Tag: Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine V

Jun 06 2012

Are Australia’s Top Cabernets Undervalued?

Posted on June 06, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In its promotional material for its Bin 707, Penfolds states that “Bin 707 is Penfolds’ Cabernet Sauvignon version of Grange: ripe, intensely-flavoured fruit; completing fermentation and maturation in new oak; fully expressing a Penfolds understanding of multi-vineyard, multi-region fruit sourcing.”

No-one can doubt the pedigree of Bin 707 or its status as one of the Australia’s benchmark wines. It is up there with Grange in the pantheon of Australia’s 17 most exceptional wines, as ranked by the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine V – the form guide of Australia’s best performing and most prized wines.

But current prices of more recent vintages of Bin 707 are less than half the price of comparable vintages of Penfolds Grange. Current prices for other iconic cabernets like the Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon and the Mount Mary Vineyard Quintet Cabernets, for example, are all in the $100 to $200 price range, even though most of these wines are made in vastly smaller quantities than Grange and have almost equally impressive reputations for longevity.

But is the price discrepancy between top Australian cabernets and and their shiraz counterparts, which would also include acclaimed drops like Henschke Hill of Grace and Torbreck’s The Laird, warranted?

Certainly Australian cabernets are up against some stiff competition from overseas. Great Bordeaux cabernets like Château Margaux  and Château Lafite Rothschild are widely considered the greatest wines in the world. And in the New World, California’s reputation has largely been forged by international acclaim for a stellar line-up of cabernets from great producers like Harlan Estate, Bryant Family Vineyard and Shafer to name but a few. The top wines from all of these producers typically trade at much higher prices than comparable Australian cabernets.

For Australian shiraz the international … Read the rest

Mar 03 2012

Australia’s Top Ten Aged Chardonnays

Posted on March 03, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Everyone seems to love lists, so I thought I’d put together a list of the top 10 aged Australian Chardonnays, especially since I have had a chance to recently sample back vintages of two that definitely make the list: the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 1998 and the Savaterre Chardonnay 2004.

A couple of caveats. This list is necessarily retrospective. Chardonnay in Australia is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance at the moment, with brilliant new examples of a more balanced and restrained style winning plaudits from critics and consumers alike. As Fiona Beckett recently noted in The Guardian “of all the wines that Australia produces, [chardonnay] has undergone the most dazzling transformation, reminding us what a sexy, sumptuous, delicious wine chardonnay can be.” (Wine: Australian chardonnay comes of age by Fiona Beckett, The Guardian, 13 January 2012)

The newer examples haven’t yet past the test of time, and while wine critics’ drinking windows certainly suggest great longevity, they haven’t been properly tested. Consequently superbly refined wines like Tapanappa’s Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay and the Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay, which were both first released in 2005 and 2003 respectively, don’t yet have a long enough track record to make the list.

Regular readers of my blog know that I’m a big fan of research, so for inspiration this list draws on the vast knowledge and considerable drinking experience of Australia’s best wine critics. For aged wines, however, you can’t go past the verdict of the consumer, as many of the finest bottles are snapped up for the cellar and then snapped up again on the secondary market.

One of the best gauges of consumer preference is Langton’s Classification of Australian Wines. It is considered “the form guide” for Australia’s best performing and most prized wines. To be considered … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Castagna: True Wines of Place and Passion

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

One of the really fun aspects of writing the Cellarit Wine blog is the opportunity to learn about various wine personalities. The wine industry tends to attract people with very interesting backgrounds and skill-sets. This is particularly true of winemakers. I’m often in awe of the best, as they seem to possess a myriad of skills and talents: farmer, artist-winemaker, visionary, marketer, advocate, environmentalist – the list goes on!

Julian Castagna of Castagna Vineyard is certainly one Australian winemaker who is all of these things and more. I’m no expert, but I’m guessing that he’s destined to join the ranks of the legendary Australian winemakers who over the years have changed the face of the industry.

Castagna is a passionate advocate for biodynamic wines and was instrumental in organising the recent Return to Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne, which brought together 61 of the best wineries in the world. A very special event that I hope will be repeated soon. (see The Return to the Terroir Tasting, Cellarit Wine Blog, 21 March 2011)

He is also a passionate about his view that the future and reputation of Australian wine rests primarily with the small and medium producers, and is not afraid to take on the governing Australian wine bodies for what he regards as their “big-company, South Australian-centric view of our industry producers,” especially when it comes to promoting Australian wine in international markets.

Most importantly, from a consumer point of view at least, Castagna is an exceptional winemaker. His Genesis Syrah recently won a place in the “Distinguished” category in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine. Langton’s Andrew Caillard MW described this highly aromatic syrah, co-fermented with a small percentage of viognier, as “very much a wine of place.”

Castagna would appreciate Caillard’s description of the wine as … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Cullen Wines Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot: An ‘exceptional’ Bordeaux Blend

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Of the 17 wines in the ‘Exceptional’ category of Langon’s Classification of Australian Wines only four are cabernets. Cullen Wines’ Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot shares the stage with another Margaret River icon, the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon. Indeed, both wines reflect their respective winemakers’ uncompromising approach to quality and obsessive attention to detail. No wonder these superior talents have lifted their wines to world-class status in a remarkably short period of time!

The Diana Madeline is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Named after Diana Cullen, who founded Cullen Wines with her husband Kevin in 1966, this exceptionally elegant, balanced wine is the product of the consummate winemaking and vigneron skills of the couple’s youngest daughter Vanya.

Vanya Cullen followed in her winemaker mother’s footsteps, taking over as senior winemaker in 1989. Like her parents, she was very interested in applying organic principles in the vineyard, but after attending a workshop on biodynamic viticulture with Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive and Aubert de Villaine from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, she realised the value of making both the vineyard and winery biodynamic. (The Matriach of Margaret: Cullen Wines by Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com May 2010)

The results of this conversion (the vineyard was certified biodynamic in 2003 and the winery in 2008) is clearly demonstrated in the fresh, elegant style of the Diana Madeline. As a result of the use of biodynamic viticulture, Cullen has seen a marked improvement in the structure and oxygenation of the soil, which in turn has enhanced the tannin ripening of the fruit. Consequently, the grapes can be harvested earlier at lower sugar levels and higher acidity.

Indeed, Lisa Perrotti-Brown of the Wine Advocate cites the 2008 Diana Madeline as “another example of Cullen’s emerging ability to achieve physiological ripeness at lower alcohols … Read the rest

Oct 10 2010

Wine of the Week: Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In my previous post, Langton’s Updates its Classification of Australian Wine 30 September 2010, I mentioned that five wines had been elevated to the ‘exceptional’ category. Langton’s describes ‘exceptional’ wines, of which there are now 17, as “the most highly sought after and prized first-growth type Australian wine on the market.” Langtons: Our Classification Explained.

One of the standouts of this newly elevated group is Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier. According to Langton’s Fine Wine principal Andrew Caillard MW, “Tim Kirk’s ethereal Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier is perhaps one of the most important advances in the development of Australian shiraz since the release of 1952 Penfolds Grange.” (Langton’s: View Classification V)

Clonakilla’s Shiraz Viognier is a product of a very fortuitous visit to the Côte Rôtie in Northern Rhone that winemaker Tim Kirk made in 1991.

Côte Rôtie produces fine wine from the Syrah (shiraz) grape, sometimes with a small percentage of the white wine grape viognier blended in to add an extra dimension to the wine.

Tim recalled his reaction to single vineyard barrel tastings of Marcel Guigal’s Côte Rôtie with the eRobertParker.com’s Neil Martin: “Up until then, I was familiar with Australian mainstream models of Syrah, with blackberry, with warmer fruit, sometimes with a cola character, even chocolate. But here the wines had an ethereal dimension, a lightness of touch, the flavour profile more in line with red fruits with a complex spice element spun through the aromas and palate. The palate structure was different: finer, silkier and more succulent. It captivated me, it was a revelatory moment and I was completely smitten. Here was a wine of purity, finesse and elegance.”

Tim borrowed other winemaking approaches from Rhone valley and Burgundian winemakers to highlight the inherent flavours of the fruit: inclusion of whole bunches in the … Read the rest

Sep 09 2010

Langton’s Updates its Classification of Australian Wine

Posted on September 09, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

This week Langton’s released the fifth update to its internationally recognised Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine. First published in 1991 to create interest and build demand in the fledgling Australian secondary wine market, the classification is considered a ‘form guide’ of Australia’s best performing and most prized wines.

Langton’s Classification of Australian Wines V comprises 123 wines under four categories: Exceptional, Outstanding, Excellent and Distinguished. As Andrew Caillard MW of Langton’s explains, the rankings  “reflect the sentiment of a well-informed market rather than individual opinion.” To be considered, a wine must have 10 vintages behind it so that its track record and reputation, both of which are measured through market presence, consistency, volume of demand and price realisations, can be properly assessed.

Caillard has compared Langton’s Classification to the the Bordeaux Medoc’s classification system of 1855, referring to wines in the Exceptional category as Australia’s “first growths.” In some respects the comparison is apt, as the French wine brokers who devised the Bordeaux classification system also looked at the price history of the wines to rank each of the properties from first to fifth growths. But, unlike the static 1855 classification, Langton’s classifications are thankfully updated every five years, allowing wines to be demoted or elevated as necessary.

This year five additions were made to the Exceptional category:

Innovation, individuality and uniqueness are shared hallmarks of the five wines elevated to the ‘Exceptional’ category, according … Read the rest