Wine of the Year 2015: 2011 Xanadu Stevens Road Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon


Over 9000 wines were tasted for this year’s Wine Companion, well in excess of the number for any previous year. One wine received 100 points: the 1914 Seppeltsfield 100 Year Old Para Liqueur, saddled with the knowledge that each successive vintage will receive 100 points, yet not win this award.

This left two wines on 99 points: 2012 Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir, and 2011 Xanadu Stevens Road Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon. I have made an executive decision that successive vintages of a table wine cannot win this award, thus rendering the Bass Phillip ineligible, yet not demeaning its transcendental quality.

So this left Xanadu on its own at the top of a very large pyramid. The real question then is why did it receive 99 points? It smote my vinous heart in the way a great Burgundy might, instantaneously, and without any analysis.

Reality then caused me to re-taste it very carefully, and I came up with the same result. Not satisfied with that, I did what I seldom do, and took the bottle up to my house and drank it with dinner. Once again, the wine ticked all the boxes.

So what is the story behind the vineyard (and hence the wine)? It is 20ha and was planted in 1989; the eight varieties are an eclectic mix, including examples such as graciano and muscadelle. Nonetheless, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon are the most important, and their quality made this a precious plot. Xanadu had leased the vineyard, and to secure the grape supply in perpetuity, Darren Rathbone, CEO of the Rathbone Wine Group, stepped in to purchase the vineyard personally in 1998.

Xanadu continues to manage the vines, not an onerous task, the vines having a naturally low to moderate vigour, and yields having settled at 5–6 tonnes per hectare. Winemaker Glen Goodall says, ‘It’s a block that always seems to know its own balance.’

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