Wines 101 #7: Leeuwin “Prelude” Margaret River Chardonnay 2016

Margaret River is a highly respected wine region in the southwestern corner of Western Australia. Famous for having a more “European” wine style than its counterparts across the country, Margaret River has made its name through its unusually refined Cabernet Sauvignon (often blended with Merlot), gamey Shiraz, intensely citrusy Chardonnay, and refreshingly grassy blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

Leeuwin Estate

Leeuwin Estate is one of the earliest commercial wineries in the Margaret River region of Western Australia, where the gentle maritime climate is well suited to the production of fine chardonnay and cabernet. The estate was founded in the 1970s by Denis and Tricia Horgan who were advised by the famous Robert Mondavi of California that the site was ideal for fine wine production.

The Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge is responsible in no small part for the Margaret River terroir overall however. A ridge of gneiss and granite that runs north–south for the length of the peninsula, it is covered by rusty-red laterite soils, rich in aluminum and iron. Although not very high, the ridge gives sufficient shelter to the vineyards immediately behind it and moderates the prevailing coastal breezes that blow in from the nearby beaches. Just three hours’ drive south of Perth, Margaret River is a popular tourist desination, capitalizing on the beautiful coastline and forests – which keep the visitors happy and the sun-soaked vineyards cool.

Leeuwin ‘Prelude’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2016

I bought this wine from The Wine Society, #1 on my Australian Wines 101 Bucket List, but I can’t claim a high degree of enthusiasm in buying it! When you are so hooked on Chardonnay from Burgundy, and Chablis & Meursault in particular, it is rather difficult to consider chardonnays from other parts of the world as being anything other than “second division”! On opening this bottle my pessimism was justified, but 8 hours later (screwcap tightly replaced 😂) I started to doubt my own ability to judge any wine at all. Here’s my notes taken at the time:

Pale green/straw yellow in colour, initial aroma of green apple with distinctive characteristics that shout out at you “this is an Australian chardonnay”. Lemon on the palate with the green apple continuing for a VERY long finish. The oak hits you initially, but then fades as the acidity continues. I find myself comparing this wine with a Chablis of equal cost, and my preference is for …. a Chablis. There’s something about Aussie chardonnay that makes them all the same, not terroir driven, whether you pay £9 or £29. This wine has a “fatness” about it which Chablis don’t have, but conversely Chablis has the minerality so highly prized.

And the notes from 8 hours later

Oak has softened, almost disappeared, was it oak at all? Now butteryness to add to the lemon but also with honey {which I always get with Meursault}, I feel guilty at running it down previously. My goodness, my glass is empty, has it all gone?

In conclusion, this is a very fine wine that would go well with a very wide variety of seafood (and even chicken tikka masala according to the wine society) and yet is suitable for drinking on its own. At around £29 per bottle it is far from cheap and compares with many Chablis I buy for half the price ……. but direct from the grower in France. But this is the score with global markets, taxes, duty and trade tariffs which we would all do well to remember. Selfishly, I might have voted “Remain” in the referendum related to EU membership so I could guarantee the ability to visit France at will and buy some of the best wines in the world cheaply. But there again …. It’s not about the wine


Categories: New World, Wine, Wine 101

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4 replies

  1. France has set such a precedence in wine! I agree with you about Australian Chardonnay. It could also be the taste preferences in that part of the world that drive wine makers to make a certain style. Personally, I’m all about the old world with a few exceptions. Nice tasting notes by the way! 😉

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