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Sunday 26 March 2023

New Levantine Hill wine releases make a serious statement

Elias Jreissati is not afraid to make a statement, or ruffle a few wine industry feathers.

The Melbourne property developer and philanthropist aims for the stars whether it concerns his business, or his family operated Levantine Hill winery in the Yarra Valley.

When building his cellar door - and later a state-of-the-art winery/functions centre - he used leading architects Fender Katsalidis.

When choosing a winemaker he selected Yarra Valley cool-climate guru Paul Bridgeman (below).

Now there are plans for a luxury hotel on site and Levantine Hill hit the headlines this week when it released its second batch of Optume wines; high-end, very limited-release wines that are the most expensive in Victoria.

The new releases are the 2020 Levantine Hill Optume Chardonnay and the 2018 Levantine Hill Optume Shiraz, dubbed as "Masterpieces of Wine".

Both have been made from grapes sourced from across the Yarra Valley - some from the estate, others from "a row here, or a small block there".

"The combination of terroirs allows for more nuanced flavours and complexity, and the creation of a wine that is greater than the sum of its individual parts," says winemaker Bridgeman.

"These wines are the optimum expression of cool-climate wines that have been crafted without regard to vineyard location, cost or effort - the pinnacle of what we are capable of.

"Elias has a belief in our vinous vision of art - and Optume is our Michelangelo. Instead of being limited by our boundaries we looked at putting a blanket over the entire Yarra Valley - taking various elements from the best vineyards across the region, seven sites in all."   

The chardonnay may be a first release, but is up there with the finest Australian chardonnays I have  been fortunate enough to sample. Beautifully balanced with impressive light and shade, it is full flavoured and downright delicious.

When this intense but subtle wine was being benchmarked, the great white Burgundy Bonneau du Martray was much referred to.

Only 660 bottles were made, so this is an instant collectors item.

The 2018 Optume Shiraz is a parcel of just 984 bottles and it is a classic cool-climate shiraz that will develop over time. 

Right now it is very classy but still a little sleepy. Stylish but not strident; one for the cellar at least in the short term. I can't wait to taste this in 5-10 years. 

The chardonnay sells for $600 a bottle, the shiraz for $880, so clearly these are not wines for everyone, although buyers will get a rare opportunity to sample wines that very few people will ever taste. Each wine comes in a wooden box with its own key (below). 

The wines will only be made in outstanding vintages. Last year the Optume releases were a shiraz and a cabernet. This time around the cabernet was deemed not to have made the cut, but there is the first release of what is now Australia's most expensive single vintage chardonnay.

"Levantine Hill Estate exists for one reason: to produce wines of uncompromising quality and distinction," says art lover Jreissati. "We have an ongoing desire to pursue perfection - and push the boundaries. 
"The vision is to create the optimum expression of a cool-climate wine, from each suitable vintage - and there are always consumers who want the exceptional. These wines are for them.

"I see Paul Bridgeman as an artist who is weaving his magic and crafting the best example of what can be achieved."

Elias Jreissati and his wife Colleen (top image) own Levantine Hill and his daughters Samantha and Melissa also play key roles in the business. The business was established in 2009 and produced its first vintage in 2012. 

To learn more, or buy a bottle, see

# The writer was a guest of Levantine Hill

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