Every year, in the autumn catalogue, we introduce the new vintage releases in Japan of Leeuwin Estate’s flagship wines, the Art Series Chardonnay and Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon. This year's releases are the high-scoring 2019 Chardonnay and, in Leeuwin’s words, the “WOW” 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon. We spoke with Tim Lovett, the third-generation Senior Winemaker at Leeuwin, about these two wines and recent developments at Leeuwin Estate.Wrapping up the fantastic 2023.Village Cellars (VC)—Thanks for taking time, Tim. I hope you’re not as wet as you were this time last year.Tim:I woke up at 3 am with horizontal rain and gale-force winds, and it was pretty grim driving in, but the weather seems fine now. 80% of the rainfall happens between the end of harvest in April and when the vines come out of dormancy in September, so this rain is actually very important for the well-being of the vines in the following vintage. VC:Yes, I heard that there was not a drop of rain between November and March for the 2023 vintage.Tim:That’s right. 2023 was a fantastic vintage with optimal dry weather conditions and no significant climatic challenges or disease pressures. We had a good yield of high-quality fruit. The number of pickers during the harvest season bounced back to pre-COVID levels for this vintage, which made our lives easier too. It’s nice to see people coming back to Margaret River – right now, we have 65 people out there pruning our vines, and I love having that energy back! VC:How are all your new plantings going?Tim:Very well. We have new plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon on Helicopter Hill (planted 2021), Henry’s (planted 2019), and East Hill (planted 2017). Over the years, studies have been conducted to isolate different Houghton clones based on morphology and tannin structure. We’ve planted H5, which has bright and savoury characters, H20, which has more generous, rounder characters, and 337 from Bordeaux across these vineyards. We can really taste the distinctions between these clones. This is super exciting, as it will allow us to be much more precise in our winemaking.The Chardonnay from East Hill (planted 2016), which I shared my excitement about last year, continues to perform well, and I’m very proud of it.#12280Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2019RRP ￥14,500 (tax not included)Varietal: Chardonnay 100%Alc. 13.8%99pts Ray Jordan WA Wine review 2023;98pts Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate;95pts Wine SpectatorThe fruit for the Art Series Chardonnay mainly comes from two vineyards: Block 20 and Block 22, both planted with the Gingin clone in the late 1970s. This clone produces ‘Hen and Chicken’ berries, where both small and large berries ripen on the same bunch. The large berries display fruit flavours, and the smaller berries provide good acid structure. The 2019 vintage was dry and slightly cooler throughout, resulting in an ethereal wine with delicate aromas of jasmine and frangipani, as well as Leeuwin’s hallmark flavour profiles of pear, cut-lime, and white nectarine.The fruit was hand-harvested and mostly cool-destemmed with some skin contact. Some portions were whole bunch-pressed, with an intent to add complementary savouriness like graphite or popcorn through extended contact with solids. The wines are barrel-fermented and barrel-aged in 100% new Bordelais oak with tighter grains and lower toast than in previous years to preserve the acidity in a cooler vintage. After 11 months without malolactic fermentation but with an intense batonnage regime, various components were blended, fined, cold-stabilised, and bottled.The 2019 vintage exhibits very fine details in the purity and clarity this wine is known for. It exudes energy with lifted Chinese star jasmine, lime blossom, and ginger notes, while the complexity of cinnamon quill, toasted hazelnuts, nougat, panna cotta, flint, and graphite diligently lies in the background. The palate is bright and energetic with mineral acidity, and the fruit spectrum is starting to open after a little time in the bottle.#12279Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2018RRP ￥9,200 (tax not included)Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon 97%, Malbec 3%Alc. 13.8%97 pts 2022 Halliday Wine Companion97 pts Huon Hooke, The Real ReviewThe fruit for Art Series Cabernet mainly comes from Block 8, an exposed, dry-grown vineyard planted in 1975. Berries from this vineyard are very small, so a higher skin-to-juice ratio leads the way for an intense wine. The 2018 was an ideal (or “EPIC” according to Tim) vintage with good winter rainfall followed by a mild and dry growing season and a slow ripening period. Block 8 fruit received good solarisation on both sides, and by the time it was harvested based on physiological tannin ripeness, displayed not only the characters of dark cherries but also incredible intensity of aromatics like lavender, violet, cumin, clove, coriander, and so on.The fruit was hand-picked, individually berry sorted, cold-soaked to extract tannins without the presence of alcohol, then fermented with pump-overs to extract more colour and different tannins. It was then transferred to 50% new, 50% one-year-old Bordelaise barriques for malolactic fermentation and aging, where it spent about 22 months in total. The resulting wine has a concentrated and dark nose of blackcurrants and dark cherries, violets, and bay leaf, with detailed notes of savoury spice, graphite and a flint undertone. Bold blackcurrant threads on the palate are richly layered with mineral acidity and savouriness, combined by silky tannins, while alcohol remains a modest 13.5%.