David Pike reckons the latest Art Series release from Leeuwin is something to sing about.

A SYMPHONY of new releases from Leeuwin is showing all the attributes that will bring the label yet more acclaim from wine drinkers around the globe. Recent successful concerts by Australian musical icon John Farnham coincided with the release of Leeuwin Art Series 1999 Chardonnay, itself an Aussie icon. Many who already have tasted this 1999 vintage wine would place it as an equal to the extraordinarily good 1987 and 1995 vintages.

Leeuwin Estate has had huge success with its Art Series Chardonnay, right from the first vintage in 1980. Winemaker John Brockstop, who has been the winemaker at Leeuwin since its first vintage in 1980, said that although time and experience were an integral part in putting together the Art Series chardonnay, “the most essential elements come from the vineyard. Ultimately it is down to the aspect of the vineyard and the quality of fruit we are able to harvest each year”.

John said the selection of the right clones has been instrumental in the success.

“Together with the importance of the different aspects of the chardonnay sites it has become clearer with time how special in particular a couple of the vineyard blocks of chardonnay on the property really are,” he said.

Naturally, the Art Series comes only from within the sites with the best aspect, with vines more than 20 years old. This also shows the benefit of mature plantings, and helps to explain why the old-world regions such as Burgundy are able to produce benchmark wines

It is quite refreshing for those in the pursuit of quality and excellence to understand that Leeuwin has created extraordinary demand for a wine after only a relatively short space of time.

When you consider that Penfolds Grange has been around since the early 1950s, and many of the European wines took centuries to become icons, Leeuwin’s popularity is even more impressive for the fact it has never directly advertised its wines or put them into wine shows. Love this winery or not, you must take you hat off to an operation that helped put Western Australian wine, and Margaret River in particular, on the map.

Leeuwin is not standing still and, while it is obvious that the chardonnay remains the benchmark wine, many other wines are also beginning to shine. The prelude range of wines, which includes a chardonnay and cabernet merlot, are given much the same treatment as that once reserved for the Art Series wines, and are gaining much praise in their own right. A classic white style also makes an appearance in this range. In my opinion the riesling has, since the 1997 vintage, been a much improved wine.

I have been lucky enough to taste through a number of these new releases from Leeuwin and they all look pretty good to me … certainly not the sort of wine you would leave out as a gift for Sadie the cleaning lady.

Leeuwin Estate 1999 Art Series Chardonnay rating 19/20 $75.00

Nothing short of dynamic and certainly up there as one of the best Art Series Chardonnays released to date. Only time will tell if it will reach the same heights as my favourite, the 1995. Showing as light straw in colour with a green tinge running through it, the aromas display complex notes instantly with a slight cashew nut, mineral and stone fruit characters, hints of citrus lime and a little nougat. Once on the palate you are struck with a viscous mouth feel, very good integration, and plenty of length. This is seamless.

Good acidity with mineral, lime citrus, touches of stone fruits and a rounded palate make this wine complete.

Leeuwin Estate 2001 Art Series Riesling rating 17.75/20 $18.00

One of the best Leeuwin rieslings, with fragrant citrus, bath salt aromas and an enticing floral note. If I tasted this blind it would be hard not to pick it as from the Great Southern. The palate shows masses of citrus fruits with lively acidity, plenty of fruit weight and a mile of length on the finish. There is much life in this Margaret River gem.

Leeuwin Estate 2001 Art Series Sauvignon Blanc rating 17.25/20 $29.00

This isn’t your ordinary sauvignon blanc, having undergone some smart work in the winery before release. There are some dominant lees characters between the ripe fresh gooseberry and herbaceous fruit flavours.

A complex wine that deserves food, not a wine for the faint hearted there is much to look for.

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