Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Leeuwin New Art Series Releases and Mini Verticals of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon (part 1)

A dinner with Leeuwin Art Series wines, in particular when there are more than ten, has a special feeling to it. Will any other wine reach the quality of the Chardonnay? How is the Chardonnay style evolving?

Two quick conclusions upfront: Despite major efforts, Leeuwin is still a one-show pony - how bizarre. The Chardonnays are world class and have no equal as a series in Australia. (Bindi will be the one to watch)

The 2009 Leeuwin Sauvignon Blanc was unremarkable. The palate was a little plump, clearly an attempt to avoid the NZ grassiness, but it offered nothing in return. The wine is well made, but fairly boring (87 points). The 2009 Leeuwin Riesling was a more interesting wine. It displayed a fairly soft flavour of lime and citrus, a pleasant food companion, but lacking length on the palate (89 points).

On to the Chardonnays. On offer were the 2004 to 2007 vintages, the latter being the new release. This comparison allows to make some comments on the Leeuwin style, which has significantly evolved since the 90s, when the flavours often competed leading to a bit of a fruit salad impression. I would describe the main characteristics of the style now considerable fruit intensity, fairly high alcohol, yet a very linear form leading to lengthy finish. When I asked the proprietor, Denis Horgan, how he achieved this, he gave a (to me) surprising answer: the wine spends 12 months in new french oak. He did not elaborate, but I think it means that a lot of the fruit intensity is taken up by the oak, and there is enough acidity to carry the wine to the finish.

The 2004 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay was a stunner. Beautiful ripe tropical aromas, also cashew from the oak, which was well integrated. The wine is still very fresh, with linear mouthfeel as discussed above, and a long rich finish (97 points).

The 2005 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay was the weakest in this line-up and did not quite deliver the typical profile. This Chardonnay was quite rich, more nectarine than classical stone fruit flavours. It had less acidity than the other Chardonnays, and was not as linear on the palate. The finish was a little short, but overall still a fine wine (92 points).

The 2006 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay was similar in its profile to the 2004, but overall a bit lighter and more delicate. It is still quite backward and had more grapefruit than stone fruit flavours (95 points).

The 2007 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay, from a warm year, is quite intense and powerful, many fruit flavours are present, stone fruit, peach, pineapple, but also citrus. Despite this richness, the wine is elegant and leads to a crisp, long lasting finish (96/+++ points) . I give the 2004 a slight edge due to its superb balance, but would not be surprised if the 2007 will be similar in a few years time.

PS: Grape Observer is also reviewing these wines.

1 comment:

Chris Plummer said...

Any opinions on the Art Series Cabernet Alontin?

I feel it was grossly underperforming for a few years but then rose to a much more pleasing level in 2004. A Leeuwin rep recently informed me the company has been working hard to restore the Cabernet to its previous reputation, and that the 2005 was the wine to watch out for (haven't had it yet though).

Was the 2005 Cabernet present on this night?

Chris P