Issue #166, September 2021
& World Class
Great title don’t you think? Kudos goes to our Aussie wine friend and Western Australian guru (Halliday tasting team / writer / educator / presenter / mother of two / wife / hater of cold weather / huge lover of humous (I have seen the litre buckets!), Erin Larkin.
Strictly not under embargo however, I will keep much of the information to myself until every detail has been finalised. I have been liaising (for many months) with an Aussie consulting company regarding introducing a string of new Western Australian wine producers to the UK, and specifically through The Vinorium.
Wild, Windswept & World Class is born from a simple ambition which I put forward to the consulting team from the beginning. I accept, I suffer from a little ‘Aussie’ bias when it comes to their wines however, and to qualify my objectivity, I do come from a ‘classical’ wine background with 17-vintages spent buying and selling Bordeaux wines (a little Burgundy, Loire and German wines too). Actually, and without digressing too much, my first five years in the wine trade was spent peddling German wines which I adore. We have a little stash of 2019 Joh. Jos Prüm including a few 99-pointers. Last week, I joined Katharina Prüm and sampled my way through their 2020 vintage which was a fascinating experience. Note to oneself - I must clarify German wines in more detail as the Prädikatswein and GG classification is often misunderstood… Keep on track, McCloskey!
I put forward the challenge of placing WA wines at centre stage and against some fabulous wines / names from Burgundy and Bordeaux – not too dissimilar to the late and great Steven Spurrier’s, Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976. My idea was met cautiously but with an undercurrent of excitement running alongside questions about the difficult logistics. After much discussion, Margaret River was the obvious choice – world class Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon (and blends) against the whites from Burgundy and the reds from Bordeaux.
I would like the event to be a collaborative / energetic experience and it will certainly not take place via Zoom – I hope the wine media will be open to discussing the wines as they are poured by the team of skilled sommeliers. I want to see and hear agreements and disagreements rather than a room full of painful silence. I also wanted the very best wines from the Margaret River and needed a strong ally to pull this off. So, I approached my friend, Erin Larkin and put forward the suggestion that she leads the tasting from Perth (via a live video link) and I keep the room alive from London. Erin jumped at the idea, and we set to our tasks…
Now, we have a serious proposal and the WA wine producers loved the concept. Specific vintages are being kept under wraps however, the main field will show two, specified vintages – one mature and a recent bottling. Our friends from Burgundy and Bordeaux will submit the same vintages to show a fair, like-for-like comparison. Exciting don’t you think?
A little Sauvignon Blanc is also included as two producers are, on their day, as good as some of the great wines from the Graves. Our very own Stuart Pym of Flowstone has yet again won the Halliday award for the best Sauvignon Blanc (three times running) for his Queen of the Earth which is truly sensational.
Chardonnay will be represented by Leeuwin Estate Art Series, Vasse Felix Heytesbury and Xanadu Reserve 2018 alongside four ‘Wildcards’ which Erin will introduce – essentially wines which she believes are beautiful and deserve some recognition.
Cabernet Sauvignon / Bordeaux Blends are super-promising with Deep Woods Reserve, Moss Wood and Cullen’s Diana Madeline. I asked Peter Fogarty (owner of Deep Woods amongst other wine estates) if he would be so kind and allow us to show the 2014 Jimmy Watson Winner – the bottles are now sitting in my sample room. Wildcards come in the form of Cape Mentelle, Cloudburst, Vasse Felix Tom Cullity and Corymbia.
The response from Burgundy has been fascinating (once they saw the Aussie line-up). Some withdrew and several were concerned that their ‘mature’ bottles may suffer from premature oxidation, a problem, but exclusively, often found with white Burgundies. Basically, wines that have been capable of maturing over a long period, even from top-flight producers, were found to be showing signs of oxidising and tiring well before one might reasonably expect them to. Many Margaret River wines come into their full stride with a decade or so of bottle age, which compounds the nerves… Nonetheless, and huge thanks to a trade partner / friend who has helped me to put together a great selection – We are hoping to see Domaine Etienne Sauzet participate too which will be fabulous. I will keep you updated with the full line-up, and I am sure a social media campaign will be in full swing.
With the same principles, I am also keen to test Aussie Shiraz against the very best from the Rhône and USA – this will be a fascinating tasting which I plan to hold next year however, the groundwork begins today…
Climbing mountains and particularly those in the Himalaya is a wonderous experience and super-tough – climbing light becomes an obsession as you physically and mentally battle with long, steep ridges without the oxygen you need to survive – the simple tasks, the ones taken for granted at sea level become hard above 6,000 metres. I took one book on each climb – it was the same, small one with all blank and cover pages removed. Obsessing over unnecessary weight! One of my favourite quotes written by the Russian-born American Author, Ayn Rand reads as follows, “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.” Profound words…
Despite the upheavals and continued disappointments brought on by Brexit and the pandemic, we throw caution to the wind (nothing commercially careless, mind you) and plan to do exactly as Ayn Rand suggests. This week, I have brought our new HQ plans back to life with an excellent meeting with our team of architects.
The scale and design of the building will remain however, we will be changing some of the primary materials which suit our environmental credentials (being Carbon Neutral).
Time has allowed me to detach myself from the plans and reconsider every detail. Now, I am charged and wish to push forward with much vigour as this is the perfect time for my team and I. Post demolition of the existing grain store, I hope to start the groundwork in spring 2022 which fills me with so much excitement. Talking of exhilaration, we have more exciting news to share however, we must remain shtum until 6 October…
Shipping continues to be a thorn in our side however, and as I promised, I will continue to deliver small, unique parcels of wines whenever I can. Keeping with the title theme, we unveil a huge collection from the Margaret River including many new releases from Pierro, Leeuwin, returning favourites and previously sold-out gems from Deep Woods (their 98-point single vineyard Malbec) and a little Robert Oatley Chardonnay… As ever, James our super-talented designer brings them alive in true Michelin style.
Wishing you all a glorious weekend – I love the warm days and cooling nights. I'm falling for autumn…
Robert Oatley The Pennant Margaret River
Chardonnay 2019 (Case 6x75cl) OWC
Just 8 cases available
£210.00 per case of 6 OWC
97+ - 98 Points – Stuart McCloskey “There are some wines which look so sexy in a glass – the gloss and clarity is remarkable (perfect viscosity too). Wonderfully classical – the bouquet and palate flow to the same tune of yellow stone fruits, salty lemon, yuzu, there’s a distinct lemon sherbet-like feel, spring flowers, minerals and a creamy chalkiness. Medium-bodied and showing serious pedigree. Tightly wrapped, racy, balanced to perfection and almost perfect which is daft to declare for such a young wine. This screams Margaret River, and is a faultless example of a varietal Chardonnay. This is, in short, a truly spectacular wine and joins the list of epic ‘new’ releases from Australia. Drinking now to 2030+. Please keep a few bottles for ten years as this (I believe) will be its highpoint. Do not overchill and I advise to decant and serve using Zalto’s Bordeaux glassware.”
Three new wines from Pierro
Pierro Chardonnay is without question, a world-class wine and has won so many awards over the years. Moreover, it is well entrenched in the top three Chardonnays of Australia. Notwithstanding the above accolades, the highly respected American magazine Wine & Spirits voted the Pierro Chardonnay the best in Australia, which and if truth be known, does not come as a surprise to those in the know!
96 Points Gary Walsh, The Wine Front "For those who got it right, it seems 2019 was a very good vintage in Margaret River for Chardonnay. Pierro got it right. Beautiful concentration and intensity. It’s slippery and glossy, but has delicious fine acid cutting through. I’m thinking lime and pear, nougat, and cougar-like poise and power. Sage and butter, pink grapefruit and spice. Finish is long and tight and offers gentle grip as it goes. Welcome to the pleasure zone. You have country and western here. Great Chardonnay."
17+ Points - Jancis Robinson "Very struck-match reduction on the nose. Then pure, saline, super-minerally palate entry with smoky passion-fruit flavours and medium body. Nothing remotely exaggerated here. Great chiselled, pristine Chardonnay. Already accessible in April 2021, I'd say. Persistent."
Pierro Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Reserve 2017
Erin Larkin, Wine Companion "Hand picked and destemmed. Up to 40 days on skins and matured in French oak for 18 months (60% new). For all the work in the winery, the fruit was clearly very gently handled, with judicious tannin extraction. Medium-bodied, supple, and texturally constructed of fine silk. Densely packed with berry flavour, and corseted by exotic spice, this is a supremely elegant wine."
Pierro Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot L.T.Cf. 2017
Erin Larkin, Wine Companion "Cabernet sauvignon, with 27/8/8/2% merlot/cabernet franc/malbec/petit verdot. 12 months in older oak (small component new). This is creamy, fine-boned cabernet with a cavalcade of spicy forest berries and herbs. The cabernet franc has a crunchy edge to its mulberry expression, the other varieties come together to leave a slightly warm impression in the mouth of spicy red creaming soda and salted licorice."
Limited quantities of the Single Vineyard wines from Deep Woods
Deep Woods Estate Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2018
Just 16 bottles available
Decanter World Wines Awards 2019 Gold Medal
Perth Royal Wine Awards Gold Medal
97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “Unmistakably Deep Woods with aeronautical precision. Tightly coiled and needs a little time in the decanter / glass to unfurl. The palate offers wonderful symmetry and glides gracefully and with consummate ease. It is young but the sense of depth is impressive – it fans out beautifully with more time in the glass. It offers tension, structure and impeccable balance. I would love to see this in a blind tasting, pitched against Burgundies at double the price. Very classy and the wine’s sophistication versus the price makes it unmissable. It’s a joy now but patience will be rewarded further (I imagine it will be hitting all the high notes in five years). A fabulous wine, magnificent for the money and with a long future ahead. Served using Zalto Bordeaux Glassware.”
Deep Woods Estate Single Vineyard Cabernet Malbec 2017
Just 27 bottles available
Royal Hobart Wine Show 2019 Gold Medal & 1 Trophy
Royal Perth Wine Awards 2019 Gold Medal & 1 Trophy
Picture Royal Sydney Wine Show 2019 Gold Medal & 1 Trophy
98 Points - James Halliday "An impressive wine all round. All the major attributes are turned up in volume as well as in contrast. Vibrant dark colour, ripe black fruits, plums, cedar, bay leaf, fine chalky tannins plus length. But the most important attribute is the key to all fine wine: balance. Everything is in balance, despite the high volume. Super wine."
The Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay is a timeless representation of the Margaret River region and to many, Australia’s most iconic wine. The unirrigated Block 20 Vineyard is planted with the Gin Gin clone and is the mother vineyard for Margaret River Chardonnay. Now more than 40 years old, many cuttings from this vineyard were used to establish the region’s wineries, with the pristine fruit definition and winemaking philosophies of Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay inspiring other local producers to follow suit.
For years, demand both domestically and internationally has always outweighed availability with global importers guarding their allocations. Many, adopting the Bordeaux négociant way of selling, by insisting on buyers taking larger quantities of the lesser famed Prelude Chardonnay, which has kept us away from offering their wines. The new UK importer is a good friend of The Vinorium and kindly provided a substantial allocation of not just the Chardonnay (relative for such a revered wine) but also their new Art Series Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Art by Virginia Cuppaidge
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2018
£70.95 per bottle
Or £682.75 per case of 12 In Bond
99+ Points - Ray Jordan, The West Australian “Let’s put it this way. This is the closest I have come to awarding a wine 100 points...Stellar wine from a stellar vintage. The remarkable this is that this is a wine 100 percent barrel fermented in new French oak barriques with regular lees stirring for 11 months – and it certainly doesn’t taste excessive, or even slightly oak. It has such high-fidelity purity with complex seductive aromatics of vanilla bean and light oatmeal with a cutting minerality and spicy lift. But the palate, oh the palate. This is where things start to explode. Power, poise and persistence with a dry savouriness balancing the intense ripe fruit. It is such a long finish with an ever so slightly, charry finish completing a remarkable wine”. 27 February 2021
Leeuwin Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
£45.95 per bottle
Or £432.75 per case of 12 In Bond
97 Points - Erin Larkin, James Halliday "Wow. Silky smooth aromas of red berries, grey minerality (granite, graphite, etc) and breaths of oceans air whispered about. The palate is exactly as the nose promises, elegant and refined. Length of flavour is where this really kicks into gear, extending seamlessly across the palate, lingering and swirling in its profile. Beautiful, classical cabernet from a cool vintage. What a pleasure this is."
Art by Alfreda Nungarrayi Martin
Leeuwin Art Series Shiraz 2018
£26.95 per bottle
Or £242.75 per case of 12 In Bond
96 Points - Erin Larkin, James Halliday "The same layers of complexity and spice as the 2017, with all the ripe fruit and power hallmarks of the 2018 vintage. Bouncy and chewy, the tannins are woven into the fruit. Fruit, oak, acid and tannins are integrated and elegant, showing cohesion and harmony from the get-go. Cool-climate elegance is the lasting impression of this wine, as is the fine, chalky tannin profile that ultimately carries the fruit over the course of the palate. Very detailed. Margaret River can be responsible for seriously beautiful shiraz – this is one."
If we had to choose just one Margaret River wine, it would be this one…
Flowstone Queen of the Earth Sauvignon Blanc 2018
In the words of James Halliday
“unlike any other Sauvignon Blanc in Australia”.
Winemaker Stuart Pym says, “I was first acquainted with Sauvignon Blanc in my parent’s vineyard in 1983. At that stage it was mostly blended with Semillon in the signature Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc wines – a style for the region. After working at Domaine de Chevalier in 1995, I really focussed on taking these wines to the next level with my time at Voyager Estate, and then with Suckfizzle.
A visit to Sancerre and Pouilly Fume in 2004 really showed me just what Sauvignon Blanc can do on its own. It doesn’t have to be brash, and in your face; it can have poise, subtlety, length of palate, complexity, and can be very refined. The Flowstone Sauvignon Blanc is my journey in discovering, and showing, how compelling and sophisticated Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc can be.
97 Points - Stuart McCloskey “A fascinating bouquet which isn’t shy in coming forward. The concentration of perfumed gooseberry, guava, roasted pineapple and sweet melon is remarkable. Zips of acidity, citrus and a floral spray add to the complexity. Very impressive. The palate feel is super generous and the length incredibly long, the flavours last for minutes. Where to start with the flavours as there are so many to get through. Citrus peel flows into white flowers which in turn drift beautifully into fresh garden mint. I detect orchard fruits, a tropical undercurrent and lemongrass – everything feels exotic without being exaggerated. The minty finish is epically long – salinity is the final act as the wine drifts away after five minutes. Texturally, this is brilliant and oozes sophistication. Silky smooth and will keep for 5-8 years. Served using Zalto Universal glassware.”
And our customers agree…“The first Sauvignon Blanc that has stopped me dead in my tracks - incredible aroma, superb mouthfeel, and complex finish. Wildly popular when shared with friends!”
Two new, carefully selected mixed cases highlighting our favourite wines from the Margaret River region
Margaret River Discovery Six Pack
Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Chardonnay 2019
Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Deep Woods Estate Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Flowstone Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Pierro Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot L.T.Cf 2017
House of Cards Kings in the Corner Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2018
Margaret River Premium Collection - Six Pack
Flowstone Queen of the Earth Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2018
Pierro Chardonnay 2019
House of Cards The Royals Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Domaine Naturaliste Rebus Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Leeuwin Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Highlights from our Margaret River producers
House of Cards Kings in the Corner
Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2018
96+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “Adorable and sampled without decanting. The bouquet is veracious and provides layers of creamy raspberry, dark plum and mulberry compote. Warming spices (white pepper) develop with more aeration and a touch of toasty French oak and cedar. The palate is vivid, fun and provides a Smörgåsbord of red and black fruits with a soupçon of dried mint. I appreciate the cooling feel / acidity. Dark chocolate / cocoa interplay with a little tart cranberry. Flavours build and change the more you taste (at the five minute mark, I pick up woodsmoke). This is a wine full of honest, good intentions which is admirable. Serve now or cellar to 2028. Decant for 2-3 hours. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
House of Cards The Royals Chardonnay 2019
97+ - 98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “This is blessed with such a wonderful bouquet, all pervading with razor sharp accuracy. The nose has developed gloriously, I initially sampled yesterday. Mineralité, limestone, and a little marine influence works wonders with yuzu (there’s a tropical character emerging), orange blossom and heavenly scents of jasmine. Simply amazing! The palate provides saline on the entry, bottomless layers of minerals, citrus with razor sharp acidity. The defining act being the balletic balance which is a marvel. Minutes later, traces of warming, fresh ginger, fennel and lime zest creep in. Extraordinary length. This is a magnificent wine and one which offers astonishing value. Do not overchill and decant for an hour. Drink now to 2030. I believe this will be hitting its full stride in 5 years. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
Deep Woods Reserve Chardonnay 2019
97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “A very stylish / highly accomplished wine. Super-neat and tidy. The nose develops with aeration (my advice is not to serve it too cold) with pear, citrus oil and an entire array of white flowers – just a little spice in the background from a rasp of fresh nutmeg. The palate is gloriously fine, satiny in texture and provides layers of lip-smacking citrus along with waves of minerals - salinity / sea spray on the super-long, expansive finish. More tightly wound than the previous two releases which is by no means a negative. The ’19 is a superb effort that will reward time in your cellar (up to ten years). For best results, tuck it away for a year or two as this will allow some of the tension to relax. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”
Deep Woods Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Winemaker’s notes: “Deep crimson with vivid purple hues. This wine exhibits aromas of cassis and dried herbs with hints of spice. The palate displays flavours of summer plums and dark berries with notes of sweet spice and dark chocolate from the use of both new and seasoned French oak. It is medium-bodied with fine, elegant tannin and persistent length. A true representation of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon."
Customer review - “like this very much. Thanks to the Vinorium, I’ve been fortunate enough to sample some fabulous wines from this estate, but more importantly, the winemaker, Julian Langworthy. His wines are very consistent and exude concentration, control and poise. I’m a Langworthy fanboy and his craft has opened up my eyes to this astonishing wine region.”
Domaine Naturaliste Rebus Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
96+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “The bouquet is brimming with freshness and brooding with cedar, graphite, violets, liquorice and dark fruits with juniper, cassis, plum and damson being the main contenders. The flavours expand and draw you in with aeration (I suggest 2-3 hours in a decanter). The palate is medium bodied, the tannins svelte and the acidity providing freshness. There is an effortless quality to this Margaret River Cabernet which provides bags of flavour and wonderful length. Lots of finesse. Remarkably unforced and will suit fans of young Pauillac (those fans will pick up the lead pencil character). Drink now to 2025. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
Domaine Naturaliste Artus Chardonnay 2019
97+ - 98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “This is a serious step up from Floris, as you would expect. I will be truthful and declare that all three bottles (since arriving in the UK last week) have been significantly more enjoyable than our sample bottle pre-Christmas 2020 (I will add that we purchased 360 bottles from our first sample!) At first, the bouquet provides a nostalgic twist of popcorn which dissipates with a little aeration. We move onto a nutty savouriness - toasty, a touch tropical (more caramelised). Savoury transitions to Yuzu and sea spray which in turn moves onto a delicate floral character. I detect a little bitter orange peel on the finish – I could be wrong? The flavours are built around perfect structure with everything being aligned and unforced. The fruit sides with citrus – lemon, Yuzu and lime with delicate oak spices providing a point of difference. The palate feel is luxurious, ripe but far from being overripe. There’s an honest purity to the feel and flavours. Citrus clean acidity and minerally fruit. Ambitious, but keeping one hand on the Margaret River style. That said, I am pleased to see a move away from some of the more ‘slender’ examples. Wonderfully bright, balanced and dances on the palate with mouth-watering acidity and a dusting of spices… Extremely long and will provide ten years of cellaring. This will be fascinating in five (note to keep a few cases back). Decant for 20-30 minutes. Do not overchill. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
We spent time (lots of time) with Erin Larkin – the highly regarded wine writer, judge, regional taster for the Halliday Wine Companion and a regular contributor to the Halliday Wine Companion Magazine.
Erin’s video about the new 2019 Standish collection is excellent too - well worth a watch.