Leeuwin Esate has built it’s reputation on Chardonnay, they do other things really well but it is Chardonnay that they have nailed their colours to. Given the way Chardonnay sales have gone, particularly Australian Chardonnay and that their reputation amongst wine drinkers (ABC club anyone) has dropped off the face of the earth you could be mistaken for thinking that would be a foolhardy thing to do. Surely they’d be better going for a Cabernet or Shiraz and if they really must do something that isn’t trendy why not make a Riesling (they do one of those too). So it’s probably as well that Leeuwin have such a great reputation born not from the latest marketing or appearing in episodes of friends but rather born out of the quality of the wine that they make.
Simply put over the last twenty years Leeuwin Estate’s Art Series Chardonnay has probably been the stand out Australian Chardonnay and possibly the stand out New World Chardonnay (with a tip of the hat to Hamilton Russell, Catena, Montelen and various estates in Yarra Valley). But unlike those others that I have mentioned – it now comes in at somewhere around the £60 mark (although if you’re a member of the The Wine Society it is worth knowing that they are £10 cheaper than most other retailers). The problem starts when you realise that Hamilton Russell (probably the best South African Chardonnay) comes in at around £30 a bottle (and the last time TWS had it they were selling it for just £17) – that is a lot of difference and whereas £30 gets you village level white Burgundy, £60 will get you a bottle of Corton Charlemagne (a grand cru white Burgundy).
So I was really interested to taste this wine which was new to me that comes in around the £28 mark (£22 TWS).
Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay 2008
Quite fine, focussed and linear fruit, good acidity but with a richness and roundness too. There is some oak present, it is quite obvious but it isn’t jarring at all and is beginning to integrate nicely with the wine. Along with the obvious citrus notes there are hazelnuts and buttered popcorn flavours pouring out of the glass, it is complex and has good definition and concentration.
But again my problem is pricing, a quick search of Jamie Goode’s Wine Anorak shows that when he reviewed the wines 5 years ago (2007) Art Series Chardonnay was £27.60 and Prelude was £11.50 (I can’t be sure those were retail) Is prelude worth £25 – yes it probably is – it is a very good wine indeed. Is the Art series even better – well yes it is – but £60 – not unless you can really afford to buy whatever you want.