Lisa Perrotti-Brown - 04/03/2016
About this WINE
Leeuwin Estate was purchased by Perth businessman Denis Horgan in the Margaret River region with a view to utilising it for cattle grazing. That was in 1969, but 3 years later Robert Mondavi visited the farm and immediately spotted the potential for wine production.
The farm quickly assumed the mantle of Australia's finest Chardonnay producer and its Cabernet Sauvignon became one of Western Australia's most sought-after reds. Some of the lowest yields in Australia and a near-perfect microclimate lie at the root of this estate`s success.
Oz Clarke has described the Chardonnay as Australia's "Montrachet", and few would beg to differ.
Located on the most south-westerly point of Australia, three hours’ drive south of Perth, the Margaret River region sprang to life during the 1960s and 1970s as a result of Professor Harold Olmo’s and Dr John Gladstone’s research into the region’s viticultural potential. Consequently Vasse Felix was planted in 1967, Moss Wood in 1970 and Cullen in 1971. Since then the plantings have grown exponentially, while the number of wineries has increased six-fold. This explosion of wineries has perhaps been to the detriment of the wine quality.
Bounded to the west by the Indian Ocean and the 90km Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin promontory, the region enjoys a benign if damp maritime climate in which the vines rarely shut down, causing disrupted flowering (exacerbated by strong, westerly sea winds). Over the growing season it’s 16 percent hotter than in Coonawarra and 7% than the Médoc.
The Cape ridge is made up of lateritic clay topsoils over weathered granite and gneiss, giving fruit with a relatively high pH. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most fancied variety,producing a lush, early drinking style, followed by Shiraz, Chardonnay and Sémillon.
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.