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London Wine Fair 2011: Margaret River

Written by JW. Posted in Australia

Sarah Ahmed led a thoughtful tasting of a dozen wines cherry-picked from the Margaret River at the London Wine Fair. There was great homogeneity in the wines shown, something of a characteristic of this region that sits below Perth in Western Australia.  There is an obvious maritime influence with the Margaret River vineyard strip being between 3 and 7 kilometres from coast, and the entire area being an effective peninsula surrounded by the Indian Ocean. The season starts early and ends late, and the soils are generally gravelly and lean.

Home to 150 predominately small, boutique producers Margaret River has three unofficial sub regions, a northern section around Yallingup, a central core around Willyabrup and an area to the south around Karridale which is good for whites and savoury reds. Interestingly the region is a qualitative hot spot in medal winning terms. It accounts for only 4% of the nation’s crush but nearly 20% of its silverware at wine shows, no small achievement given that vineyards didn’t really arrive here until the late 1960s.

A Margaret River tasting would be incomplete without Leeuwin Estate’s Art Series Chardonnay [it showed extremely well] but examples from Brookland Valley, Hay Shed Hill and Voyager Estate were also very impressive. The eight reds, all Cabernet Sauvignon blends, were generally concentrated and reasonably tight, showing blackcurrant and mint flavours and fine grained tannins and were appealing and complete. Woodlands Wines ‘Rachael’ Cabernet Sauvignon was straight out of Pauillac in a warm year.

Brookland Valley Chardonnay Margaret River WA 2010

Palest straw, some green; some citrus elements; grapefruit and oak; some alcohol; some stone fruit and peach; attractive and ripe palate, full and ripe. Good acid and zip at the end. Very good. 100% ‘Gin Gin’ Chardonnay clone. Partial MLF, 9 months in oak, 30% new. 13.5% 90/100

Hay Shed Hill Chardonnay, Margaret River, WA 2009

Pale green gold; richer with peach tones; plumper, some attractive animal qualities though perhaps a shade less fine; more obvious oak influence; fruitier and more dense seemingly; less race than the last; feels bolder. Finish lacks a little zip. 10 months oak, 30% new. Freerun juice fermented. [12%]. Vineyards in heart of Willyabrup. 88+/100

Voyager Estate Chardonnay, Margaret River, WA 2008

Golden with lime tinges; steelier and more restrained; attractive nose; more oak [finely handled], some smoke and oyster shell; bold and Burgundian palate; good texture and mouthfeel; very attractive; Great length and concentration. Excellent zest and acid too. 40% new oak. Great focus. 92+/100

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River, WA 2007

Pale straw; very fine, classical and Burgundian in style; piercing, some oysters shell; almost scented; very fine; palate extremely good, focus and precision; good length and balancing acidity. 100% new French oak. Skin contact the key here,’ Gin Gin’ clone, Block 20. 94+/100

Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River, 2008

Deepish; looks nice and fresh; almost Loire red on the nose; blackcurrant; weed and spices; leafy; mid weight; not that bad effort. 14.5% alcohol [sub £10] 85+/100

Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River 2008

More mid-red; cassis and silkier; fine; some mint, red fruits, menthol; spice; quite tight palate; good density; gripper and nice texture; very good. 13.5% 90+/100

Hay Shed Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River 2008

Mid depth; nice looking; real menthol and eucalyptus notes; ripe and very big; feels powerful; attractive minty edge; blackcurrant cassis on the palate with mint and eucalyptus notes; rounder and fuller than Howard Park’s Leston; less restraint more power. Nice. 91+/100

Arlewood Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, 2007

Mid red; some density at core; attractive and quite plump; some earth and violet notes and lift; spicy tones; attractive and deep palate. Quite warm feel but good to excellent. 100% Cab Sauv, 24 months in French oak, 50% new and then stored in bottle for two years prior to release. Willabrup’s gravelly soils. 2007 a warmer vintage. 90/100

Celestial Bay Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, 2007

Deep and dark; earthy purple at the edge; some violets, lift and liquorice almost porty; bit too heady for me; creamy palate but less interesting and falls away. Bit simple. 95% Cab Sauv, 5% Petit Verdot, 20 months French oak, 25% new, 3 day maceration. 86/100

Fraser Gallop Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, 2007

Deep and dark, redder at edge; earth and dust on the nose but also blackcurrants, some tannin and dust; more fruit here; attractive and complex; plush and attractive palate with lots of flavour and extract. Big and very good and has lots of [ripe] tannins and density. Excellent. 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc and 2.5% Merlot – 18 months in French oak, 33% new, one batch macerated for 30 days on skins. 14.5%  92+/100

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River 2005

More red; same density; ripe, very fine; nice French oak accent; finer and more feminine wine than the obvious power of Fraser Gallop; blackcurrants and cassis; some chocolate and earth; mid weight; quite Bordeaux with depth and grip to the fruit; sappy finish. Excellent. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, twenty day maceration followed by 23 months in French oak, 40% new and then three years bottle age before release. 13.5% 92+/100

Woodlands Rachael Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, 2004

Mid red; some depth; cashmere and silk; herbs too; minerals and intensity; quite elegant; very Paulliac palate – blackcurrants, some graphite and lead pencils. This is excellent and feels nicely balanced. Long term prospect I should imagine. 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, half of which had a forty day maceration followed by 21 months in 100% new French oak. 14.5% 93+/100

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