Author Archives: finewineclub

New Release Cabernet: July 2019

New Release Cabernet: July 2019

Barry Weinman: 10th July 2019

It is always an interesting exercise when two bottles of the same wine end up in a tasting, or in tastings that are close together, as it is a chance for panel members to measure the consistency of their notes and scores. The closer the scores, the happier the panel.

So it was that a bottle of the 2016 Howard Park Abercrombie was included in this tasting. I reviewed this two months ago and was pleased to see that I gave both wines identical points (18.7/20) and near identical tasting notes. The main difference was that a few extra months in the bottle have allowed the fruit to shine just that little bit brighter. Great wine.

The highlight of the current tasting was the wines from Flametree. The Embers Cabernet is brilliant drinking now, whilst the “regular” Cabernet is age-worthy and powerful. Both represent fine value.

Reviewed

Flametree – Cabernet Sauvignon – Embers – 2017 (18.3/20pts – $20). Fine and elegant, this supple wine is full of blueberry fruit, with near seamless palate transition. The quality of the fruit is a highlight and whilst being a great drink now, has enough depth and structure to benefit from a few years in the cellar. This is the first time that I can recall that this wine is not labelled Cabernet Merlot and is great value.

Flametree – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2016 (18.5/20pts – $45). There is density and a degree of power to the brambly fruit here that elevates it beyond the Embers. The palate is supple, silky and seductive, with silky, feather- light tannins on the mid palate that slowly build on the close adding texture and structure. This serious wine gets a little chewy to close and is worthy of extended time in the cellar. This is the first time this wine is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mr Barvel – Cabernet/Merlot – 2017 (17.5/20pts). This wine is quite delicious, with the ripe berry fruit complemented by savoury winemaking and fine tannins. Perhaps not that serious but well-made and eminently suitable for early consumption.

Fraser Gallop – Cabernet Sauvignon – Estate – 2016 (18/20pts – $33). Pristine ripe fruit in the cooler spectrum is supported by fine tannins to make a lovely, medium-bodied wine. The finish is long, supple and elegant, showing admirable balance. The winemaker (Clive Otto) has taken a different approach with this wine, using techniques learned in Bordeaux. The purity of fruit seems to be the key feature. https://www.frasergallopestate.com.au/product/Cabernet-Sauvignon-2017

Emirates Business Class Lounge Wines: June 2018

Emirates Business Class Lounge Wines: June 2018

Barry Weinman: 15th June 2019

In the course of my work, I spend a large amount of time traveling internationally. This includes regular travel on Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways, as well as less frequent trips on Malaysian, Asiana etc.

By far the best wine that is regularly served in Business Class on any of these flights is the Charles Heidsieck Champagne served by Singapore Airlines. A superb wine of great complexity and finesse. Interestingly, I believe the wine being served is a much more recent disgorgement than that which is available in Australia.

For something a little different, I recently flew six sectors on Emirates, becoming well acquainted with the wines being served both in the lounge and on the plane.

On board, there is either Veuve Clicquot or Moet NV Champagne (depending on the sector), as well as two decent whites (including one White Burgundy) and two reds (including a Bordeaux). There is also a 1994 Late-Bottled Vintage Port for those so inclined. But the highlight on each flight was the Sommelier’s Selection mentioned at the end of the wine list.

On each flight, this was quite outstanding, being either a super-Tuscan or Napa Valley Cabernet. I would definitely recommend asking the staff about this as, whilst available, is not always offered during the service.

What was really exciting for a wine tragic like me, was the range of wines available in the Business Class Lounge in Terminal 3 at Gate A in Dubai. The first time I visited, I assumed that the wines would be the same at each drink station, so did not go looking. On my second visit though, I realised that there were at least one or two different wines at each drink station. So at 1am in the morning, I found myself wondering around the eight drink stations spread across the two wings of the lounge excitedly exploring the various options.

Of interest, the best wines appeared to be at the quiet end of each of the lounges. It is also worth noting that the wines can change completely from one bottle to the next, so it is worth checking what else is open with the staff.

The only Champagne open was the NV Moet, which is not a bad wine by any means. From there, things get much more exciting. There was a cross-section of white Bordeaux that I found very interesting. A highlight was a lovely bottle of 2015 Chateau Carbonieux (complex and refined, with excellent fruit weight), and the excellent Chateau Bouscaut 2011, both of which are Graves Grand Cru. The Tronquoy Lalande 2016 was lighter and more straightforward, but excellent drinking.

Other whites included a 2016 Pinot Grigio from Livio Felluga that had a most distinctive label, as well as a couple of South African whites and a Penfolds Chardonnay. There was also an excellent Burgundy from Domaine Roux Père & Fils. The Saint Aubin – 1er Cru – Vieilles Vignes 2017 is fresh and bright, with ripe stonefruit and textural winemaking influences. An excellent wine from an under-rated region in Burgundy.

For me, the highlight of the whites was Antinori’s Cervaro della Sala 2016. Castello della Sala (now owned by Antinori) is considered by some as one of the great white wines of Italy, and if this bottle is typical, then who am I to argue? Very refined and polished, with ripe peach and apricot fruit combined with a creamy mouthfeel from the oak and lees work. A textural treat that would be as good with food as it was on its own. Superb!

An interesting counterpoint to these wines was the 2014 Opalie by Chateau Coutet. This has clear links to sweet Sauternes, having hints of botrytis and honey, though the finish feels very dry.

The reds were just as exciting, and included two contrasting wines from Bordeaux. Clos Du Marquis (Saint Julien) is a second label (as opposed to the second wine) of Leoville Las Cases. On this occasion, the 2007 was available. From a difficult year in Bordeaux, this is an excellent result. Whilst the fruit is relatively subdued, the structure is classic Bordeaux and is drinking well now.

By contrast, the 2008 Lynch Moussas (5th Growth – Pauillac) was bursting with ripe, almost succulent fruit. An excellent wine from this revitalised estate.

For Shiraz lovers, the Torbreck Run Rig 2006 was already drinking a treat, with the extra bottle age allowing the structure to soften considerably, while the Donelan Walker Vine Hill Syrah 2013 was full of pretty berry fruit with very fine structure. Both were excellent wines!

The highlights for me came from the truly excellent 2013 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley and the dense/powerful 2013 super-Tuscan from Collazzi (labelled Toscana).

So next time you are transiting in Dubai, I highly recommend that you take some time to wonder around the lounges exploring the wines on offer. You will not be disappointed.

New Release Premium Shiraz: June 2019

New Release Premium Shiraz: June 2019

17th June 2019

For those who have been following my reviews for some time, you will have noted that there are some wineries that get reviewed more often than others. One of those is Shingleback and another is Angove. Both wineries are making wines at a variety of price points that are class- leading.

When it comes to reviewing their new releases, I have tended to focus on the more affordable ranges, such as Red Knot and Hay Cutters (Shingleback) and Long Row and Family Crest (Angove), such is the quality of the wines offered.

But with the launch of the 2014 D Block Reserve from Shingleback and the 2016 Medhyk from Angove, the sheer quality of these wines cannot be ignored. Whilst the styles are very different, even at the $55 – $70 price point, they both represent great value given just how good they are.

I will be laying down both of these wines in the cellar for future enjoyment.

The other wine to stand out in this tasting was the 2016 William Randall Shiraz from Thorn Clark. Whilst not formally reviewed here, this was a restrained expression of Barossa Shiraz that will be brilliant in 15 – 20 years’ time (cork permitting).

Reviewed

Angove – Shiraz – The Medhyk – 2016 (18.5+/20pts – $80). Wow, this is a very serious wine indeed. Whilst the fruit is dense and structured, there is a silky approachability to the ripe fruit that is quite disarming. With air, the fruit really starts to shine, though the silky tannins creep up on the finish. A powerful wine that has been brilliantly made, but needs 20+ years to hit its peak. Enjoy with a rich beef dish now, but give it an hour or two in a decanter beforehand.

Shingleback – Shiraz – D Block – Reserve – 2014 (18.5+/20pts – $55). Sweet, rich, ripe fruit explodes from the glass. This is dense and powerful, yet is totally seductive and captivating. A different expression of McLaren Vale fruit, with a wonderful exuberance and silky, gossamer-fine tannins that makes this irresistible now. Will also age very well, in the cellar for a decade or more. Sealed with a natural cork.

New Release Chardonnay – June 2019

New Release Chardonnay – June 2019

Barry Weinman: 24th June 2019

I love Chardonnay. If I had to choose just one white wine style to drink, this would be it. Part of the appeal is the versatility that the grape affords. From zesty, racy unoaked styles made famous by Chablis, to the powerful rich and textured White Burgundies, there is a style for every occasion.

For this tasting, the panel sat down to a line-up of over 20 high quality wines, primarily from 2017 and 2018. The final five wines that made it through to this review are all worthy of your attention. From the great value Flint Rock, to the powerful Singlefile, the different faces of Chardonnay are well represented.

I hope you get the chance to enjoy some of these wines.

Reviewed

Singlefile – Chardonnay – Family Reserve – 2018 (18.7/20pts – $60). This is a great wine. Complex and creamy, with powerful fruit and very refined winemaking inputs. Peach-like fruit with citrus highlights really build in the glass. The suppleness to the palate is a highlight, with the creamy texture adding depth. Excellent fruit, oak and winemaking combine to make this a brilliant drink now, but also one that will age well for at least five years.  (From a 30 y/o vineyard, the fruit was hand-picked, barrel fermented in French oak (40% new), lees stirring and only 12% malolactic fermentation).

Howard Park – Chardonnay – Flint Rock – 2018 (17.9/20pts – $28). Whilst I was tempted to review the premium Howard Park Chardonnay, the value offered by the Flint Rock made this a stand-out. This wine is a bit deceptive, as it starts off very easy to drink and satisfying, but then starts to build greater depth and texture, with the ripe fruit perfectly matched to the oak and lees work. A fine wine with a creamy finish, the generosity of fruit makes this great drinking now. (Aged in older oak and spends 10 months on lees).

Dexter – Chardonnay – 2017 (18/20pts – $40). This is a leaner, more modern style, with fine, if obvious acidity and subtle fruit in the grapefruit and nectarine spectrum. The acidity, which is a touch youthful now gradually gives way to fine, supple fruit and a very long finish. Very good indeed, this will evolve for a number of years. (Whole bunch pressed, barrel fermentation, extended lees aging, partial malolactic fermentation).

Sandalford – Chardonnay – Estate Reserve – 2018 (18/20pts). Fine and elegant, with everything in balance. There is a touch of toast from the oak, but this fits well with the fruit profile. With air, this builds peach and pineapple fruit notes. This finish is long, supple and textured, with a savoury lift on the close.

Plantagenet – Chardonnay – York – 2018 (18.4/20pts – $40). A great way to finish the tasting. This is fine, refined, elegant and long, with supple stone fruit and citrus notes combined with impeccable (French) oak handling. The latter adds texture and depth, without dulling the fruit expression. A stately wine that is great now, but would benefit from five years in the cellar.

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: May 2019

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: May 2019

Barry Weinman: 31st June 2019

In the global wine market, Western Australian wines are positively cheap, when quality is factored in. In an effort to lift the profile internationally, a number of producers have released, or are planning to release limited edition Reserve wines at a higher price point.

Cullen’s Vanya was at the vanguard of this movement, and has been quickly followed by the likes of Vasse Felix with their Tom Cullity. There is also a stable of fine producers whose “standard” premium wine is of equivalent quality.

The points given in this tasting are quite arbitrary as all the reviewed wines are quite extraordinary.

It has never been a better time to be a wine drinker in Australia!

Reviewed

Deep Woods – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 2016 (18.5+/20pts – $70). Wow, the fruit here is impressive. Dense and powerful initially, but becoming quite restrained on the finish as the dusty tannins and oak shut down the fruit. Built for the long haul, and likely to get higher points in the future.

Deep Woods – Cabernet Sauvignon – Yallingup Vineyard – 2014 (19/20pts- $130). Wow, whilst almost perfumed, this is big! Intense dark berry fruit floods the palate lingering for what seems like minutes. Ultimately, the fine tannins and supple oak start to rein the fruit back, leaving a drying finish that demands another sip. Great wine!

Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Jack Mann – 2016 (18.7+/20pts). Restrained and elegant, but full of life all the same. Pristine red currant fruit with hints of black cherry and tar. The palate is silky and fine, but needs years to show its best, as the complex, perfumed fruit is quite shy.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Abercrombie – 2016 (18.8/20pts). Wow, spectacular fruit and winemaking! This is supple and balanced, yet is packed full of ripe blackcurrant fruit. The finish gets a little closed, as the very fine tannins build and shut down the fruit. Brilliant, but will be better in 20 years.

Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 2015 (18.8/20pts – $69). This is seductive and sensuous, with velvety fruit flooding the senses. That said, the acid/tannin balance adds life and depth. Very long and very fine, this is a brilliant wine that could be drunk with pleasure now, but will be best with at least a decade in the cellar. An absolute bargain.

Nocturne – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2017 (18.5/20pts – $40). Intense and perfumed black currant and cassis fruit on the nose, with just a touch of tobacco leaf. The palate shows refined red berries, with hints of liquorice and spice. The fruit is the primary focus, with the oak adding texture on the close. This excellent wine is a side project of the talented Julian Langworthy at Deep Woods.

Penfolds – Cabernet Sauvignon – Bin 169 – 2016 (19/20pts – $350). Wow, I love the perfumed fruit here. Intense, powerful and impressively textured, with extreme length and persistence. Classic Coonawarra Cabernet at its best.

Penfolds – Cabernet Sauvignon – 707 – 2016 (18.8++/20pts – $650). Intense, powerful, closed, tight, firm, structured, textured and chewy.  With air, this is like drinking Cabernet essence, such is the concentration of the fruit. Timeless wine that will outlive me.

Singlefile – Cabernet Sauvignon – The Philip Adrian – 2016 (18.7/20pys – $100). Really deep, powerful and concentrated, yet this has grace and balance. On the palate, there is very intense fruit but it manages to show a degree of restraint. The finish is, for all intent and purposes, seamless and the fruit lingers, opening in layers. Amazingly good now, but will be at its best after 20 years+. Very impressive packaging adds to the appeal.

Vasse Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon – Tom Cullity – 2015 (18.7+/20pts). Textured, savoury, earthy and chewy, this is a powerhouse of a wine. Intense blackcurrant fruit and spice combine with grip from the oak to create a wine for the long haul. Sophisticated and stylish, this is all potential right now.

Yarra Yering – Cabernet Sauvignon – Caroudus – 2016 (18.8/20pts – $250). Lithe and fresh in comparison to some of the Western Australian wines, with a purity to the fruit that is breathtaking. A very fine, age-worthy wine that will be at its best with at least 10-15 years in the bottle.

Voyager Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – MJW – 2014 (18.7/20pts). Supple red berry fruit, fine oak and elegant, restrained tannins express on a very long and fine finish. The fruit builds in layers on the palate. What a great way to end the tasting. A refreshing, youthful, high acid style that leaves you wanting another sip.

Spoiled For Choice: Selecting your next wine

Spoiled For Choice: Selecting your next wine

Brendan Jansen MW

May 28th 2019

The other day, I found myself in a supermarket looking to buy toothpaste. I was confronted with two, maybe three different brands, and only had to choose between “whitening” or “Extra Whitening” options!

I left the supermarket to walk into the neighbouring bottle shop (as is my wont), and there was confronted with walls and walls of wine. I thought to myself that this was much more of a delicious challenge! But I also wondered if such choice represents a dilemma for many.

It is no surprise that we return to familiar brands, styles and varieties in wine choice, and no surprise that we rely on the recommendation or advice of others in making our choice. The subject of fashion in wine, and the importance of a brand’s story was the subject of a previous wine musing…!

Yet I believe there is a way out of the quagmire. Just a little bit of knowledge can go a long way….

To some, the wall can be threatening, overwhelming, almost closing in. But breaking down the parts of the wall is the first step. Thea easiest breakdown is red, white or bubbles. After that there are typical styles and varieties – that vary depending upon aromatic intensity, aromatic profile, palate weight, tannin structure, even acidity and alcohol content.

The key, I feel, is to sample enough wines to know what you like – and what you might be looking for on that particular occasion. Food is a factor, but ultimately, your preferences are what matters most.

It will not take long before you develop a familiarity with those preferences. For example, my own personal tastes are for a preference of Riesling over Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Of course, exceptions apply, and preferences can vary from occasion to occasion and even within a variety.

German off dry Rieslings from the Mosel can be as different from a high octane, high alcohol dry Riesling from the Wachau in Austria – and there may be certain occasions when I would prefer one over the other. If I were to be choosing a wooded white style, my preference would be for a more sleek and slender or linear incarnation rather than a bigger style.

I prefer Pinot Noir and Cabernet to Shiraz (I know, blasphemy for an Aussie!), and have an idea of the different manifestations of say Margaret River and Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.

So on entering the bottle shop, it is not a big wall you are confronted with, but a small part of that wall. And even then, only a few “bricks” in the wall are relevant. I strongly feel that such a level of comfort and ease with wine choices are within the grasp of most people.

Recently I found myself at a top-end Pinot Noir tasting where the very best of Australasian Pinot Noirs were on show. I have to say that I did not taste a “dud” wine. But my own preferences came to the fore. And I was able to identify those wines that might be more attractive to those seeking, for example, greater new oak influence, or greater extraction. There were those in the more floral/strawberry spectrum, and yet others in the cherry spectrum. Even then, you could choose black, red, or Maraschino cherries, depending on your whim! I could see the quality in all the wines, but looked for a style I like. So while I rated all the wines highly, I only put in an order for one….

Cabernet Sauvignon New Release May 2019

Singlefile Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Cabernet Sauvignon New Release May 2019

Barry Weinman: 28th May 2019

Whilst Fine Wine Club is not about making money (it actually costs me money to run), there are some great perks to the job, such as being able to taste dozens of very high-quality wines in a week.

There are some varieties that are just that little bit more special to taste than others, and Cabernet Sauvignon, either alone or blended is one of those. Part of the attraction is that Australia (and Western Australia in particular) makes Cabernet-based wines that are the equal of any in the world when assessed for quality as well as value, so the quality of our tastings can be quite high.

This week was a good one, having reviewed over 40 of Australia’s best Cabernets, including the current Penfolds big wines. And while it is easy to write reviews about Tom Cullity, Vanya etc, it was the quality of the second tier Cabernets from Howard Park (Leston) and Singlefile’s (Single Vineyard) that gave me the most enjoyment.

Whilst not quite as dense and powerful as their big brothers, these wines offer that rare combination of being a great drink now, as well as being capable of being cellared for at least a decade or two. But do give them an hour in a decanter (or double decant) to let the fruit shine if you are drinking them young.

Reviewed

Singlefile – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2017 (17.5/20pts – $25). Fresher and more approachable, with supple red currant fruit supported by just a lick of savoury oak and refreshing acidity. Great drinking now – 5 years with grilled meats.

Singlefile – Cabernet Sauvignon – Single Vineyard – 2017 (18.6/20pts – $39). I like this a lot! Excellent quality fruit in the mulberry spectrum has been skillfully matched to subtle, savoury oak. Whilst lithe and approachable, there are plenty of fine tannins, supple oak and balancing acidity to keep this relatively restrained at first, suggesting the ability for extended aging (this was brilliant drinking after two days on the tasting bench). At $39, this is surely a bargain.

Howard Park – Cabernet Sauvignon – Leston – 2016 (18.5/20pts – $48). This was actually quite muted to start but really opened up with air. The palate has fresh berry fruit, silky tannins and savoury oak adding depth but not overt flavours. The balance that is a highlight, with this wine having the rare ability to drink just as well now as it will in 10-15 years. Super!

The 2014 Bordeaux Vintage – Brendan Jansen

The 2014 Bordeaux Vintage

Brendan Jansen: 20th May 2019

Every year, in London, Sydney and San Francisco, the Institute of masters of Wine hosts Bordeaux tastings. The biggest of these are in London, but a very significant number of producers was on show in Sydney this last weekend.

The format is similar in most years – with wines laid out according to appellation, with the Left bank and Right bank reds and Botrytised whites represented. As always, the few select “First Growths” represented – on a table all of their own, are a sought after highlight.

The vintage was an interesting one, with most critics agreeing it is the best since the 2009/2010 stellar vintage duo. Vintages in Bordeaux have been disappointing to an extent since those two vintages. While there is hype about the 2015 vintage, the 2014s did not disappoint.

I arrived early and saw the wines when they were opened. Along with Rob Geddes MW and Neil Hadley MW, we checked the wines, giving us the opportunity to assess them in broad strokes as well.

As a side note, only four bottles were faulty in some way, out of the two samples each of the 60 wines sent by the Institute. The vagaries of cork….

My general impressions aligned with comments of others about the vintage – generally Left Bank Cabernet Sauvignon based wines looked better than Right bank wines, with Margaux, Pauillac and St Julien particularly notable. Also, the “usual suspects” shone, as did a few other aspirational producers – see below. There were some in the aspirational camp who had perhaps tried a little too hard – so that oak tended to dominate the fruit.

Overall, I thought the vintage was reminiscent of 2008, also “saved” by some late, fine weather, but would perhaps appeal more to classical palates – the wines were generally reserved, tight and structured, and though fruit was present in the background, some years will need to pass for the tannins to yield.

In less-than-perfect years, it is my view that “terroir” shows through more clearly. Below is a list of my picks:

Pessac-Leognan

            Domaine de Chevalier

Haut-Medoc

            Chateau Cantemerle

Margaux

            Ch Brane-Cantenac

            Ch Giscours

            Ch Kirwan

            Ch Pouget

            Ch Rauzan-Segla

Saint-Estephe

            Cos D’Estournel

            Ch Cos Labory

Saint-Julien

            Ch Beychevelle

            Ch Langoa Barton

            Ch Leoville Barton

            Ch Leoville Du Marquis de las Cases

            Ch Leoville Poyferre

Pauillac

            Ch Pichon Baron

            Ch Pontet-Canet

Pinot Noir: New Release May 2019

Barry Weinman: 25th May 2019

Pinot Noir remains the holy grail for many wine drinkers. At its best, the grape is capable of producing wines of extraordinary beauty and complexity. All too often, however, events in the vineyard (and winery) conspire to make less than exciting wines.

In this tasting, for example, of the 16 wines reviewed only two made it to this review. Fortunately, the two that made it are both cracking wines. Different in style to each other, but both delicious examples of Australian Pinot Noir.

Reviewed

Pooley – Pinot Noir – 2017 (18/20pts – $45). Perfumed and lifted fruit on the nose leads onto a palate that has sweet cherry and berry fruit, with just a hint of fresh plum and spice. This is quite rich and opulent, in a most attractive way. On the finish, the fruit flavours linger and are framed by fine acidity and tannins. Great drinking now with food.  From Tasmania

Mac Forbes – Pinot Noir – Yarra Valley – 2018 (18/20pts – $33). Whilst the single vineyard wines from Mac Forbes tend to steal the limelight, it was the entry-level Yarra Valley Pinot Noir that got the panel the most excited, due to the value that it offers. Initially a little shy, but there is really good fruit on show. Builds depth with air, the fruit becoming very attractive and fragrant. The palate is a little lean and sinewy to start, but again hits its straps with air. Good value.

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay Vertical Tasting 2000 – 2016 Vintage


Barry Weinman: 4th May 2019

There has been much written about Australian Chardonnays over the years, documenting the changing styles and fashions. In the 1990s the trend was for big, ripe, buttery Chardonnays, with plenty of oak. This evolved over the 2000s, with the fruit richness and oak flavours gradually being wound back.

Around 2010, the pendulum moved to the other end of the spectrum. Led by key wine critics and winemakers (particularly in Victoria), the trend was for high acid, early-picked examples, where the fruit was dialled right back. These wines needed years to show their best and were not always the most approachable while they were still young.

Throughout this time, Leeuwin Estate maintained a steady style, producing fine, elegant wines that were capable of extended aging, but were also great drinking early on. In any given year, the Art Series Chardonnay is amongst the country’s finest. Given that it has been at the highest level for almost 40 years makes this one of Australia’s greatest wines of any variety.

Besides the wines, there was another story that unfolded during this tasting: the impact of the closure used on the condition of the wine. There was a marked difference in the freshness of the wines, with those under screw cap (2003 onwards) far fresher and more consistent than the earlier wines (of which more than one bottle had to be opened on the night to find a good example for the tasting).

There were a number of highlights on the night; the 1990, for example, demonstrated just how well these wines can age (cork permitting).

In terms of sheer quality, there were no bad wines at all, but a few of the vintages really stood out. The 2000 was great drinking and the 2003 remarkably fresh and youthful. The truly great wines on the night came from 2005, 2007, 2010, 2014 and 2016.

Reviewed

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 1990. Honeyed and rich, yet still with life and balance. The palate is rich, rounded and textured, with excellent length of flavours. In remarkable condition and great drinking.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2000. Fresh and vibrant, with peach-like fruit and gentle honeyed notes. The acidity is a highlight. Almost Chablis in character, with minerality a feature. The palest colour of the wines under cork, this was considered to be a very good bottle.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2001. What a shame. Ever so slightly tainted and no back-up available on the night (previous bottles have been excellent).          

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2002. Under cork, this had a golden colour and was very developed. Enjoyable drinking, but sure to be better bottles out there.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2003. A notable change in colour and very fresh in comparison. Here, the honey characters have been replaced by more toasty notes. The acid is muted, but there is enough freshness to make this great drinking. Lingering toffee finish a highlight. No rush to drink these.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2004. Wow, this is a step up in freshness and concentration. Delightful peachy fruit, subtle toast and balancing acidity. Long and complex, with excellent mouth-feel, this is vibrant and delicious. Opens with air, developing richness of fruit and great length and balance. Super wine!

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2005. Lighter colour, and even fresher, the ripe fruit here is absolutely superb. The palate is fine, elegant, and balanced, with great acid structure and length. Restrained and youthful, this has a decade ahead of it, but why wait? A vinous highlight.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2006. A touch more colour compared to the ‘05 and ‘07, this has more toast, but less fruit. That said, it still has good acidity. Generosity of flavours makes up for the longevity, but probably best to drink this vintage sooner than later.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2007. Wow. This is spectacular. Delicate, refined and supple, yet this has power to boot. There is superb fruit, balance and mouth-feel. Restrained, but all components are in harmony and there is great length of flavours. An ethereal wine that has a brilliant future.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2008. Amazingly, this tastes like it was released just yesterday. Taut and fresh, with high acidity. With air, this opens and shows a touch of lime notes. Easy to be overlooked next to the 2007, but a lovely wine that has real potential.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2009. Unfortunately, this wine could not be found on the night.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2010. What a beautiful wine. Fine, elegant, refined and supple, yet the balance is the best of any wine to date, making this also the best drinking. With finer acidity and brilliant fruit, this will be even better in 10 years. One of my wines of the night.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2011. A little more restrained than the 2010, this needs a few years to really open up. Again, the balance is brilliant, with fine grapefruit-like acidity and supple peach and nectarine fruit. Youthful vitality and richness, with excellent fruit weight but give it time.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2012. Finesse and poise are the features of this sublime wine. Seamless and restrained, with a spine-tingling presence. Almost ethereal, there is a nervous tension to the wine. A little polarising, but a personal favourite.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2013. Melon and grapefruit to the fore. This is textured, chewy and full of potential, yet remarkably good drinking already. The finish is near seamless and the acid balance is a highlight. With air, this starts to develop peachy fruit. Another great wine.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2014. This is quite firm and taut. Having said that, the balance is exemplary, with the acid cutting through the fruit richness. Needs years to show its best, but with air, the fruit richness builds and you get a glimpse of just how good this wine is. Will age with grace.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2015. Spectacular, fine and restrained, yet with depth and power. This is youthful, and needs years to hit its peak, but there is no doubting the sheer quality of the fruit underlying this wine. A wine for the long haul.

Leeuwin Estate – Chardonnay – Art Series – 2016. I have written recently about just how good this is, but on the night: More perfumed, with lovely floral highlights. The palate is shy and restrained, with the balance and mouth-feel a highlight. Needs a few years, but this may well be the greatest Leeuwin Chardonnay released to date. A great way to end the evening.