Josephine Perry Dormilona

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The Margaret River story was somewhat heavily inked before Josephine Perry came along, with a brigade of iconic names holding sway. Emerging out of her Perryscope wine consulting business, Dormilona was given breath to elaborate the fruit that was coming off organic vineyards across the region. Her direction was to pick earlier, and to do less in the winery, with no adjustments, no oak signatures and no fining or filtration. Her wines are made from familiar varieties (chardonnay, cabernet, chenin blanc), but reflected in thrillingly vibrant and taut ways, electrified by vibrant structures and cushioned with subtle texture.

Translating as ‘lazy bones’ in Spanish, the name Dormilona is as evocative of Josephine Perry’s methods as it is also entirely unrepresentative of herself and her work ethic. The message here, of course, is a hands-off approach to making, but that ‘neglect’ is benign and underpinned by a rigorous approach to farming and fruit sourcing. While some ‘conventional’ fruit has been employed at times, the vast majority is organic or biodynamic, with the intent for it to be all so, especially with the winery now certified organic.

Perry started somewhat early in the wine game, with vintage work at Cape Mentelle at the tender age of 14. This came about via the encouragement of one of her mentors, her Grandfather. He was a brewer at the old Swan Brewery, and they used to experiment with all kinds of things that fermented, including an apricot wine that she made for her high school science class – that one got her a detention.

Perry studied winemaking by distance (Charles Sturt), so was able to fit in an extraordinary range of experience in a relatively short time, including in the Rhône, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Spain, New Zealand and California, as well as a near unbroken string of Margaret River vintages, plus some time in Orange, NSW, with Philip Shaw (another mentor). If that’s not enough, before settling back into Margaret River full-time, she managed the winemaking operations at two wineries in Galicia, as well as consulting in the Canary Islands. Lazy indeed.

Perry has been a three-time finalist in the Young Gun of Wine Awards, first when she won Best New Act in 2013 (notably, it was the first year of that award – with the judges so taken by the new Dormilona label that they decided to create the Best New Act trophy), then in 2014, and again when she was crowned Young Gun of Wine in 2016.

Perry works in a minimal intervention way, for sure, with no additives, bar a minimal application of sulphur, but her wines don’t always fit into what one might have come to expect from ‘natural’ wines. Although she does use skin contact on whites to a degree, her wines are especially poised and elegant, lithe and crackling with spirit and drive, while still packing plenty of detail. She uses amphora for her ‘Clayface’ label for both cabernet and chardonnay, and tends to steel and neutral oak otherwise. Overall, the Dormilona wines are thoroughly individual, while also paying due respect to some of the touchstones of Margaret River.

Photo by Sarah Hewer

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