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A Rathbone review: Xanadu, Yering Station & Mount Langi Ghiran highlights

This year Xanadu celebrates its 40th anniversary, so what better excuse to run through the portfolio, including a vertical of Xanadu’s flagship Reserve Chardonnay and new alternative varietal kids on the block.  

Xanadu’s Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons have really impressed me in recent years, but it has been a while since I caught up with other wines from the Rathbone family’s Victoria estates, Mount Langi Ghiran and Yering Station, which I last visited in 2010 and 2012 respectively.

It was a timely and positive review.  I especially enjoyed the different philosophies around Chardonnay at Xanadu and Yering Station, the former tauter, with very pure fruit, the latter fleshier with more savoury oak and malo nuances. It was great to see these stylistically diverse, accomplished Chardonnays side by side; the entry level and estate wines are exceptionally smart buys.

As for Shiraz, Mount Langi Ghiran Langi is rightly iconic.  It is a beautiful, really uplifting example of the Grampian’s Swiss clone and took me right back to my visit with then winemaker Dan Buckle, who had dialled down the oak and ripeness.

The Rathbone Family Group’s wines are imported into the UK by Bibendum.  Here are my highlights:

Xanadu

Xanadu is 40 years old this year.  Based in the Wallcliffe sub-region of Margaret River, which is renowned for its Chardonnays in particular, I was thrilled to have the chance to taste a vertical of the flagship Xanadu Reserve Chardonnay.

Xanadu Exmoor Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2016 (Margaret River)

A lively, lifted blend of 76% Sauvignon Blanc, 24% Semillon with sweet elderflower cordial and balancing pyrazine notes to the nose.  A crisp palate has a crunchy green apple core with riffs of apple blossom and bloom and kaffir lime leaf. A great thirst quencher with a bit more pound for pound interest than your average Sauv Blanc.  13%  RSP: £12.49

Xanadu Exmoor Chardonnay 2016 (Margaret River)

Ripe melon and lemon fruit to the mid-palate with crab apple bite lending some pace to the finish; has Xanadu’s/Glenn Goodall’s hallmark levity, purity and drive. 12.5%  RSP: £12.49

Xanadu Estate Chardonnay 2015 (Margaret River)

I selected this for a Decanter Expert’s Choice on Australian Chardonnay earlier this year and I’m still very taken with it. The 2015 Xanadu Chardonnay – 100% Gin Gin clone – is predominantly Estate grown in the Wallcliffe sub-region, with 80% of the blend being made with fruit sourced from Xanadu’s Stevens Road and Lagan Estate vineyards. It reveals icing sugar dusted green apple, dried pear and vibrant breakfast grapefruit, with well-integrated sweet vanillin and oak spice nuances.  Dancing acidity makes for a vibrant finish with great levity and persistence. It was whole bunch pressed followed by 100% barrel fermentation (primary only, so no malo) and 9 months’ ageing in French oak (25% new). 13% RSP £18.49

Xanadu Stevens Road Chardonnay 2015 (Margaret River)

Stevens Road vineyard in Wallcliffe, opposite Leeuwin Estate, was first planted in 1989 by John Brocksopp, who used to make wines here in a pocket-sized winery at the top of the hill.  I well recall a visit with him in 2007.    The vineyard was acquired by the Rathbone family in 2008 and, with a beautiful aspect, it is where Goodall’s boss, Darren Rathbone, has a house.  Like the Estate wine, Stevens Road Chardonnay is made from 100% Gin Gin clone.  Taken from the best 20 rows of Block 2 it is a fine showcase for this clone’s tight acid ‘al dente’ backbone.   It is firm, focused and fresh with steely grapefruit of sorbet-like purity and sweeter lemon notes chiming in on the juicy, lip-smacking, super-long, mineral finish.  Vibrant; wears its oak lightly (like the Estate Chardonnay, it spent 9 months’ ageing in French oak, 25% new).  13% Not exported to the UK

Xanadu Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (Margaret River)

Vintage summary: A reasonably mild, warm winter resulted in an early budburst to kick-start the growing season. This was followed by some relatively wild spring weather however with wet, windy conditions affecting fruit set and resulting in low yields across most varieties in the region. Beautiful, warm weather returned in summer which saw flavour ripening accelerate quickly, bringing about our earliest vintage on record. A lack of Marri blossom leading up to and during harvest meant bird pressure was extreme, with netting absolutely vital this season. After the whites were harvested we experienced a minor a rain event at the end of February and cooler conditions ensued. Given the low yields, this extended ripening period allowed the reds to attain full physiological maturity and tannin ripeness.  2015 was a good vintage, though not quite at the lofty heights of 2007–14.

Tasting note: 100% of the fruit for this Reserve Chardonnay is from Xanadu’s oldest Chardonnay vineyard, the Lagan Estate.  It was first planted in 1977 by Dr John Lagan and the Reserve Chardonnay comes from the original Chardonnay vines, planted in 1981.  A little fleshier than Stevens Road, The Reserve 2015 has a lovely intensity of grapefruit, lemon, dried pear notes wed to a great backbone of acidity.  It is fine, pure and long, with persistent, crunchy acidity and slate/whetstone minerality.  Incisive.  13%  RSP £62.99

Xanadu 2014 Reserve Chardonnay (Margaret River)

Vintage summary: The 2014 vintage was built on a sound foundation of sub-soil moisture with excellent (above average) rainfall throughout the winter of 2013. The rainfall ceased almost completely from the end of November through to the end of March providing ideal growing conditions. Abundant Marri blossom leading up to, and during, harvest kept bird pressure very low, and yields were average for most varieties (although Chardonnay less so, due to strong to stormy wind conditions experienced at flowering in Spring). In summary; 2014 was yet another excellent season, continuing the dream run of vintages we have had in Margaret River over the last eight years!

Tasting note: a funkier nose and palate, though it retains a crisp, firm, pure core of grapefruit and crunchy, icing sugar dusted green apple.  Savoury, nutty notes build on the finish, making for a lingering, textural finish with an undertow of slate/whetstone minerality.  13%

Xanadu 2013 Reserve Chardonnay (Margaret River)

Vintage summary: A relatively wet and windy spring affected flowering and fruit set, with the resulting yields slightly lower than normal. The growing season which followed was warm and dry with sometimes hot conditions around Christmas. Abundant Marri blossom kept bird pressure low early on, although vineyard teams were kept on their toes deterring birds late in the season. The warmer weather in the lead up to harvest saw flavour ripening accelerate with fruit retaining natural acidity and wonderful fresh aromatics. The whites picked at a frenetic pace however the weather cooled significantly during March which resulted in a hiatus in harvesting. The cooler conditions allowed time for the reds to achieve physiological maturity, culminating in great flavour and tannin ripeness when warmer weather returned in April. In summary; another great Margaret River vintage.

Tasting note: riper seeming and more developed, with creamy, baked and fresh yellow peach and nutty, praline/brown butter notes going through.  The acid backbone rises on the finish – a nip and tuck of pure, juicy grapefruit. 13.5%

Xanadu 2012 Reserve Chardonnay (Margaret River)

Vintage summary: A mild spring and relatively dry growing season provided good flowering and excellent fruit set. Warm, sometimes hot and dry conditions after Christmas, combined with cool nights, brought vintage forward a couple of weeks earlier than the regional average. Abundant Marri blossom leading up to and during harvest kept bird pressure very low, with many vineyards not even requiring bird nets this season. The warmer weather saw flavour ripening accelerate and many wines were picked earlier than normal in order to retain acidity and fresh aromatics. No significant rainfall was experienced throughout the harvest, with the fine warm conditions continuing right through to the end of March allowing all red varieties to achieve great flavour and tannin ripeness and continuing the dream run of Margaret River vintages in recent years.

Tasting note: very pale, with perfumed, sweet rock melon and fleshy but succulent white peach to the palate.  Subtle, complexing praline/brown butter notes emerge on the finish; lovely concentration and balance. 13%

Xanadu 2011 Reserve Chardonnay (Margaret River)

Vintage summary: The 2011 growing season was initially cool and dry through late winter and early spring, progressing to a warm and dry summer pattern with a minor rain event in January. During the harvest period the fine weather continued with most varieties being picked one to two weeks earlier than normal, with early flavour development allowing the retention of plenty of natural acidity. Yields for whites were slightly higher than the previous couple of seasons. The fine, warm conditions continued right through to the end of March allowing all red varieties to achieve good physiological ripeness and continuing the dream run of Margaret River vintages in recent years.

Tasting note: the vintage is strongly expressed in the 2011 Reserve’s very pale hue and tremendous drive of grapefruity acidity.  It spears the palate, driving a long finish and teasing out this wine’s silky (touch of glycerol) white peach, with brown butter and praline notes.  Plenty of complexity and mouthfeel, delivered with energy.  13.5%

Xanadu 2010 Reserve Chardonnay (Margaret River)

Vintage summary: The 2010 vintage began in mid-February after decent winter rainfall which was followed by a warm, dry growing season with very good flowering and fruit set. Yields were generally above average for most varieties (whites in particular).  A brief hot period at the end of February provided some logistical challenges with a frantic pace of harvesting required in order to pick the whites varieties in a timely fashion. The weather cooled in March allowing the reds to attain full physiological maturity and tannin ripeness.  In summary; 2010 was another excellent season, continuing the dream run of vintages we have had in Margaret River over the last several years.

Tasting note: perhaps it was this bottle, but the 2010 seemed a little vegetal (eucalyptus) and tinny (tinned yellow peach) on the palate.  Markedly shorter and a little dusty on the finish. 13.5%

Xanadu 2009 Reserve Chardonnay (Margaret River)

Vintage summary: The 2009 Vintage began mid-February after a cool, wet spring and relatively dry, mild summer. The fine conditions through January and February ripening period made for excellent intensity and flavour development in all the white varieties which retained plenty of natural acidity. Fine and warm conditions continued throughout the autumn harvest period (it was in fact the driest April recorded since 1982, yet there were no extreme temperatures experienced). These amazing Indian summer conditions ensured the reds reached their full potential of flavour and tannin ripeness, with wonderfully expressive varietal characteristics.

Tasting note: yellow gold, the 2009 is something of a peach-fest, with peach fuzz/peach skin and nutty kernel nuances to its fleshy, round white peach.  Plenty of mid-palate satisfaction and it is holding really well, doubtless thanks to its insistent undertow of grapefruity acidity, which snaps at the heels, bringing definition and drive – a second wind – to a very persistent finish. Very good. 14%

Xanadu 2008 Reserve Chardonnay (Margaret River)

Vintage summary: The 2008 vintage finally brought some normality back to harvest in Margaret River after 2006 (the latest recorded vintage) and 2007 (the earliest recorded vintage) with our first pick beginning right cue mid-February. The good winter rains provided adequate soil moisture reserves with a bit of wild weather in October (hail in some vineyards, particularly in the more Northern areas of Margaret River) was the only event of note, as the remainder growing season proved to be warm and dry. The near perfect conditions in early summer provided fantastic growing conditions, and while disease pressure was practically non-existent the lack of significant flowering in the Marri gums lead to serious bird pressure that in some cases resulted in crop losses and required careful hand selection of fruit. Brief rains after most of the white varieties had been harvested offered a welcome respite, slowing up the reds and allowing flavour and tannin ripeness to catch up with the sugars. The near perfect finish to the season ensured all of the red varieties were able to be harvested at optimum maturity, before the season broke well and truly with significant rains in the last half of April.

Tasting note: a touch of eucalyptus to the nose, but the palate shows plenty of body, with silky, brown-butter-edged white asparagus and poached white peach.  While the 2009 feels like it has a few more years in it yet, this satisfying Chardonnay with a touch of warmth to the finish is at drink up stage.  Enjoyable nonetheless.  14%

Xanadu Exmoor Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Margaret River)

Once again, from Exmoor up, the Cabernets are classy with hallmark perfume, vibrant fruit and fine tannins.  Qualities which are doubtless enhanced by some 20% of the fruit undergoing a pre-fermentation cold soak and another 30% seeing extended maceration on skins for 28 days.  The 2014 Exmoor is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (85%) Cabernet Franc (9%) Petit Verdot (3%) Merlot (2%) and Malbec (1%) and spent 14 months maturation in French oak barriques (20% new).   The nose and palate offer delicious complexity and finesse for the price point, with tobacco, black tea, violets and well-defined, perfumed blue fruits and blackcurrant; a firm push of acidity  – an indication, perhaps of its Wallcliffe origins – extends the flavours.  Nice juicy persistence. 14% RSP £12.49

Xanadu Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Margaret River)

This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (90%) Malbec (7%) Petit Verdot (3%) really impressed me and the other panel members at a Margaret River tasting for Decanter last year.  I gave it 95 points.  As you would expect of the next rung up the ladder, it has more ‘bottom’ than the Exmoor and was matured for 14 months in French oak (40% new barriques).  Still, the fruit vibrancy and perfume are there – a lovely melange of violets, vibrant cherry, blackcurrant, cinnamon and tobacco with fine but present powdery tannins.  Just lovely. 14% RSP £18.99

Xanadu Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Margaret River)

For the Reserve, Goodall looks primarily to northern Margaret for concentration and structure.  This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (90%) Cabernet Franc (5%) Malbec (5%) comes from The Timber Creek vineyard in Wilyabrup (60%), the Victory Point vineyard in Treeton (30%), with the balance coming from estate vineyards in Wallcliffe.  It matured for 12 months in French oak barriques before the blend was assembled from a selection of best barrels from each batch (50% new oak). The blend was then returned to older French oak barriques for further 2 months maturation.  Baritone depths of sonorous (there’s levity still), silky fruit with cassis, blueberry, black cherry and cherrystone, with savoury but lifted balsamic, cocoa, cedar and tobacco notes.  Fine but plentiful cat’s fur tannins accentuate the fluidity and sheen.   Super-classy; vibrantly youthful with a couple of decades under the belt.  14% RSP £62.99

Xanadu Stevens Stevens Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Margaret River)

And it’s back to Wallcliffe – the Stevens Road vineyard – for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 3.  Quite Italianate with its radicchio and balsamic edged uber-juicy black cherry and currant fruit.  More classic tobacco notes chime in going through.  The tannins are slinky, quite ephemeral.   A finely-honed Cabernet with gorgeous fruit purity and succulence vibrantly to flesh out the frame.  It was aged for 16 months in French barriques (40% new). 14.5%

Xanadu Stevens Road Graciano 2014 (Margaret River)

The Graciano was planted in 2006.  They say it’s the salt and pepper seasoning for Rioja and you can see why.  This thick-skinned grape has assertive peppery lift and grip to nose and palate and an equally assertive thrust of sweet and sour (parrying, not disjointed) blue fruit, black cherry and rhubarb with a lick of cinnamon.  Firm acid drive going through.  It was matured for 14 months in seasoned French oak.  Punchy.  13.5% Not exported to the UK

Xanadu Stevens Road Graciano 2013 (Margaret River)

Hmm, this vintage is more floral than spicy, in fact very perfumed.  The fruit, this time black and blue, is palate staining/saturating and tangy – that tongue twisting acidity once again driving a focused palate.  The tannins are silkier than the ’14.  14% Not exported to the UK

Xanadu Stevens Road Malbec 2014 (Margaret River)

Sourced from just 11 rows.  A soaring nose and palate of violets bursts with juicy, slightly sour (a yoghurty tang?) black cherry and silky blueberry, with almond and cinnamon nuances.  The tannins have a gentle, velvety ‘grip.’ Bergamot notes to the juicy finish add orange citrus/tea leaf lift.  This complex, exuberant Malbec – very likeable –  was aged for 14 months in French oak barriques (40% new) where it completed MLF. The best two barrels were selected and spent another two months in old oak for bottling. 14% Not exported to the UK

Yering Station

Yering Station Little Yering Chardonnay 2016 (Yarra Valley)

This is much more grown up than the last vintage I tasted. Textural, with an attractive waxy quality to its melon and ripe lemon fruit and deftly judged nutty, spicy oak nuances.  If you’re a fan of Macon with a splash of oak, this sophisticated entry-level Chardonnay will appeal.  Nice weight and mouthfeel. It was part-aged for 9 months in French oak.  13%  RSP £11.49

Yering Station Village Chardonnay 2016 (Yarra Valley)

The Village cuvee delivers more overt, concentrated, fruit (melon, lemon) with sweet vanillin as well as nutty oak. The palate is weighty, even creamy (praline) going through, but well balanced by underlying savoury acidity. This wine was 100% barrel fermented and aged for 11 months in French 228 & 500 litre barrels, 10% new.  13% RSP £17.99

Yering Station Estate Chardonnay 2015 (Yarra Valley)

Like the Estate Pinot Noir, this Chardonnay offers greater finesse, with more structure and layer.  It has enticing flinty nuances to its ripe white peach and candied lemon peel palate. A firm backbone of acidity pushes out a long finish with tangy sour dough nuances.  A well-balanced, enjoyable Chardonnay.  13% Not exported to the UK

Yering Station Little Yering Pinot Noir 2016 (Yarra Valley)

This pale but interesting Pinot impressed me at Matthew Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines.  Like the Little Yering Chardonnay, it offers impressive varietal and regional character and sophistication for an entry-level wine.  Similarly it comes from younger (9-14 year old) vines (clones MV6 & 777) and spends around 9 months in oak. It has perfumed, fresh black and red cherry fruit with hints of almond/cherrystone, Campari, orange peel and catering chocolate.  A gentle rub of fine suede tannins brings texture and a subtle savoury note. A super-smashable but varietally authentic Pinot.  12.5%  RSP £11.49

Yering Station Village Pinot Noir 2015 (Yarra Valley)

Yering Station have been re-structuring the vineyard using precision viticulture tecniques (infrared etc).  Given that this Pinot comes from the same clones, very slightly older vines and is also aged for 9 months in French oak, either site, extraction or the age/toast/cooperage of the oak markedly differentiates this wine.  It has a more savoury nose and palate with smoked meat, earthy beetroot, a lick of cheroot and ruffled suede tannins to its concentrated but well-focused black and red cherry fruit.  Pretty it ain’t, but this is a very well-executed earthy, savoury style of Pinot.  Satisfying stuff. 13% RSP £18.49

Yering Station Pinot Noir 2015 (Yarra Valley)

Made from older (12-25 year old) vines and 100% MV6 clone, this well-knit cuvee brings more florals and juicy, sappy red berry and cherry lift to the party, though its savoury notes are not underplayed.  Earthy beetroot, chinato dried herbs and bitter chocolate notes jostle with the fruit.  With generosity of fruit and detail, it has nice tension, length and line.  13.5%  Not exported to the UK

 

Mount Langi Ghiran

Mount Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz 2015 (Grampians, Victoria)

Langi Shiraz, Mount Langi Ghiran’s flagship wine, is selectively hand harvested from the iconic “Langi Old Block”, planted in 1963 to the so-called “Swiss Clone.” Cuttings came from Bests’ 19th century vineyards, another home of iconic Grampians’ Shiraz.  This is the first vintage which Chief Winemaker Ben Haines saw through from grape to glass.  He has acquitted himself well.  Like the vintage, the 2015 is long – beautifully drawn (out), fluid and detailed.   Insinuating riffs of black pepper bring lift and spice to its cool, blue and black berry fruit and reverberate on the back palate, animating the finish.  With fine, almost ephemeral melt-in-the-mouth tannins and fresh, mineral-sluiced acidity, the fruit is slinky, with great intensity and saturation.  Effortless balance.  Terrific.  13.8% RSP £56.99

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