The Art of Winemaking: Tim Lovett of Leeuwin Estate
Monday, March 8, 2021 in News
Langton’s spoke to Leeuwin Estate Senior Winemaker Tim Lovett to discuss the latest releases including the 2018 Art Series Chardonnay, the future of Margaret River Shiraz and the art of winemaking. Explore our Leeuwin Estate wines here.
There are a handful of Australian wine releases that are marked with anticipation on calendars of wine lovers, collectors, and media with much anticipation. The Leeuwin Estate Art Series release is one such date.
Leeuwin’s Art Series Chardonnay is the Margaret River benchmark. One can argue the toss over the best Australian Chardonnay but that argument will certainly include Leeuwin’s flagship.
Occupying the Exceptional tier of Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine, it is also singled out in the Heritage Five (along with Grange, Hill of Grace, Mount Mary’s Quintet and Wendouree’s Shiraz) for the important role it has played in establishing the reputation of Margaret River.
Recent reviews of successive vintages range in tone from admiration to awe with the odd note of jingoism. Let the Batards come! Though none have yet to call for a judgement of Perth.
Second generation joint CEOs Simone Horgan-Furlong and Justin Horgan have challenged Viticulturist David Winstanley and Senior Winemaker Tim Lovett to push the wines further. No pressure, then.
2018 was another great vintage for Margaret River with many growers and winemakers saying the purity of fruit is a signature for the vintage. Is this your experience of the 2018 Art Series Chardonnay at Leeuwin?
Leeuwin Estate Senior Winemaker Tim Lovett: ‘The 2018 Art Series Chardonnay has intense concentration, power and length, balanced with elegance, purity and precise acidity. Further, the clarity, detail and complexity on the nose, carries through to a texturally layered and contoured palate. The symmetry between all these elements really defines the 2018 vintage as a hallmark vintage for Leeuwin Estate.’
‘The symmetry between all these elements really defines the 2018 vintage...’
Is this the best Art Series Chardonnay to date?
‘We are incredibly excited about the release of the 2018 vintage. It reflects the perfect growing conditions we experienced from Spring through to harvest, moreover it articulates the unique sites and soils we possess highlighted by Block 20 and Block 22. This ensured we were able to split individual finite parcels of fruit-based upon the exact fruit spectrum and nurture each parcel accordingly in the winery. A truly great vintage!’
‘A truly great vintage!’
When, in your opinion, does the Art Series Cabernet hit its peak? Just how patient do we have to be?
‘The pedigree of Cabernet Sauvignon is in its tannin profile combined with the balance between dark black and blue fruits and aromatics. The backbone of the individual blocks that formulate Art Series Cabernet are dry-grown, planted in 1975 and 1976. This consistently creates a wine with power, intensity and dense structural tannin, which is the foundation behind this wine. Thus, Art Series Cabernet experiences a longer maturation period in French Bordelaise coopered barriques, 23 months. Then, further time to mature and unfold in bottle.’
‘We release our Art Series Cabernet when there is symmetry and opulence… its longevity is key.’
‘We release our Art Series Cabernet when there is symmetry and opulence with the balance between tannin, fruit and aromatics, then its longevity is key. We love Art Series in its youth, then as the wine unravels it becomes even more seamless.’
The 2018 Art Series Shiraz certainly stood out in Langton’s tasting room with (again) purity of fruit, clarity of the savoury notes and a prodigious length. Have you stepped it up again in the 2018?
‘2018 is a remarkable Shiraz vintage for us at Leeuwin. We introduced more whole bunch/cluster fermentation in this vintage, given the depth and concentration of the fruit we tasted out in the paddock – looking for heightened fragrance and balanced stalk phenolics. We gain great inspiration from the Northern Rhône, thus our philosophy is varietal personality with spice, aromatics as well as layers of fruit, given in a medium-bodied spectrum. We incorporate the use of larger format oak 600L Demi Muid from coopers in the Rhône and Burgundy.’
‘We gain great inspiration from the Northern Rhône...’
Where does Shiraz sit in the Margaret River hierarchy? Could you see it challenging Cabernet for the top red variety?
‘The unequivocal beauty of Margaret River, the uniqueness, isolation, diversity and our versatility are in our natural landscape. We extend 100kms from the northern Cape Naturaliste to our south at Cape Leeuwin, and within 30kms inland from the Indian Ocean. Shiraz on the right site away from the Indian Ocean has a more continental influence, this enhances aromatics and floral components. Our finest estate Shiraz vineyard has great energy, vitality and fragrance, when grown on the ideal and selected sites, then further respected inside the winery has an amazing opportunity to flourish and to extend and detail variety, site and clone. We are excited by Shiraz (as a varietal), which has every opportunity to become another key Margaret River varietal.’
The Art Series is so-called because of the art that Leeuwin commissions for each label in every vintage. Can you tell us about the latest pieces in this year’s collection?
‘It is always wonderful to celebrate Australian art on the labels of our most opulent and age-worthy wines from each vintage. The 2018 Art Series Chardonnay features a painting entitled “Soul Search'' by New York-based Australian artist Virginia Cuppaidge, whose art also adorned the label of our 2005 Art Series Chardonnay. Melbourne based artist, Marise Maas’, striking painting ‘Complicated Move’ features on the 2017 Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon. Our Art Series Shiraz always celebrates the works of Aboriginal artists. The 2018 vintage features a painting by Alfreda Nungarrayi Martin entitled ‘Ngapa Jukurrpa ‘ (Water Dreaming) and the site depicted in this painting is Puyurru, west of Yuendumu in the Northern Territory.’
‘Our Art Series Shiraz always celebrates the works of Aboriginal artists.’
Do you consider your winemaking to be an art?
‘There are so many layers in the creation of great wines that are distinctive, unique and speak of their place, site and estate. Wine, like art, is emotive. The fabric is set in the vineyard, site, soil, aspect and management – that is the canvas. Curation and stewardship is our ethos in the vineyard. Understanding, proactivity and refinement is our role in the winery, may be considered as the light and final brush. So yes, it is an art, vineyard and winery passionately working inside out collaboratively as the formula. We have an ultimate belief in our thoughts, knowledge and energy in our own vineyards and winemaking philosophy.‘
Thanks to Senior Winemaker Tim Lovett for taking the time to talk about the latest releases from Leeuwin Estate. From the vineyard to the winery to the gallery, two generations of the Horgan family have created a culture in Margaret River of thinking deeply about wine, art and place.
Explore our portfolio of Leeuwin Estate wines.