In 1966 a research paper by University of WA agronomist Dr John Gladstones was released that declared Margaret River’s climate of wet winter, moderate dry summers and gravelly soils ideal for viticulture.
Inspired, Perth cardiologist Tom Cullity planted vines at Vasse Felix in 1967. Soon after vines were planted at Moss Wood (1969), Cape Mentelle (1970), Cullen, (1971), Sandalford (1972), Leeuwin Estate, Woodlands and Wrights (1973).
Last week a group of these Margaret River producers came to Sydney to celebrate the 50th anniversary of these initial plantings, bringing them a selection of Margaret River’s finest Chardonnay and Cabernet blends to show for it.
Oh yes, this was a great tasting.
Off the back of the Voyager lineup from last week, this was another exploration of Margaret River glories. These lineups are (arguably) even more instructive too – a chance to think about vintages (love the 14 reds), to think about oak and tannins (both better handled than ever) and again to highlight favourites.
Margaret River Chardonnay
All of these were tasted non-blind, though I had a chance to go backwards and forwards between the wines. Notes are as written on the day, and they’re rough. Hopefully you still get the gist. I also scored hard, and viewed in isolation many of these wines would probably look even better.
Credaro Wines 1000 Crowns Chardonnay 2015
Nutty edge here. This seems a tad too locked up, the acidity keeps the palate in shape but it seems to look a bit tinny and peachy, with a sweet and sour finish. An odd wine out here. 17.5/20, 91/100.
Juniper Estate Chardonnay 2015
A dash of sulphide funk and then the oak picks up. Good quality oak, and the flavour really hits it home. Long. Definitely a classic style, but not quite the slam dunk just yet. A little more time for the reductive elements to integrate and it will be a superstar. Nice wine already. 18/20, 93/100+.
Flametree Wines SRS Wallcliffe Chardonnay 2015
Big spicy hit on the nose. This is a powerful and punchy Chardonnay, a huuuge wine from go to woah. Really sour and almost brutal in its intensity. Top tier in every way, this is a real statement wine. Superstar. 18.7/20, 95/100
McHenry Hohnen Calgardup Brook Chardonnay 2015
A counterpoint to the last wine. More nuanced Layers of flavour aplenty here too. Tight and very well composed. I feel like this is the complete package too. Deliciously tangy and intense, with more to come. Like. 18.5/20, 94/100.
Domain Naturaliste Artus Chardonnay 2015
Big funky style. Plays a sulphides and yeast card as a first option and it’s a big hit. Is it too worked? Big mouthful of flavour. I like it, though the question is whether it’s too much. After a while that sulphide funk tends to just hang around. Quality, but it’s a challenging drink after the first sip methinks – it’s just too overt. 17.7/20, 92/100.
Howard Park Allingham Chardonnay 2015
Tinned peach nose. I find this just a little raw and lean, the fruit is clearly on display (minimal malo) and fresh but it feels a little tight and bound. There’s flavour in here, but it’s not showing it yet and it is less convincing a result. Conservative score for now. 17.5/20, 91/100+
Clairault Streicker Wines Ironstone Block Old Vine Chardonnay 2014
The extra year helps here greatly. It’s a warm and rather bold style in this lineup. Is the oak a bit intrusive? Good, but it doesn’t quite have the detail here. 17.7/20, 92/100.
Devil’s Lair 9th Chamber Chardonnay 2013
Mealy and quite overt, yet the acidity is almost too prominent. It’s almost sparkling wine like acidity. There’s just the slightest disconnect between acidity and fruit/winemaking richness. Penfolds-like Margaret River Chardonnay. Still, the length here is top tier. 18/20, 93/100.
Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon + Blends
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Distinctly leafy varietal nose. Classic! Quite a robust and ripe palate though – it’s riper than the nose suggests, complete with blackberry almost tarry edge. A warmth to this vintage. Big impact though. I’d like to see it later, when the ripe fruit quietens down a fraction. Is there a slight hole in between fruit and tannin? Great impact though. A cracking wine in many ways that just needs a little more time to come together. Quality package. 18.5/20, 94/100+.
Xanadu Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Classic gum leaf nose. A more relaxed wine here, less overt, more a subtle build. Class. It’s still just a little juicy and primal, but the lasting, southern Margs style here is bang on. Balance and depth. Will only get better. High class. 18.7/20, 95/100+.
Woodlands Matthew Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Ripe and concentrated. I noticed the oak more here, which hasn’t stuck out otherwise. Still too young, but the composure here is excellent. Classy wine, though not for drinking now. Substantial tannin! What a great wine. Amazing that it can swallow the 100% new oak. Superb balance underneath too. 18.7/20, 95/100+.
Thompson Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Smoky, meaty nose, before a rather juicy, riper, fruit sweet palate. It’s not as long as the wines around it, but has some lovely berry juiciness. It’s a fraction sweet and sour to finish. Good intensity though. 18/20, 93/100.
Fraser Gallop Parterre Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Pencil shavings ahoy! Composed. I like the tempered ripeness here – it’s more cedary and savoury than a big hit of flavour. That varietal character is really appealing for mine. Great tannins and long, dark fruit. Some may not live the firm, less juicy style. But I love the extra savouriness and less overt ripe fruit. 18.5/20, 94/100
Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Malbec 2013
I really like how the Malbec shapes this wine. It gives this an approachabilty and generosity, a softening that is genuinely appealing. Immediately drinkable (a rarity in this lineup) and the tannins are proper too. 18.5/20, 94/100
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Shows none of its lean and leafy past. Indeed it’s quite soft and juicy, an open knit style without a big power punch. It’s overshadowed here, and a bit sweet and sour. But has a place. 17.7/20, 92/100.
Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2012
That distinctive Voyager nose! Dried leaf, minty and mulberry. I love how the Merlot fleshes this out from an drinkability mode, but it perhaps make it less punchy as a result. Pleasurable wine though, and proudly regional. 18/20, 93/100.
Umamu Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Sweet and sour. It’s not as powerful in this context – more medium weight – but packs some quite classic tannins. Elegant and tannin led, it’s just a bit leathery, but certainly some classic, mid-weight appeal here. 17.5/20, 91/100.