in Asia in my early twenties and pondered what I might want to do with my life! At some point I must have had a lightbulb moment – winemaking – the usual attractions: art vs science, working with hands, not sitting on arse, outdoors etc etc. I had been cooking for a living up to that point, so I was into food and flavours and drinking (always sensibly) – so it seemed to make sense.
I had no family background in the wine industry, nor any experience, but I took the plunge and went to study oenology and viticulture at uni. I came out the other end suitably qualified, but with no industry experience. So I began as a vintage cellarhand at Houghton Wines in the Swan Valley back in 2005, and have been loving the journey ever since. Building experience, building expertise – and as you build these you build your passion for more. More knowledge, more feel, more quality.
Fermoy Estate, while being one of the original vineyards established in Margaret River, also has a strong focus towards incorporating new ideas and technology. What are some examples of this that you have recently been implemented in your vineyard and winemaking process?
Just getting good processes in place. We have done a fair bit of redevelopment in the vineyard over the past 5-6 years, with a real focus on what this vineyard does well – Cabernet & Chardonnay. Also, we are trying to put a bit more back into the dirt via cover crop rotation, mulching and compost. So not trying to reinvent any wheels, but just good fundamentals.
In the winery we have commissioned a fair amount of new equipment over the last few years, including an oscillating destemmer, peristaltic pumps, basket press, barrel steamer etc – so keeping our equipment and processes up to date is important. Our oak program is also constantly evolving, as we seek the ultimate mix of coopers in our cellar.
The story of the Fermoy Estate 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon being served at the wedding reception of Danish Royal Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary in May 2004 is well known in the region. What is it about the Fermoy Cab Sauv that made it such a fantastic example of Western Australia’s flagship style then, and how have winemakers, like yourself, been able to continue to produce it to such a high standard?
We have some special Cabernet here – lovely small berries which typically gives us an elegant, perfumed, medium bodied wine. Think boysenberry, raspberry fruits with bay & tobacco leaf herbs, velvet tannins. The trick is to get it right in the vineyard, and then not stuff it up in the winery. Consider maceration through ferment, and do not overwhelm it with too much new oak.
The trick is to get it right in the vineyard, and then not stuff it up in the winery.
Which Fermoy Estate Wine do you love the most, and what is the story behind it? Furthermore, what song and snack would you pair with this wine?
2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (soon to be released). 2017 as a vintage had its share of challenges, and many of us feared for our Cabernet getting properly ripe. But after a cool, wet start to vintage the month of April was beautifully dry and sunny, allowing fruit to ripen slowly to full ripeness. The wine is rich, yet elegant and has a lovely poise and structural tension that should ensure its longevity.
Snack & song? Interesting question… I’m thinking a slow-cooked beef shin pierogi (Polish dumpling) while listening to PJ Harvey’s The Words That Maketh Murder – beautifully rhythmic, structured, bucolic, melancholic, uplifting, thought provoking.
What do you think the future of winemaking and viticulture in Western Australia looks like?
Seasons appear to be shifting, summers seem to be more humid, more unpredictable – so we clearly need to be adaptable. Having said that we seem to have a consistency of vintage that I’m sure is the envy of most other Australian wine regions. Certainly, in Wilyarup, where we are, our future lies in continuing to strive to make world class examples of the noblest of varieties – Cabernet & Chardonnay.
On the Wine Market…We asked Jacqui to shed some light on her experience in the wine market, as a big part of what we do at Cellr is make true direct to consumer marketing easy for producers. Find out more here.
What is it that really gets customers excited about Fermoy Estate?
Fermoy Estate is now considered a long-established winery by Margaret River standards, with 17 exceptional wines on offer. We pride ourselves on not only producing world class wines but on providing authentic wine tasting experiences and maintaining a family style approach to our customer service.
The enthusiasm and expertise of our staff is second to none, and making each and every customer feel special is our way. We want people to feel a part of the place when they visit, and I believe that is what gets customers excited about Fermoy.
We want people to feel a part of the place when they visit, and I believe that is what gets customers excited about Fermoy.
In what ways do you feel it is challenging to engage with customers?
Fermoy have a strong domestic consumer focus and have traditionally given people a chance to taste our wines at food and wine shows/events around the country. Given the current COVID travel restrictions taking the show on the road, so to speak, has been a challenge in that we are unable to get face to face with our interstate customers.
On Authentication and Supply Chains: We asked Jacqui about her views on authentication and her current supply chain management. At Cellr we want to understand how producers feel about the current systems in place and make a packaging solution that is consistent with what they need. Find out what we do for brand protectionand supply chain track and trace.
Talk to us about your supplychain, do you currently have visibility of your products after they leave the winery? What impact would having detailed data showing you where (in the world) and when your wine is being opened by the consumer?
Fermoy have spent a lot of time and focus on our domestic, direct to consumer model of business, so the majority of the wine we produce stays on Australian home soil. We have a very successful and flexible wine club, and a large database of loyal customers. That being said, we do have some distributorship in other states, so having the data could be interesting- however at this point it wouldn’t have much impact.
With the global explosion of wine fraud pushing into the mid/premium brackets due to sheer volume, how important is it for wine consumers to be able to identify your (legitimate) products via anti-counterfeit measures?
We don’t export too much wine so it isn’t of any material importance to us at this stage. Our focus remains on our domestic sales.
What channels does Fermoy Estate use to engage customers to buy your wine outside the cellar door? What do you do in these channels?
We are in constant contact with our large database of customers and wine club members via EDM and socials. We also engage in marketing activities with our local tourism bureaus and venues throughout the region. Outside of the region have some trade presence, however the best offerings are via our wine club. We can be contacted direct at email@example.com for more information.