Margaret River vintage 2012 & first taste, Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay 2009

Sticking with Margaret River after Monday’s write up of Cullen Wine’s 40th Anniversary vertical tasting of Diana Madeline (1981-2010) here, the Margaret River Wine Industry Association sent me a report on the vintage thus far – it’s an early one, two to three weeks ahead of average.  And early birds like Cullen have made a start on red wine grapes too.

You’ll find the report below, together with my tasting note on Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay 2009, which has been recently released in the UK.

Margaret River vintage report 2012

Warm to hot conditions during the day with warmer than average nights have been the norm for Margaret River since early January and this has brought forward vintage by between 2 to 3 weeks ahead of the regional average. These and the overall weather conditions during the berry development period have provided near perfect ripening conditions for all varieties.

Most white wines have been picked in the region with the balance likely to be completed by the 1st March. Flavours are of fresh fruit with moderate natural acidity and winemakers are choosing to pick on flavour and acid instead of Baume (sugar), the result is providing improved wine quality at marginally reduced alcohol.

The warmer than average weather conditions were well handled by the vines due to excellent spring growing conditions with good rainfall thus subsoil moisture resulting in very healthy canopies.  Whites across the region have demonstrated early onset of flavour, with many Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes coming into wineries this week. Flavours are fresh, with much potential for these varietal wines and their blends. The bulk of the Chardonnay in the region is now picked and happily fermenting on oak. These juices were typical of Margaret River with intense and full flavours. A citrus line predominates, with the moderate temperatures of the season providing a balanced acid backbone, with soft and fine phenolics.

The Region’s reds are looking to come on quickly, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz estimated to be starting over the next two to three weeks. The vintage has the potential to be another great red year for Margaret River, with bright and vibrant fruit characters balanced with gentle, but long tannins.

Cabernet Sauvignon is ripening steadily, with the onset of the classic blackcurrant characters starting to appear in the fruit. Tannins are ripening in sync with the fruit character, so the year should exhibit wonderful balance in the resulting wines. The variety looks to be nearing picking in beautiful condition, with most canopies looking to be in top condition. This will no doubt yield wines with great depth and intensity, something Margaret River is so well known for.

Abundant Marri blossom leading into vintage, reminiscent of conditions in 1994, has resulted in significantly less Silvereye bird damage to grapes and reduced necessity to apply protective bird netting although many do this now as a standard preventive management measure. Also very little disease pressure has arisen due to the excellent growing conditions.

With whites mostly in the winery let us hope the weather gods are kind to reds in the coming weeks.

 Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay 2009

It’s interesting, while the Leeuwin Estate Cabernet programme (see here) has put a bit more flesh on the bone of the reds without compromising the leaner house style, the opposite seems true of the Prelude Chardonnay.  While it remains seductively rich and creamily fruity with dense layers of white peach, rock melon and ripe grapefruit, a deftly integrated, lively thread of tangy acidity both intensifies and balances the palate, making for a svelte, well-focused, persistent wine.  No malo here.  It finishes long and satisfying and with a delicious lick of praline, just keeps on giving.    RRP: £22.50-£27.00.  The wine is sold by the case by importer Domaine Direct and widely stocked by independents including  Handford Wines, Harrods, Luvians Bottle Shop, Philglas & Swiggot, Secret Cellar,  The House of Menzies, Uncorked and Woodwinters Wines & Whiskies.

Here’s a note from the producer on vintage and winemaking:

“The quality of our Chardonnay grapes was outstanding in 2009,” said David Winstanley, Leeuwin Estate’s viticulturist. “A mild winter and spring were followed by warm weather in summer, with very few hot days. The Chardonnay grapes ripened in quick succession through late February and early March, and showed great varietal flavours and natural balance.”
The Chardonnay grapes were picked at night and dawn to preserve the delicate flavours, and were then cool crushed with some skin contact. The juice was settled for three days, then racked and inoculated with yeast. The must was fermented and matured in French oak barriques (32% new, medium toast), with regular lees stirring for ten months. Malolactic fermentation was avoided.  The wine was then blended, fined and cold stabilised before bottling.


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