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 multi-award-wining 2018 Chardonnay and 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon. We spoke with Tim Lovett, the third-generation Senior Winemaker at Leeuwin, about these two wines and recent developments at Leeuwin Estate.Senior Winemaker Tim LovettWild winter weather ―― a maritime plight.Village Cellars (VC)―― Thanks for taking time, Tim.Tim―― Thanks for giving me an excuse to be inside, the weather is wild out there, 140km/h winds, 100mm rains, and now there’s hail and thunder! We get a storm like this every couple of years in winter, it’s a part of life when you are surrounded by the ocean. No negative impact to the grapes as they are in their dormancy period post pruning, but us humans have to wrap up in our woolly clothes.VC―― So, no new vineyard planting today then. Tim―― No physical planting work, no. But I also put together the Estate’s planting strategy ‒ in which soil, what aspect, which clone, how protected it is – a particularly important consideration for planting out Chardonnays. We need to be proactive as some reds can last over 100 years but the Chardonnay lifespan is typically 60-70 years. Block 20 and Block 22 which make up the bulk of Art Series Chardonnay is over 45 years old now. Thankfully, less than a quarter of the 660ha Estate is under vine so there are plenty of plots to explore and plant.VC―― Any standout vineyards?Tim―― I don’t want to talk too soon and jinx it, but Chardonnay from East Hill which we planted in 2016 is producing fantastic fruit. Every year, we have a day when we blind taste every barrel to decide on assemblage. East Hill wines have so far gotten consistently good scores, and I am a proud parent! As this is still a young vineyard, we need to test out the longevity before we put them into our most prestigious wines, but I am hopeful.CODE 11629Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2018 (screw cap)RRP: ¥11,500Varietal: Chardonnay 100%Alc. 13.9%98pts & Top place Chardonnay Varietal Award, 2022 Halliday Wine CompanionNo.1 of The Judgement of Napa 2021The fruit for 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 the good acid structure. The warm, stable 2018 vintage provided perfect conditions for the clone that requires optimal ripeness to shine. Fruits were allowed to achieve the flavour profiles of pear, cut-lime and white nectarine without stress. They were hand-harvested, and mostly cool-destemmed with some skin contact. A small portion was whole bunch pressed, an addition to the vinification program since 2017, to complement the rich fruit characters with minerality. Wines are barrel-fermented and barrel-aged in 100% new oak for 11 months without malolactic fermentation but with an intense batonnage regime to integrate fruit and oak, give texture to the wine and add autolytic characters. The 2018 has pure and powerful primary fruit aromas underlined by brioche, shaved nutmeg, a thread of graphite and many other com plex characteristics, and a palate with intense and precise fruit, sweet spice from elegant oak use, and a long finish underlined by a delicate acid line. CODE 11628Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (screw cap)RRP ¥8,500Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon 98%, Malbec 2%Alc. 13.6% 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. Physiological tannin ripeness becomes the most important factor in deciding the picking date, as only adequate solarisation can remove unwanted green characters of unripe tannins. So, the cool 2017 vintage became the “Vintage of Patience”, as even with meticulous canopy management the fruit had to hang later into the season when the risk of bad-weather exposure was higher. The wait was worth the risk. Concentrated yet elegant, aromatic fruit was hand-picked, individual 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 spends about 22 months in total. A dash of Malbec from Block 9, adry-grown original 1975 planting, is also blended to enhance the depth of Cabernet, like a seasoning on a steak. The resulting wine has a dense and concentrated black fruit nose with a delicate, fragrant lift seen more often in cooler vintages, and intense fruit, dry herb, quartz-like minerality and powdery tannins on the palate.