The Swan Valley
An historic region, the Swan Valley was settled in 1829 by British colonists who quickly set about growing crops and raising stock. They were willing to experiment with many different crops to support themselves and make a living. Vines were planted in the early 1830s and wine was made on our neighbouring property in 1835 among others. The Swan Valley became of the cradle of Western Australian agriculture and has been a small but important region for over 190 years. Several notable properties became established grape and wine producers during the nineteenth century. Subdivision of the original land grants, soldier settlements after the First World War and subsequent inflow of southern European migrants resulted in the Swan Valley specialising in vineyards and orchards during the first half of the twentieth century.
The grapes of the Swan Valley – for wine or for table – have always been special. The wines are the most readily drinkable in the state – rich and warm and flavoursome and smooth.
As lifestyles have changed the Swan Valley has become a significant attraction to the people of Perth and their visitors. Characterised by its small farms and vineyards it offers an attractive rural experience on the edge of the Perth suburbs. Protection from subdivision has created a small but dynamic wine industry made up of some new and some multigenerational family wineries. These wineries, embracing both traditional and modern winemaking and styles are now enhancing the Valley’s appeal and again demonstrating its ability to generate outstanding produce.
Faber Vineyard was established in 1997 by John Griffiths and Jane Micallef. Faber is the Latin word for craft. We chose the name Faber because we believe winemaking is a craft, a skill learnt but never perfected.
“The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne” (Chaucer)
John Griffiths spent 10 years learning the skills of making highly drinkable wines in warm climates before arriving in the Swan Valley. He recognized that the Swan Valley was unique in its ability to produce delicate, refined white wines, smooth generously flavoured and long-lived red wines, and extremely rich luscious liqueur styles. As he refined his winemaking skills he learnt about the proven grape varieties and wine styles that had over one hundred years of development and success in the Swan Valley.
The Swan Valley delivers wonderful ripe fruit, warm and concentrated flavours and soft tannins. John’s winemaking focuses on achieving flavour, extraction and fruit sweetness. This creates structured wines that are flavoursome and drinkable, with the ability to develop and improve in bottle. His approach to winemaking is simple and uncomplicated – starting with outstanding fruit quality, attention to detail, and literally hand making all our wines.
John has chosen to embrace what are traditional varieties for the Swan Valley – Verdelho, Shiraz and Brown Muscat – as the “backbone” of Faber Vineyard. He has delivered his own interpretation of these varieties, all be it built on tradition, and set new standards of excellence. He has also innovated with new varieties, introducing Petit Verdot to the Swan, and new styles including his Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc. He has sourced outstanding fruit from outside the Swan Valley that complements the Swan’s strengths. Superb Cabernet Sauvignon from Frankland River and unique Durif from Donnybrook stand out.
Faber’s continuing winemaking quest is to grow and source distinctive grapes and craft wines that are rich and flavoursome.
Our vineyard of 11 acres was planted by John & Jane in 1998-2000 and in 2016-2017. Three quarters of the vines are Shiraz, Verdelho and Brown Muscat, the balance Petit Verdot and Chardonnay.
John selected the land for its unique soil – shallow sandy gravel over a thick layer of hard but porous ironstone laterite and below a deep clay. This soil has excellent water holding capacity and despite the warm dry summers this allows us to grow grapevines with little or no irrigation. With effectively only the natural soil moisture, low fertility and the strong easterly winds of spring and summer our vines have low vigour and are low cropping. The warmth and wind mean that disease risk is very low and it is never a problem to ripen our grapes.
We hand prune and hand pick our grapes and use very low levels of herbicide and organic fungicides in managing weeds and disease.