Xanadu will provide its Lagan Reserve 1999 for auction at the Great Wine Estates Auction later this month. David Pike takes a look at the winery and its success.
DURING the early 1980s and early 1990s Xanadu was among the leading group of Margaret River wine makers.
Most famous of the winery’s quality releases during this period was the Xanadu Cabernet Reserve, which Langton Auctioneers classifies as ‘distingished’.
The wine – now labelled as ‘Lagan Estate Reserve Cabernet’ after Xanadu founder Irish medico John Lagan – still commands attention although Langton’s also suggests that: “Xanadu needs to be watched carefully following its recent expansion, its potential as an investment wine is related to both quality and volume”.
The Lagans first planted vines on their Margaret River site in 1977, starting with four hectares of cabernet and following this a year later with 4ha of semillon.
Although a great deal of attention has been given to Xanadu’s cabernet wines, the semillons have consistently impressed, with many suggesting those early semillon wines made by John Smith proved the catalyst for other wineries to plant the variety.
Xanadu, which began life as Chateau Xanadu (named after Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan, penned in the late 18th century). Coleridge depicted Xanadu as a place of exquisite beauty and serenity.
The poem struck a chord with the Lagan family, who thought that many lines contained in the poem could have been written about Margaret River. In a bold move Xanadu listed on the Australian Stock Exchange on April 4 2001. Those original 8ha had become 85ha, increasing now by a further 45ha in the cooler southern district of Margaret River at Karridale.
In the intervening years Chateau Xandau became Xanadu Wines – one of the region’s biggest producers.
The massive growth and infrastructure changes during the past few years has put enormous pressure on the winery. At times I think this has shown in several of the wines, but to their credit the winemaking team headed by the uniquely earthy Jurg Muggli has got things back on track.
The wines I have tasted over the course of this year have shown much more substance, balance and structure, while at the lower price point end the Sucession wines are showing personality.
Xanadu this year has undergone close examination from its board of directors. The result seems to have been a sharpening of the pencils, with a number of key staff resigning since the end of financial year results were posted. At this stage those in the engine room – the winemaking staff – have remained untouched and will be looking forward to vintage 2004 to instill further confidence that the wines in the Xanadu portfolio are back on track.
The Xanadu reserve cabernet label was introduced in 1989 and the material for the wine, now the Lagan Estate Reserve Cabernet, was sourced primarily from those early planted vines, a block called the John Lagan vineyard.
The Lagan reserve is a drive-by cabernet refined with additions of cabernet franc and merlot, depending on the vintage.
The wine spends about 22 months in French oak and then a further two years maturing in the bottle before release.
At the Great Wine Estates Auction later this month Xanadu will provide its Lagan Reserve 1999 for auction.
At the 2001 Great Wine Estates Auction the Xanadu fetched a price of $9,000.
Xanadu Lagan Estate Reserve Cabernet 1999 18.5/20
Aromas formed around plenty of ripe blackberry fruits with cassis hints and a eucalypt character. The palate displays soft ripe fruit combining with integrated acidity and firm tannins.
The oak integration is well handled, and although the wine is very tight and youthful at present, you are able to see what the future holds.
This one’s a very sound investment.
Xanadu Lagan Estate Reserve Cabernet 1998 18/20
My tasting notes from July last year indicate powerful, perfumed aromas that entwine the intense blackcurrant and blueberry notes with a touch of that classic Margaret River eucalypt/ mint character.
On the palate you still find intense blackcurrant fruit but also noticeable are anise and savory red fruits with an undertone of vanillin oak.
Xanadu Lagan Estate Reserve Cabernet 1994 18/20
Tasted March 2002. This wine was showing rampant ripe fruit aromas, blackcurrant and herbal undertone, with slight tobacco hints beginning to appear.
The palate was still showing intense concentration of fruit, with harmonious tannins and acidity.
Quite youthful and showing no signs of an early exit.