HE ‘Great Wine Estates’ concept evolved from a conversation between former Cape Mentelle CEO and founder David Hohnen and Langton’s auctioneer Andrew Caillard on a drive down to Margaret River from Perth in the early 1990s.
On their way south for the annual Cape Mentelle Cabernet tasting they threw around some ideas on how to increase the profile of the region, especially those wines that had strong followings and were beginning to make a mark on the emerging Australian auction market. Those producers included in this years event are: Cape Mentelle; Cullen Wines; Devil’s Lair; Howard Park; Leewuin Estate; Moss Wood; Pierro; Plantagenet; Vasse Felix; Xanadu; and, making their first appearance, Houghton wines and Voyager Estate.
I spoke with Andrew Caillard who, aside from his role as auctioneer at Langton’s, is a master of wine. He explained some of his thoughts behind this bi-ennial event and the wines it is centered around.
“The idea behind the Great Wine Estates is not so different to Langton’s classification system, except that it is strictly based on the top performing WA wines. It has become a de facto list of grande marque wines, effectively the best wines produced in WA,” he says.
The Langton’s classification system was devised and based around the Australian wines that have market demand, or more to the point, have had sustained demand over a period of time. The classification is based on the objective criteria of time and market demand.
According to the Langton’s criteria, a wine must have 12 vintages, or 10 vintages released, to be considered for the classification. The classification is divided into four levels. In gaining entry into the top level – ‘exceptional’ – wines must have released at least 15 vintages, and displayed consistent market-driven demand for the best part of a decade.
Western Australian wines are represented in each of the four levels as follows.
Exceptional (seven wines in total): Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon.
Outstanding (24 wines in total): Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Cullen Cabernet Merlot, Pierro Chardonnay.
Excellent (29 wines in total): Howard Park Cabernet Merlot.
Distinguished (29 wines in total): Cape Mentelle Chardonnay, Cape Mentelle Shiraz, Leewuin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Cullen Chardonnay, Plantagenet Cabernet Sauvignon, Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon, Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon.
Andrew Caillard says that: “To be included in the GWE does require a presence on the secondary wine market. This not only relates to values but also to the undisputable fact that these wines are being cellared, and therefore if people are cellaring these wines, they have a value, or they are some sort of asset. Only perceived ultra-fine Australian wines can achieve this.”
Mr Caillard’s explanation alleviates some of the stigma attached to the event, which in some quarters is perceived as an elitist club. Bear in mind, though, that any producer can be added to the list provided that their wine or wines meet the Langton’s criteria.
Mr Caillard also pointed out that proceeds from a number of lots auctioned go to the Bussellton Medical Research Foundation.
Among the Western Australian wines, which have been in greatest demand through the auction market?
“Cullen Cabernet Merlot and Moss Wood are the stars, but all others do pretty well too. Supply and demand play an important role,” Mr Caillard says.
But have any wines within the GWE exceeded expectations?
“Some of the early vintages of Moss Wood, such as the 1975 and 1976, have been getting over $400 a bottle, however you must remember that many of the wines are traded throughout the year so it is those rarities that tend to do really well,” Mr Caillard says.
“In fact the rarities would include the 12 barrels that will be auctioned in November. For my mind the 2001 Leeuwin Chardonnay is pretty superb, and the Devil’s Lair 2003 will seem like very good value. In fact I think Stuart Pym has really done a good job, the Devil’s Lair wines are looking quite undervalued these days.
“The 2002 Howard Park should look pretty smart too, Mike Kerrigan has taken this wine to new heights.”
Another benefit from the Great Wine Estates system is the boost it can provide for emerging stars of the Western Australian wine scene.
Mr Caillard says he is particularly impressed by Voyager Estate.
“The wines are very good. Houghton’s Jack Mann is a performer and has done really well at auction in recent years,” he says.
“However, I can’t say that there are many wines outside the GWE that look like strong contenders for membership. I know Gralyn has done well locally but it is hardly known over here in the eastern States.
“Personally I like Brookland Valley but at this stage it has no presence in the market. The GWE is not a closed shop, inclusion is just recognition of performance at a very high level.”
At the last Great Wine Estates auction, inclusive of the 11 barrels on offer there was a turnover of $470,000, which many commentators suggested was an illustration of the strong market identity of the GWE.
Hammer Buyer’s Premium
$80 to $90.80: 1982 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon – ‘outstanding’.
$110 to $124.85: 1990 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon – ‘outstanding’.
$60 to $68.10: 1994 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon – ‘outstanding’.
$110 to $124.85: 1995 Cape Mentelle Shiraz.
$11,000 to $12,485: 2000 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon – ‘outstanding’ (futures).
$100 to $113.50: 1990 Cullen Cabernet-Merlot – ‘outstanding’.
$95 to $107.83: 1994 Cullen Cabernet-Merlot – ‘outstanding’.
$150 to $170.25: 1995 Cullen Cabernet-Merlot – ‘outstanding’.
$180 to $204.30: 1997 Cullen Chardonnay – ‘distinguished’ (magnum).
$22,000 to $24,970: 2000 Cullen Cabernet-Merlot – ‘outstanding’ (futures).
$7,000 to $7,945: 2000 Devil’s Lair Chardonnay (futures).
$9,000 to $10,215: 2000 Devil’s Lair Cabernets (futures).
$110 to $124.85: 1986 Howard Park Cabernets – ‘excellent’.
$75 to $85.13: 1994 Howard Park Cabernets – ‘excellent’.
$13,500 to $15,322.50: 2000 Howard Park Cabernets – ‘excellent’ (futures).
$400 to $454: 1987 Leeuwin Estate ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay – ‘exceptional’ (magnum).
$85 to $96.48: 1991-1996 Leeuwin Estate ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay – ‘exceptional’.
$90 to $102.15: 1995 Leeuwin Estate ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay – ‘exceptional’.
$75 to $85.13: 1997 Leeuwin Estate ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay – ‘exceptional’.
$17,000 to $19,295: 2000 Leeuwin Estate ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay – ‘exceptional’ (futures).
$220 to $249.70: 1975 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon – ‘exceptional’.
$140 to $158.90: 1990 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon – ‘exceptional’.
$110 to $124.85: 1995 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon – ‘exceptional’.
$24,000 to $27,240: 2000 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon – ‘exceptional’ (futures).
$62 to $70.37: 1996 Pierro Chardonnay – ‘outstanding’.
$14,000 to $15,890: 2001 Pierro Chardonnay ‘outstanding’ (futures).
$8,000 to $9,080: 2000 Plantagenet Cabernet Sauvignon – ‘distinguished’ (futures).
$40 to $45.40: 1996 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon ‘distinguished’.
$55 to $62.43: 1996 Vasse Felix ‘Heytesbury’ Cabernets.
$10,000 to $11,350: 2001 Vasse Felix Shiraz (futures).
$9,000 to $10,215: 2000 Xanadu Cabernet Reserve ‘distinguished’ (futures).
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