The Great Wine Estates of Western Australia
“2007 En-Primeur Campaign”
An outstandingly beautiful vintage from the finest producers of Western Australia
Opens Monday, 12th November – Closes Monday, 10th December (or when sold out!)
Langton’s will conduct its first on-line Great Wine Estates of Western Australia en-primeur campaign in November. This important landmark sale acknowledges the increasing importance of the internet in the sale of fine Australian wine and follows a tradition of barrel auctions, held at Cape Mentelle and Voyager Estate since 1997.
Stewart Langton – Managing Director – said, “The Great Wine Estates of Western Australia is the first Australian organization to take advantage of this new and innovative on-line futures/en-primeur technology. These top marques have a reputation for quality at the highest level and a willingness to try new things. After trialing and fine tuning the system over the last 18 months, we believe collectors will love buying the exceptional 2007 vintage in this tried and now proven format.”
Collectors will have an opportunity to secure rare pre-release parcels of the 2007 vintage, a year that is regarded by some observers as the best ever in Margaret River and the Lower Great Southern. Langton members will be able to purchase these must-have vintages on-line at a fixed price. Andrew Caillard, MW will be tasting the vintages in mid-September and will report back on-line with detailed tasting notes and information about the wines.
Cape Mentelle, Cullen, Devil’s Lair, Leeuwin Estate, Howard Park, Moss Wood, Pierro, Plantagenet, Vasse Felix, Xanadu and Voyager Estate comprise The Great Wine Estates of Western Australia. The winemakers and owners have embraced ideals that go beyond commercial humdrum into something more meaningful and lasting. All of these producers are making wine of exquisite and exceptional quality – many which have a strong cellaring track record. The 2007 is an utterly exceptional year. The cabernet and cabernet blends are extra intense and perfumed with superb tannin structures and flavour concentration. The chardonnays are beautifully balanced with both delicacy and volume. The Shirazes are intensely aromatic and richly textured.
The Great Wine Estates of Western Australia - originally conceived to highlight and celebrate the State’s top wine marques - is the only association of wineries in the world that is pulled together by a third party (Langton’s) and based on individual profile on the secondary collectors wine market.
A series of tastings are also planned in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth in October and November. Included in this programme is a live charity auction of Great Wine Estates Imperials to be held in Perth on October 30th and conducted by Andrew Caillard, MW of Langton’s.
More information will be posted and emailed as details firm up.
The Great Wine Estates of Western Australia
Cape Mentelle, Margaret River
The Cape Mentelle winery and original vineyard lie between the town of Margaret River and the Cape from which it takes its name. The original Mentelles were Frenchmen, geographer Edmunde and his cartographer brother Francois-Simon, who lived in Paris in the early 1700s. Founding winemaker David Hohnen once said “I want to make one of the defining styles of Margaret River Cabernet; a great Australian Cabernet; a wine that outlasts me and helps consolidate the region as a premium wine producer for future generations”. The winery is now owned by the French luxury brand group LMVH – owners of Domaine Chandon and Cloudy Bay in New Zealand. . Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon enjoyed impressive beginnings, with Jimmy Watson Trophies for both the 1982 and 1983 vintages, but these were followed by a number of ordinary vintages. However by the late 1980s the quality began to improve enormously. In the 1990s the wine emerged as a classic West Australian style. Cape Mentelle’s articulate new winemaker Robert Mann – grandson of pioneer WA winemaker Jack Mann – is continuing a tradition of making wines of tremendous energy and vitality. Restrained and elegant when young the highly regarded Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignons age beautifully, developing complexity and richness. The cedary, roasted coffee aromas, ripe tannins and textured palate are central to the overall style. Displaying regional definition Cape Mentelle Chardonnay is emerging as one of Margaret River's classic wines. The core fruit component is sourced from the low yielding McHenry and Chapman Vineyards and the wine is given access to the whole palette of winemaking options. The result is a rich palette of blending options. Excellent, ripe, Chardonnay fruit expression with plenty of nutty, lanolin complexity, concentration and fine acidity are typical of the style. Cape Mentelle Shiraz is a quintessential Western Australian Shiraz and an excellent foil to the rich, ripe, deeply concentrated Shirazes of South Australia. The fruit is from Cape Mentelle's Wallcliffe Vineyard (pictured) close to the winery. Thirty per cent is aged in a combination of French and American oak – the remaining wine matured in large oak vats. It shows raspberry/peppery aromas with touches of cherry, gravelly tannins and toasty oak – a style in evolution. Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon is a pacesetter; Cape Mentelle Shiraz is emerging as another important benchmark. The Zinfandel is quirky but highly seductive. The Chardonnay is extremely consistent and shows all the hallmarks one would expect of the top notch Margaret River elite.
Cullen, Margaret River
In 1966 Diana and Dr Kevin Cullen planted a trial 1-acre (now 71-acre) vineyard on their sheep and cattle property at Willyabrup in the Margaret River. In 1989 daughter Vanya Cullen, a Roseworthy trained winemaker, assumed prime winemaking responsibilities. Her eye for detail and no-compromise approach has seen Cullen Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot emerge as one of the great Australian Cabernets. In 2001 it was named Diana Madeline in honour of Diana Cullen, Vanya’s mother and winemaker-in-arms for nearly two decades. The Cabernet Sauvignon vines were planted in 1971 on ancient granitic soils and are trained on a Scott Henry trellis system that Vanya believes is a critical factor in achieving supple tannin structures and a pure dark fruit profile. In recent years Vanya has adopted biodynamic viticulture to “achieve greater individuality of site through working with nature rather than against it”. “The grapes are hand picked on optimum ripeness and flavour development. Between 10- 50% of the wine is partially barrel fermented – the rest given extended maceration before maturation in 30% new, tightly-grained French oak. The fruit definition and overall balance is extraordinary. Here is a wine that is pure, bottled philosophy. The Cullen Chardonnay is made from estate grown Chardonnay with cropping levels as low as two tonnes/acre. The fruit is whole-bunch pressed "to increase fruit flavours and longevity and to reduce the level of phenolics". Approximately 80-100% of the wine is barrel fermented with wild yeast strains and matured in new French oak; the remainder in steel tanks to allow blending options. Cullen Chardonnay is quite lean when first released, but opens up after a short period in the cellar. Vanya Cullen attracts a strong following on the secondary market. The 1996 Cabernet Merlot is arguably one of the very best Australian wines of that decade.
Devil’s Lair, Margaret River
Phil Sexton established Devil’s Lair in 1985, with his first vineyard plantings in 1981. The vineyards are located on varying Margaret River soils from pockets of gravelly loams – ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon, to loamy soils especially suited to Chardonnay. The vines are all trellised on a simple vertically shoot positioned system, mostly in protected north-easterly aspects. The fruit is machine and hand picked depending on site and wine style. Stuart Pym harvests on optimum ripeness and flavour development that can mean varying fruit profiles to increase complexity and blending options. The Cabernet Sauvignon is fermented in static, stainless steel and pump-over tanks at relatively warm ferments. Fifty per cent of the blend is given extended skin maceration before being drained and pressed into 50% new and 50% 1-year-old oak for a period of 2 years. The Cabernet Sauvignon, which comprises a proportion of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot is emerging as a definitive southern Margaret River style with pure cassis black chocolate aromas, touches of mint and long sinewy tannins. The 2-year-and-older barrels are used for Devil’s Lair’s Fifth Leg brand. The Chardonnay is classically made with 30% of the handpicked fruit whole-bunch pressed. The juice is cold settled before barrel fermentation in new French oak. Regular battonage, extended lees contact and 11 months maturation in new oak completes the picture. Devil’s Lair is now fully owned by the Fosters Group. The Chardonnay is brilliantly focused, with all the signs of cellaring potential and represents great value at this level of quality.
Howard Park, Margaret River & Denmark (Great Southern)
Howard Park was established by Jeff Burch and John Wade in the mid-1980s and quickly achieved fame for its wines. In the late 1990s, after considerable success in the market place, Howard Park decided to move its red wine production to Margaret River to take advantage of its reputation and proximity to a larger population base. The winemaking team – currently headed up by Tony Davis - has maintained continuity and is making considerable improvements to the style. Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, first vintage 1986, is a multi-region five-vineyard WA blend. Noted for it’s intense, blackcurrant, blackberry, briary aromas, balance and structure, this wine needs several years to meld. The majority of the wine comes from Mount Barker and Porongurup with some parcels from Margaret River. The final selection process for the wine occurs in barrel at the end of two years when each barrel is tasted separately to grade the wine. The Chardonnay fruit comes from vineyards around Denmark in the Lower Great Southern. These wines show excellent fruit definition and creamy complexity. The Howard Park Riesling is made only from Riesling grown in the Great Southern and, more specifically, around Mt. Barker and the Porongurup Ranges. This is one of the few recognised Rieslings outside Clare and Eden Valleys. Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon - based on Frankland River fruit from the Lower Great Southern - is matured in 100% and predominately new French oak barrels for 18 months. The Scotsdale Shiraz – matured in 60% new and one year old French oak – is also making a strong impression. Named after Jeff’s father The Leston Shiraz is 100% Margaret River Shiraz matured in predominantly new (65%) and used French oak for approximately 18 months. The Leston Cabernet Sauvignon, from the same vineyard, shows early promise as an important Margaret River Cabernet. Howard Park is making highly innovative and impressive wines – especially reds. Howard Park also owns the brand Madfish Bay.
Leeuwin Estate, Margaret River
Leeuwin Estate was established in 1974 by Denis and Tricia Horgan with initial help from the Californian winemaker Robert Mondavi. A succession of brilliant vintages, the remarkable fine winemaking legacy of now retired winemaker/ viticulturalist team Bob Cartwright and John Brocksopp and an extraordinary consistency of style, have made Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay one of the most highly prized Australian white wines on the secondary market. It is classified Exceptional by Langton’s in acknowledgement of its overall market profile. The Block 20 vineyard is a source of the most extraordinary and exquisite Chardonnay fruit imaginable. The four Chardonnay blocks of 7ha are planted to a clone called Gin Gin, originally brought out from the US as a virus indicator – and now used extensively in Margaret River. It is a low-yielding clone that gives brilliantly concentrated flavours, but is also susceptible to millerandage, or ‘hen and chicken’, where bunches have berries with varying levels of ripeness. The 1987, once considered the definitive Australian Chardonnay, is starting to tire but there are several great vintages including the 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2003 that follow in its footsteps. Showing all the hallmarks of southern Margaret River fruit, the highly perfumed, muscular and energetic Cabernet Sauvignon is evolving as one of the best from the region.The low yielding vineyard is located on deep gravel and loamy soils over sandy gravel sub-soils. Vinification takes place in closed fermenters regularly pumped over with extended skin maceration. The wine is matured in a combination of 40% new French oak and used Chardonnay barrels for two years. A proportion of Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot are also added to the blend for complexity. Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic Margaret River wine with pronounced blackcurrant/cassis, earthy, leafy characters. It has a highly concentrated palate with fine, but pronounced tannins, underlying new oak and indelible acidity. Through the Art series labels Leeeuwin Esatte has built up an impressive collection of contemporary Australian art which hangs at the winery in Margaret River.The Siblings and Prelude ranges are highly reliable wines and in tip-top vintages can completely over deliver in the quality stakes.
Moss Wood, Margaret River
Dr Bill Pannell established Moss Wood in 1969 at what is clearly one of the choicest and most beautiful vineyard sites in Australia. Keith (pictured) and Clare Mugford who bought the property in 1985 have taken Moss Wood to the pinnacle of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon. The 5-hectare vineyard, at Willyabrup, is planted on gentle northeast facing slopes and soils ranging from sandy loam to a gravelly red/brown loam over clay. The combination of site, vineyard management and soil conservation has been the key to ultimate fruit quality. Longer skin contact time during fermentation and a change in encepagement with the inclusion of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot in the blend has made the wine deeper in colour, more perfumed and textured. Since the 1996 vintage, all Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon sees extended oak ageing of 24 months in French barriques. The first vintage was 1973 with a production of 250 cases. The wine is elegant in style with pronounced cassis-blackcurrant aromas, hints of cedar and touches of leafiness and a finely-structured palate. The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon has been discontinued in favour of a single wine, the highly respected Cabernet Sauvignon, which deservedly enjoys Exceptional status in Langton’s Classification. The Margaret River Pinot Noir is perfumed and supple, arguably the best from the region and much better than the almost identically labelled Moss Wood Pemberton Pinot Noir, a pleasant but early-drinking style. The Chardonnay is yet another reason why Margaret River is a leading region for this variety and the Semillon is a brilliant foil to the Hunter Valley style with fresh, lemony herbaceous aromas and flavours and thirst-quenching acidity. Moss Wood acquired the neighbouring Ribbonvale Vineyard in 2000 and now produces both a single vineyard Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet under this name. In more recent times it has also embraced Margaret River grower vineyards producing a Moss wood “Lefroy Brook Vineyard” Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, “Green Valley“ Chardonnay and “Palandri Vineyard” Chardonnay. Mosswood Amy’s Cabernet is an early drinking style with considerable appeal. Mosswood are strong proponents of the use of screw caps – approximately 70% of the vintage is now bottled with this alternative closure.
Pierro, Margaret River
The Pierro Vineyard is one of the most special vineyard sites in Margaret River. Its natural beauty draws the eye into its textured landscape of stony outcrops and rounded hillocks. Tall gum trees skirt and protect the vines from prevailing winds. Below, the Willyabrup River, sometimes no more than a trickle, cuts through the property reaching a man-made lake below a new concrete/earth winery. The vineyard was originally going to be planted to Riesling, but a need for vineyard expertise and an accompanying offer of 5000 Chardonnay cuttings changed the course of Pierro's fortunes. Vineyard management is an important concern. The vines (the same Gin Gin Clone as Leeuwin Estate) are closely spaced – approximately 4000-5500 per hectare - which increases the relative humidity in the vineyard. Fruit exposure is a critical component of this practice. The vineyard is very stony which means at night the heat irradiates back into the clusters of Chardonnay effectively burning off excessive levels of malic acid. Low levels of malic acid in the Chardonnay fruit means that the complex aromas and flavours deriving from malo-lactic fermentation do not smother fruit definition. Pierro Chardonnay is vinified in Burgundian fashion with barrel fermentation in new French oak, lees stirring (battonage) and lees contact. This is a classically proportioned wine with extraordinary complexity and concentration. The wine has an indelible acid-cut across the mid-palate, creaminess and good length of flavour. It is sometimes quite high in alcohol, but has the balance to age. Pierro Cabernets, a classic Bordeaux blend, is also an impressive and enjoyable medium-term aging wine, but it has yet to make a strong impact on the secondary market. The delicious Pierro LTC (Les Trois Cuvees) Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best of its genre.
Plantagenet, Mount Barker (Great Southern)
When original proprietor Tony Smith, a member of the prominent British bookselling family, established a sheep farm in the very isolated Great Southern region of Western Australia it took a few years for him to realise that the future was in ultra-fine wine rather than ultra-fine wool. The vineyards are the oldest in the Mount Barker sub-region producing extraordinarily high-quality fruit. The heart of Plantagenet Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the original old vines planted in 1968 at Bouverie. A portion of Merlot and younger Cabernet Franc material is blended in the wine to give mid-palate richness. The wine is batch vinified in static fermenters with regular pumping over. At dryness, the wine is allowed an extended maceration on skins to polymerise and resolve tannin structure. Some of the batches are partially barrel fermented to achieve further complexity. The wines, see approximately two years in new, first and second-year-old French oak. By the time the wine has been bottled, Plantagenet Cabernet Sauvignon has been aged in approximately 30% to 50% new oak. This extraordinarily well-made wine expresses the riper spectrum of Cabernet Sauvignon with bright cassis aromas, underlying oak, ripe, fine-grained tannins and high concentration. The Shiraz – first vintage 1974 - is a definitive Great Southern style and derives principally from the estate’s cool climate vineyards Bouverie and Wyjup and the warmer sited Charleston Vineyard. The wine is matured in 40% new and old French oak for a period of 16-18 months. Plantagenet – now owned by WA based family owned Lionel Samson Group - has established a very fine reputation for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
Vasse Felix, Margaret River
Vasse Felix was the first commercial vineyard and winery to be established in Margaret River. The vineyard name is derived from Vasse, a French seaman who drowned last century while exploring the coastline on the ship Geographe under Captain Freycinet, and the French term for luck. Under the ownership of Janet Holmes a Court Vasse Felix has carved an excellent reputation for its superbly made cabernet wines. Winemaker David Dowden is making wines of extraordinary energy and structure. The plush, intensely flavoured and chocolaty Vasse Felix Heytesbury Cabernet Blend – a best of vintage but limited release ‘Grand Vin” – is beacon of quality and is now included in Langton’s Classification at Excellent status. The fruit is sourced from both the Lower Great Southern and Margaret River and is matured in 55-60% new and old French oak. The Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon – classified as “Distinguished” captures an overall regional character rather than site specific nuances. Batch vinification takes place in a combination of rotary and open fermenters. Rack and returns, pumping air into the ferments and micro-oxygenation are also used to increase flavour complexity and soften tannin structure. Some batches are given extended maceration or partially barrel fermented in mainly French oak barriques. The wine is matured in new (55-60%) and used oak for around 18 months. This is superbly made wine showing intense cranberry blackcurrant aromas and cedary complexity, plenty of fruit sweetness and lacy tannin structure. Some vintages may also include small percentages of Malbec, Merlot or Cabernet Franc to create complexity, balance and freshness. The Shiraz is excellent and could even become a classic, with its slightly funky, meaty aromas, plenty of flavour and balance. Both the Heytesbury Chardonnay and standard Chardonnay are exemplary and worth seeking out. There are other offerings including Tempranillo, Viognier and Verdelho which are of more interest to passing trade rather than serious secondary market wines. The Classic Dry White is a classic!
Voyager Estate, Margaret River
Voyager Estate is making spectacular wine in Margaret River. The sleepy old Freycinet Vineyard – first planted in 1978 – was acquired by visionary geologist and teetotal Michael Wright in 1991. The sumptuous Cape Dutch style architecture, remarkable underground wine cellar, beautifully manicured rose gardens and extraordinary attention to detail in the vineyard and winery illustrate a very strong commitment to making wines of great personality and difference. Daughter Alex Wright brings together the right balance of technical expertise, environmental care and marketing flair. Vineyard management follows low-input/organic philosophy. The vines are located on gravelly loams over clay with excellent moisture-holding capacity and are all trellised on a vertical shoot position system The Chardonnay is whole-bunch pressed and receives a touch of oxidative handling to give the eventual wine complexity. The wines are given plenty of lees contact and matured in new oak for 11 months. These wines are tightening up and beginning to show tremendous form. The Cabernet Sauvignon is made with some Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, vinification focusing on tannin management. Before fermentation about 10% of the juice is run off to increase the skin to juice ratio. During fermentation, the must is regularly pumped over, racked and returned to break up the skin cap. About 30% of the wine is given extended skin maceration to soften tannins and increase complexity and about 5% is partially barrel fermented. The wine is then matured in 50% new and 50% two-year-old tightly grained oak for a period of two years. Voyager’s Tom Price Cabernet – named after Mount Tom Price the source of the owner’s iron ore royalties - is a 10-barrel selection of wine made from specially selected fruit and given further maturation of six months. Tom Price Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend is a standout of its genre as is its standard release. Recently Voyager introduced its cellar door VOC Collection wines. Interestingly in 1995 the Wright family acquired the exclusive rights to the VOC name and trademark of the old Dutch East India Company. There is a real feeling of permanency and place at Voyager. This is a model of contemporary Western Australian winemaking and marketing. Cliff Royle – winemaker - and Steve James – viticulturalist – make a very impressive team.
Xanadu, Margaret River
Xanadu is once again family owned under the Rathbone Wine Group; it also owns Parker Coonawarra Estate, Mount Langi Ghiran and Yering Station. John Lagan and family established Xanadu in the late 1970s naming the property after Samuel Coleridge’s epic vision in a dream Kubla Khan. During the mid-1980s and 1990s Xanadu created a strong following for its muscular but energetic wines. The on again – off again Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – also released as Lagan Reserve - was first released in 1989 and is made from a collection of 25+ year-old vines, planted on well-drained red-brown gravely sandy-loams with an underlying sandy clay subsoil and interspersed with boulders and blocks from the size of a fist to a car. The Rathbone’s are working on a complete revitalisation of vineyard and wine making practise including lowering yields, tannin management and optimising regional nuance. Low input/ organic philosophy will continue on this 85 Hectare property. Vinification follows Bordelais lines. Fermentation takes place in static overhead fermenters with regular plunging and lees work. The Reserve – in previous vintages - sees an extended maceration for up to 30 days before maturation in tightly grained French oak for around 22 months. There is so much going on at Xanadu that it is difficult to pin down direction of style. Certainly the cabernets will continue to show refinement in the sense of not being overly fruit driven, opulent or packed with new oak. Darren Rathbone and Gordon Gebbie – with the highly credentialed winemaker Glenn Goodall – will almost certainly achieve more mid-palate richness and further refine tannin complexity in future vintages. Xanadu has always shown such extraordinary potential but its erstwhile performance during the early 2000s illustrates the philosophical chasm between fine winemaking and corporate commercial imperatives. With the boys at Rathbone in charge, It behoves Xanadu to become a stately pleasure dome. Expect a renaissance at all quality levels.
Andrew Caillard MW
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