Cassegrain: From the Old Continent to the Vineyards of Hastings River
Over the course of the last 50 years, Australia has swiftly become one of the world's leading contenders in the wine industry.
To understand why Australian wine is now able to rival produce exported by the established industry giants, one simply needs to delve into the winemaking processes employed on estates in New South Wales, such as Cassegrain.
Located within the Hastings River wine region, which neighbours the coastal town of Port Macquarie, the winery takes its name from owner John Cassegrain. John, along with wife Eva, has been running the estate and its vineyards since the early '80s.
Traditional winemaking with a modern twist
Due to its geographical location, Hastings River boasts the perfect climate in which to produce quality grapes. Reliable rainfall, humidity levels and coastal breezes are among the most important factors that affect not only the quality, but the variety of grape that the vineyard is able to produce. As John states, these conditions enable the cultivation of 'the great French Varieties.'
The philosophy at Cassegrain is to 'make high quality wine.' John achieves this by combining traditional French winemaking techniques with new Australian technology and, of course, by only using the finest quality grape.
John's decades of experience in winemaking began long before he bought the land on which Cassegrain is now located. After having obtained a bachelor's degree in Oenology in 1978, John went on to work in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, with Mr Murray Tyrrell - considered by many the father of Australian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. During these years, John learnt the importance of combining traditional winemaking with modern technology. John furthermore spent time working in Burgundy to master the art of French wine making.
The Vineyard is your Oyster
Cassegrain's success has helped put the Hastings River region back on the map, not only as a region that once again produces fantastic wines, but as a flourishing destination. John highlights the fact that 'the locals bring their visitors, (domestic and from overseas) to the winery as an example of what our area offers.'
The vineyard hosts a variety of events throughout the year, from weddings to music festivals. In addition to the winery, the scenic grounds of the estate house a horse riding centre and the Seasons Café, which serves a 'French inspired menu.' As adamant promoters of local culture and food, Cassegrain holds a monthly Artist Market in the vines, which brings together Hastings River artists, artisans and producers, providing them with a location to exhibit their work.
This year saw the October artists market fall on the same day as the 'Oyster in the vines' festival, an annual event that sees people descend onto the vineyard to enjoy mouth-watering local oysters, live music and children's entertainment. The enchanting mix of oysters, wine and art make for a relaxing, unique afternoon in the sun.
We interviewed John about Cassegrain, their wine and the future of winemaking in New South Wales.
Do you have any tips or advice for wine-lovers about how best to recognise a great wine?
I always recommend that people coming to the cellar door do an extensive tasting, including wines they already like, but also don't be shy to try something different for a change. You might be surprised, plus be guided by our well trained cellar door team.
What is your favourite wine you produce at Cassegrain?
Fromenteau Chardonnay. This impressive wine is pale straw yellow in colour. The bouquet is vibrant and lively with a delicious infusion of apple blossoms, cinnamon spiced pears and lemon curd. The rich and opulent palate explodes with a focused core of creamy fig and white fleshed peaches entwined with a lashing of buttery oak that lingers on the lengthy lingering finish.
What is your favorite dish to accompany a glass of Fromenteau?
Australian East Coast rock lobster with homemade mayonnaise.
If you were to choose one wine to drink for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I hope never to have to choose just one wine for the rest of my life, there are just so many to enjoy, but if it came to it I think it would be a Shiraz.
If you were going to pick a dream place for your wines to be served in where would it be?
It is always wonderful when your wine is chosen to grace the wine list of a hatted restaurant, however it is also one of my goals to increase the use of local wine in the Hastings and surrounding regions. Thankfully, restaurants are gradually appreciating that their customers now demand more fresh local produce and this also includes using local wine and beer. Equally I always feel very proud when our wine is used at local charity events and family events, such as my oldest son's wedding last year. I am very proud of how far we have come in the 30 years we have been established, which is also just shortly before my son was born.
Visit Cassegrain Cellar Door in New South Wales, and enjoy a glass of Hastings River wine with an Australian East Coast rock lobster.
Find out more about how New South Wales has made its mark on the global wine industry.