The vineyard’s the key to one of WA’s top chardonnays.
That much is clear, given their stated goal of coaxing a little more from the great Art Series chardonnay.
From the time of the first tiny experimental batch in 1980, Leeuwin’s Art Series chardonnay has been a head turner and almost immediately gained global recognition.
I recently attended a tasting to launch the latest iteration – the 2020 – and was fortunate to be able to taste a selected vertical of vintages back to the heralded 1982.
The 1982, yes, a 41-year-old Australian chardonnay.
It was simply stunning and will remain with me as one of the half dozen greatest Australian wine tasting experiences.
The 2020 once again shows the importance of vineyard while also highlighting the vintage differences, being more opulent than the linear ’19 and not dissimilar in weight to the mighty ’18.
As chief winemaker Tim Lovett explains, the key to Leeuwin’s Art Series chardonnay is the vineyard.
“There is a detail in the landscape of where Block 20 sits: the soils, the proximity to the ocean, the environment and the countless hours of David Winstanley and his vineyard team to create a reflection of that site,” Mr Lovett said.
“It’s translation to the glass without trying to do too much. We are looking for characters of pear and white nectarine and a little cut lime, and not trying to do too much but reflect the vineyard with attention to detail.
“Block 20 is all Gingin clone and is all about power and concentration with an ethereal minerality. And it still gets one hundred per cent new French oak, with no malolactic fermentation and then about 11 months of oak maturation.
“It’s all about hands-off nurturing of the fruit, and over the years there have been a few different processing styles.
“For instance, from 2017 to 2020 we incorporated a little more whole-bunch pressing.”
While the ongoing pursuit of yet another level in chardonnay continues, this great Margaret River estate should not be overlooked for its shiraz and cabernet, which have come along in leaps and bounds in recent years.
Leeuwin Estate Art Series chardonnay 2020 ($152)
It would not surprise me if this was considered the greatest Leeuwin chardonnay yet. You would get no argument from me, but I might wait another six months to make that call. There is elegance and power here. Subtle layered wine. It was a year of great concentration and power. Has pear and lime character that is part of the DNA. The fruit is generous, especially about the mid palate. Has a subtle and not overstated flinty character with a lift of spice. The oak is brilliantly managed and complementary. It’s very tight and precise and the whole-bunch technique gives it that stalky, phenolics character. There’s a savoury almond meal character on the finish. Incredible length and power here. The minerally character on the finish is quite pronounced. In the top three, certainly, of any Leeuwin chardonnay.
Cellar: 25 years
Leeuwin Estate Art Series cabernet sauvignon 2019 ($90)
This really shows some vibrant juicy sweet red fruit characters, which is a product of the vintage. The tannins have a firm astringency on the finish. There’s an almost raspberry-red-cordial-like character here with vibrant, high energy fruit flavours. A very pretty wine of high perfumes. Mineral graphite and perfumed. It also contains a small but important amount of malbec, which adds some colour and spice.
Cellar: 15 years
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Shiraz 2020 ($49)
Beautiful vibrant primary fruit characters here. Smooth, integrated and seamless. There is a juicy character but it’s quite tight and controlled with a precise and detailed finish. Shiraz has gone through a remarkable reincarnation after being pulled out in 1980 in flavour of sauvignon blanc. Thankfully it’s now part of a renewed focus. This one is spicy and highly perfumed with a vibrant high energy palate. Lovely primary fruit flavours well supported with excellent large format oak influence.
Cellar 15 years
- Ray Jordan is one of Australia’s most experienced and respected wine journalists, contributing to newspapers and magazines over more than 40 years. In 2017 he co-authored The Way it Was: The History of the early years of the Margaret River Wine Region