La Pleiade Heathcote Victoria
A chance meeting in the mid-nineties was the start of a partnership between two influential winemaking families, the Laughtons of Jasper Hill at Heathcote, Victoria and the Chapoutiers of Hermitage in France’s Rhône Valley. A common belief in biodynamic farming led to the forming of a shared vision: to create wines that were from the opposite sides of the world, yet that were joined in the philosophy of their creation, as true expressions of their terroir.
In the spring of 1998 a small vineyard was established on virgin red Cambian soils in Heathcote Victoria, at the home of Jasper Hill. Here, adjacent to Georgia’s Paddock, half the plot would be planted to Australian Shiraz evolved from the original importations of Syrah from Hermitage almost two centuries ago and half would be planted to Michel’s selection massalefrom his current vineyards in Hermitage. La Pleiade derives its name from the Pleiades star cluster (the Seven Sisters) in the constellation of Taurus, visible from both Heathcote and Hermitage and revered in the same way in the mythology of most ancient cultures.
Meanwhile inthe Agly Valley in Roussillon, old hillside vineyards planted to Syrah, Grenache and Carignan lay abandoned. Here, just outside the little village of Latour de France, on the border of the old kingdoms of Catalonia and France, a handful of small plots was purchased in 2002. Since then, the old vines have been nurtured biodynamically and brought back to life to fully express these exceptional low-yielding sites. The Carignan and Syrah is planted on a gneiss-based, north facing slope at 250m, whereas the Grenache is planted on a south-facing slope on a schist-based soil that sits over a layer of limestone.
WINE NOTES AND REVIEWS
La Pleiade 2015
100% Shiraz, hand harvested, 100% destemmed and native yeast fermented in wax lined concrete vats. After a six week cuvaison the wine is matured in French oak barriques for 14 months.
‘From our 20 year-old single vineyard of un-irrigated, un-grafted, organic Shiraz planted on the renowned, deep, red, basaltic Cambrian era soil strip of Heathcote. Gorgeous red colour of great depth, with a full palate to match of ripe dark berries, rich plum and mocha, complementing the complex spiciness typical of great Heathcote Shiraz. Signature ripe, supple tannins and natural acidity with a light French oak background. From a great vintage, neither too hot nor too cold but “just right”, this wine is delicious now, with great cellaring potential as a bonus.’ Ron Laughton, Winemaker, May 2018.
La Pleiade 2014
‘Creamy French oak comes through on the nose of this approachable and elegant version of Heathcote Shiraz. Great depth of magenta colour, indicating a full wine to follow in the mouth, with spicy characters of cinnamon, nutmeg and liquorice. The usual fabulous balance of ripe tannins and natural acidity, conferring longevity. Delicious. Cork sealed.’ Ron Laughton, Winemaker, May 2017.
La Pleiade 2013
‘Estate-grown; as usual, fermented in an open wax-lined concrete vat, matured for 12 months in new and second-use French barriques. Takes full-bodied shiraz onto a new level, so dense is the complex web of black fruits, licorice and spice, achieving this without the intrusion of alcohol or heavy tannins. To drink it now or soon would be vinocide, but some will be unable to avoid that sin. Drink to 2053.’ 96 points, James Halliday, August 2017.
La Pleiade 2012
‘The clear, full crimson-purple colour has that intangible quality that promises much, the expectations more than fulfilled on the bouquet and palate. This is a beautifully wrought (I would use ‘crafted’ but that is nauseously overused in marketing blah) medium-bodied wine, effortlessly uncoiling its array of red fruits through the length of the palate, an exercise in restrained elegance. Drink to 2035.’ 97 points, James Halliday, August 2016.
La Pleiade 2010
‘Deep garnet-purple, the 2010 Cluster M45 Shiraz [La Pleiade is sold as Cluster M45 in the USA] has lovely floral and herbal notes wafting over a solid core of youthful blackberries and black cherries with nuances of Chinese five spice and cloves. Great intensity and balance in a rather modest medium-full body with great graininess to the tannins and plenty of freshness. It finishes long. Note that no 2011 Cluster M45 was produced. Drink 2016-2035.’ 97 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, RobertParker.com, February 2015.
La Pleiade 2009
‘Deep garnet with a touch of purple, the 2009 Cluster M45 Shiraz has notes of fragrant earth and forest floor over youthful black fruits and tar. Full-bodied and built like a brick house with firm chewy tannins and a nice acid backbone, it has a wonderfully long, earthy finish. Drink 2015-2029.’ 94 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, RobertParker.com, February 2015.
La Pleiade 2007
‘Deep garnet colored, the 2007 Cluster M45 Shiraz offers a lovely perfume of roses and potpourri over a core of cassis, blueberries and mocha plus a waft of anise. Medium to full-bodied, it fills the palate with blue fruit and Indian spice flavors, plus chewy tannins and balanced acid, finishing long. Drink 2015-2027.’ 94 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, RobertParker.com, February 2015.
La Pleiade 2006
‘Saturated, dense purple red; incredibly concentrated flavours of plum, Christmas cake, licorice, spice and dark chocolate; alcohol, oak and tannins all submerged in the fruit; prototype for a 100-year wine; 55 mm [cork]. Drink to 2036.’ 95 points, James Halliday, April 2008.
La Pleiade 2005
‘Deep garnet with a hint of purple, the 2005 Cluster M45 Shiraz reveals gorgeous fruits of the forest coulis and blueberry pie scents with suggestions of cloves, cedar and bacon. Medium to full-bodied, quite structured and chewy, it’s showing a bit more age than the previous two vintages at this stage, but still has loads of life, going long and spicy in the finish. Drink 2015-2023.’ 93 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, RobertParker.com, February 2015.
La Pleiade 2004
‘Dense, impenetrable purple-red; crammed with black fruit/anise/plum; bitter chocolate and oak complete the flavours, all locked together by persistent but fine, ripe tannins. A virtually unlimited life span. Drink to 2039.’ 96 points, James Halliday, March 2007.
La Pleiade 2003
‘Deep garnet in color with the faintest hint of brick, the 2003 Cluster M45 Shiraz displays a gorgeous nose of warm mulberries, red plum preserves and raspberry coulis with nuances of baking spices and sandalwood. Full-bodied and generously fruited, it still has a lot of vitality and fruit, textured by medium to firm chewy tannins and bestowing nice freshness in the long finish Drink 2015-2023.’ 96 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, RobertParker.com, February 2015.