There has been a real evolution in the Leeuwin Estate style recently, with both the reds and the whites looking fresher than ever. Fresher, better, faster, stronger – but mainly just much better balanced.
The Art Series Cabernet is the figurehead for this style change, with the recent releases showing less of the dour leafiness of yore and now it actually showing fruit characters.
I can’t remember enjoying a young LEAS Cab this much ever. Now to get the Shiraz right…
Actually, there’s still a sensation that Leeuwin Estate is playing catchup here. But I’m guessing that is the legacy of controlling one of Australia’s most famous wineries. Change has clearly been viewed as a gradual process, and it’s going to take more vintages to see the results.
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Shiraz 2013
93% Shiraz, 5% Malbec, 2% Viognier. Bright purple. Quite lurid in its purpleness, and I picked it as having a little Viognier in the blend before reading the winery notes. There’s also 15% whole bunch in the blend this year too. The only challenge here is that it carries that mulchy astringency you so often see in Margs Shiraz – a nod to just how hard it is to getting Shiraz evenly ripe (and not overcropping) in Margaret River. Still, this is plush and polished for Leeuwin, another step in the modernising of the style (if just a little toasty oaky). It’s not enough to convince me of Margs Shiraz beauty (especially not the green edge of the tannins) but it is still a smart wine. Best drinking: 2018-2024. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $38. Would I buy it? Not quite.
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
I’ve had this twice now and it didn’t move me much the first time. But now, over lunch, it really impresses. A slow burner. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, it spent 21 months in 40% new wood. What’s noticeable is the even ripeness in this 2012 vintage – no leather and gumleaf! It’s so much more generous than previous years, with plenty of purple in there. Maybe a little syrupy through the middle (a common characteristic in ’12 Margs Cab), but tightens up nicely with grainy oak and then grippy tannins. A new world order for Leeuwin Cabernet, it’s long and quite modern, the length befitting the label. What a step up! Best drinking: 2020-2035. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $68. Would I buy it? I enjoyed my few glasses. I’d be happy to have some in the cellar.
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2013
Partial wild ferment, everything in barrel, maturation was 11 months in 100% new oak. Despite the vintage warmth this is the most contained Leeuwin I can remember, still green straw coloured and youthful. There is the classic nutty golden oak character of Leeuwin, though – like an oak sunrise. That sounds rude, but the barrel influence here is a big part of the recipe. The length, the power, the weight… all of it smells of absolute quality. Importantly, that oak doesn’t derail the flavour, and every mouthful is a smorgasbord of Chardonnay flavour. You can’t deny the glory of a wine like this – sure, the winemaking sits on top, but the latent glory is apparent. Big yes, but stick it in the cellar for a few years. Best drinking: 2018-2028. 18.5/20, 94/100+. 13.5%, $96. Would I buy it? Yes, even despite the price.