In 2013, Ben Ranken and his wife, Sally Richardson, purchased the old Portree Vineyard near Lancefield in the Macedon Ranges. Sitting at 600 m above sea level and with most vines over 30 years old, this was no small thing. It’s no secret that chardonnay and pinot noir love cool territory, with enough sunshine but…
Genevieve & Rob Mann Corymbia
The Mann name is somewhat of a significant one in Australian wine circles. In fact, it’s about as a storied a moniker as there is, up there with Schubert and O’Shea. Jack Mann’s most famous creation, the game-changing Houghton’s White Burgundy was an enduring classic, which he made for 51 consecutive vintages. And while that wine become a reliably good and economical bottlings, rather than an aspirational one, its origins are significant. In an era dominated by fortified wines, that first Swan Valley chenin blanc (skin-contact for a day or so, too) topped the open class at Royal Melbourne in 1937, thus changing the wine landscape in this country for good.
Fast forward, and Mann’s grandson Rob is the sixth generation in the family to make wine for a living. Rob’s wife, Genevieve doesn’t quite have the same ancestral connection to wine, but she’s equally focused on pushing that family name into ever-higher orbits: “Wine is in our blood. We’re husband and wife, the heads and hearts of Corymbia, and part of one of the oldest winemaking families in Australia.”
The Swan Valley has considerably less cachet than Margaret River, or Pemberton, or Great Southern… It is in fact somewhat ignored outside of Western Australia, and at times shunned within. But it is Australia’s second oldest wine region, next to the Hunter Valley, and the heart of Western Australian wine history. It is also, according to the Manns, a resource of unfairly neglected potential.
Both Genevieve and Rob are winemakers of significant stature, with Rob previously heading winemaking for Tintara, Cape Mentelle and Newton in the Napa, while Genevieve worked in South Africa (where she was born), France and California, and was appointed winemaker at Howard Park in 2007. Corymbia was founded in 2013, based initially around the principle of echoing the Swan Valley styles of old, classic medium-bodied red wines built for enjoyment. It was inevitable that a chenin blanc followed a few years later.
The fruit source is the Mann family vineyard, planted in the ’80s, which is tended today using organic principles. The Mann’s wines are “very traditional, using techniques such as hand harvesting, gravity, oak fermentation, indigenous yeast and natural malolactic fermentation.” They are both an homage to the past and a statement for the future.