LEEUWIN ESTATE Art Series Chardonnay Margaret River Western Australia
Leeuwin Estate winery, purchased originally as a cattle farm by Trish and Dennis Horgan in 1969, lies just south of Margaret River township almost exactly equidistant between Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste. Enormous gum trees with orange-coloured trunks, serpentine branches and olivary canopies (reminiscent of John Glover paintings) sprawl and encircle the property creating natural wind breaks. The Art Series Chardonnay derives principally from the Estate's unirrigated Block 20 Vineyard, planted with the renowned low-yielding 'Gin Gin' clone.
During the growing season dry, cool air from the Southern Ocean funnels up through the hill system. It is largely responsible for the phenomena called 'hen and chicken' or 'millerandage' a problem associated with fertilization which leads to an erratic development of bunches comprising berries of different sizes. At harvest the normal size 'hen' berries are "smooth and silky like a princess", whereas the smaller 'chicken' berries are quite lean and acidic. Combined, the Chardonnay fruit brings exceptional concentration and flavour with naturally high acids. Ripening is assisted by growing rye between the vine rows. Not only does it provide some wind protection but by February it is a bright golden colour reflecting the sun's rays into the canopy. Yields during vintage are generally moderate at around five tonnes per hectare.
Leeuwin Estate seeks to preserve the pristine fruit characters of Chardonnay throughout vinification and maturation. Everything is minimally handled or gravity fed. The wine is 100% barrel fermented in selected new French oak and matured in the same barrel. Battonage (lees stirring) is employed and partial malolactic fermentation is encouraged in most vintages to bring further texture and flavour complexity.
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay is one of Australia's rare long-lived fine-boned Chardonnays with superb fruit definition and clarity. When youthful, they are a balance between exuberant fruit and savoury complexity. The palate is creamy yet a fine bead of acid cuts a swathe across the palate giving life and incredible length. With a few years of bottle maturity, the Art Series Chardonnay seems to shed its aniseed top notes. The wine becomes a harmonious whole with beautifully defined grapefruit/melon aromas and complex lanolin nuances. The palate is richer and fleshier but remains tightly bound by mineral acidity.
2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1987.
Andrew Caillard MW, Langton's