Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet 2016

Leeuwin Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Margaret River, Western Australia, 13.5%

(£47, Stannary Wine)

One of the five founding wineries of the Margaret River region back in the early 1970s, Leeuwin estate has built an enviable reputation as one of Western Australia’s leading lights.

In a region famed for top-quality Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, Leeuwin’s Art Series wines are considered some of the finest. So a recent invitation to taste the latest releases (via online seminar, naturally) was hard to refuse.

Without doubt, the standout wines of the tasting (held in honour of senior winemaker Tim Lovett’s 10th anniversary at the estate) were the two Cabernet Sauvignons: Prelude 2017 and Art Series 2016.

It was the incredible fragrance, elegance and balance that we found in both of these wines that was just so utterly compelling. The tannic structure but also finesse were also hugely impressive.

The Art Series in particular is stunning: intensely savoury and full of the classic cedar-wood, tobacco, cassis and bell pepper you’d expect from great Cabernet (Bordeaux obviously being a key reference point). Fine grippy tannin is interwoven with a subtle, gravelly texture and there’s just a whiff of mint on the finish of this incredibly self-assured wine.

Incidentally, Tim flagged up the 2016 vintage as, ‘One of the best all-round vintages we’ve seen at Leeuwin Estate.’

(Susie, 8/10, Feb 21)

But we’d also flag up the Prelude Cabernet 2017, which is significantly cheaper (at £27.50 a bottle) and also a real standout. 

The 2017 was a pretty cool vintage and the wine has a beautiful roasted pepper and plum scent. The palate profile is vibrant, fine and serious, with beautiful tannic density and layers. Very classy, this red will keep improving over a few years yet. (Susie, 7-7.5/10, Feb 21)

Tim describes Leeuwin’s Cabs as, ‘medium bodied: detailed and layered.’ And that just about sums it up. We’d recommend buying both (we’ve already placed our order).

It would, of course, be remiss not to mention the Art Series Chardonnay, perhaps Leeuwin’s most iconic wine.

The Art Series Chardonnay 2018 is a terrific wine: pristine, nutty and really elegant, certainly comparable to top quality Burgundy with its telling combination of complexity and serenity. (Susie, 8/10, Feb 21)

But at £70 per bottle, it’s a bit overpriced in our view. We’d rather go for the Cabs, which display elegance and complexity in a similar manner but at a more affordable price.

One final question as to whether the Cabs have the capacity to age in the way that, for example, the best Bordeaux wines do. I visited Leeuwin at the end of 2018 and my top-scoring Cabernet of the trip was the Leeuwin Art Series 2005, with a note that read, ‘It just doesn’t taste this old – extraordinary!’

So I’d say that’s a resounding yes. Buy buy buy – and stick some away.