Yalumba’s latest is surely destined for ‘iconic’ status, says John Saker.
Recent trans-tasman schisms have not had any impact on my fondness for Aussie wine. I have too many dear, formative memories for that. And I’ve just tasted a red from Oz that I couldn’t describe as anything but truly bonza.
Unlike some Aussie brands, Yalumba continues to maintain a strong presence on our wine shelves. No mystery why. The Barossa-based winery does so many things extraordinarily well.
In many ways, Yalumba is the Australian Villa Maria. It’s large, yet family-owned, with the proprietors fully engaged in running the show. It is principled, and cares deeply about quality and value for money across the range. It’s not scared to innovate and go its own way. And it has great people in key positions.
But one thing Yalumba had not done during its 168-year history was pull out all stops and create a wine to sit at the upper end of the top end – one that in time may get to be described as ‘‘iconic’’. Not until now, anyway.
The recent release of the Yalumba The Caley Cabernet & Shiraz 2012 gives the company what its chairman Robert Hill Smith hopes will be ‘‘a wine to take to the world’’.
There’s a long history in Oz of blending shiraz and cabernet, a combination the Australians call ‘‘claret’’. There was no pre-determination to recreate this blend for The Caley. While some very impressive fruit was harvested in 2012 by Yalumba in the Barossa (shiraz) and Coonawarra (cabernet sauvignon), it was only when the team began looking at various blending options that excitement levels rose. Hill Smith says ‘‘the wine came to us’’.
It’s a special wine. Not imposing, as many Australian premium releases are, but beautiful. The fruit is dark and rich, yet restrained. The structure is so fine there’s an impression of fragility; it floats, rather than marches, across your palate. There’s an endearing sweetness, spice and tarriness, with cabernet characters becoming more vociferous on the lengthy finish.
A bottle will set you back $395 (that includes a presentation box and a delightful little book), so by any measure, it’s a special occasion wine.
Of the more affordable current Yalumba releases, I can recommend the following: • Yalumba The Strapper Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2013, $24. The essence of the Barossa – a deft GSM blend where heady ripe sweetness and more standoffish earthy savoury characters are in step. • Yalumba The Y Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, $15. Blackcurrant, a touch of leafiness, genuine length – you get some smart cabernet here for a very modest outlay. One of the best buys around.