Tasting Reviews

Yalumba Masterclass with The Caley and Jane Ferrari


Jane Ferrari, Yalumba, with 'The Caley'

For me, Yalumba, Robert Hill Smith, great Australian wine and Jane Ferrari are fully interwoven. As Australia’s oldest family-owned independent winegrower, with a history stretching back to 1849, Yalumba holds a unique place in the Australian and the world’s wine industries. Robert Hill Smith and his brother saved Yalumba from disappearing into the dark depth of anonymity, and Robert instigated a programme of making fine table wine to lead the company into the future. The Yalumba wines range from traditional styles that are celebrated or have been saved from obscurity to innovative varieties that lead the world. And tying it all together is Jane Ferrari, Yalumba’s travelling ambassador winemaker, working her way around the world and coming to New Zealand for the last 17 years. That is my scene and understanding.

It has come as not too much of a surprise that Yalumba’s latest development, a ‘super claret’ wine named ‘The Caley’ is also inextricably linked to these four important forces in my love of Yalumba. In travelling the world’s markets, Jane Ferrari reports that it is crucial to have the very best wines a company can make on show. Any sub-standard wines will lead to you being taken to the door to leave. So in many ways, it was the ideal time to introduce what is arguably Yalumba’s best-ever wine: ‘The Caley’. The wine is named after Robert Hill Smith’ forebear, Fred Caley Smith, grandson of Yalumba founder Samuel Smith whose horticultural expertise garnered from travels around the globe resulted in the foundations of Yalumba’s viticulture today. Although shy in admitting it, Jane Ferrari was at the heart of unearthing Fred Caley Smith story, and now she is selling the story and the wine to her clients around the world.

‘The Caley’ was borne from the quality of the fruit and the wine on the Yalumba winemakers blending benches from the 2012 vintage, deemed a unique and great year. Yalumba’s flagship wine has been ‘The Signature’ first made in 1962, the wine being the very best possible blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Others may argue that the old Shiraz vine ‘Octavius’ bears the flagship status, but if that is so, ‘The Reserve’, an even rarer Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz blend can easily be argued as its equal or better. So was borne ‘The Caley’ in recognition of the superlative fruit available, made in the unique Australian ‘super claret’ style that only the blending of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz could make. It is a wine that also showcases the unique Coonawarra and Barossa regions. It will not be made every year, and not in 2013, but it appears there could be a 2016. Made only in exceptional years, as the saying goes, this truly is a wine that makes an immediate step to legendary status. www.yalumba.com
Yalumba Masterclass
Jane Ferrari was in Wellington on her annual visit to New Zealand, this year conducting a masterclass of Yalumba wines to invited trade and media, held at Boulcott Street Bistro. There, she took us through a series of wines demonstrating Yalumba’s contemporary approach to wine, and the componentry and resource which led to the making of ‘The Caley’ The tasting culminated with ‘The Caley’ 2012. Here are my notes.

Yalumba ‘Y Series’ South Australia Sangiovese Rose 2017
Bright, pale salmon-pink colour with some depth, pale edged. The nose is very fresh and bight with thirst-quenching pomegranate and cranberry fruit aromas, along with nuances of minerals. Dry to taste and light-medium bodied, the fruit is youthfully fresh, a little restrained in expression, quite delicate, showing strawberries and cranberries. The mouthfeel is clean and crisp, with excellent clarity and purity, with very fine thirst-quenching textures. A beautifully fresh Provencale style of rosé for now. Fruit from two Barossa and one Wrattonbully site, given 1-3 hours skin contact and fermented in stainless-steel to 12.0% alc. and 2.0 g/L RS. 17.5/20 Aug 2017 RRP $17.50

Yalumba Eden Valley Rousanne 2014
Bright, light golden-yellow colour with some depth, a little lighter on the edge. This ha a full, solid bouquet, quite Semillon-like with yellow stonefruits and citrus fruits entwined with notes of waxy lanolin. And light lime and herb elements. Some savoury, nutty oak shows and reductive suggestions. The palate is dry, and firm, still very lively, with a heart of stonefruits, lanolin, wax and herbs, unfolding honeysuckle and florals. This is up-front in expression with good body, but a tight core. The mouthfeel has some texture and grip, which carries the wine to a mouthwatering finish. This shows winemaker inputs. Serve with poultry and pork dishes over the next 3 years. The fourth vintage of this ‘experimental’ wine, made in commercial quantities. Fruit from three sites in the Eden Valley, indigenous yeast fermented in seasoned oak with high solids to 12.5% alc., the wine aged 10 months in barrel with batonnage. 17.0+/20 Aug 2017 RRP $28.00

Yalumba ‘The Virgilius’ Eden Valley Viognier 2016
Straw-yellow colour with lemon hues and light golden tints. The nose is full and rich, soft and smelling ‘textural’, with ripe apricots and subtle exotic lifted florals, citrus zest and complexing nuances of nutty oak. Dry, but rich, intense and luscious on palate, the flavours are intense and gently mouthfilling with aromatics, with apricots, florals and citrus zest. This has depth and weight, with some unctuousness, but well-balanced with underlying acidity. The phenolics are integrated and carry the wine to a long and voluminous finish. Exceptional in expression, with poise. Match with rich white meat and seafood dishes over the next 3-4 years. A blend of fruit from predominantly mature vines with new clone material, hand-picked, WBP, and indigenous yeast barrel-fermented to 12.5% alc,, the wine aged 10 months in seasoned barriques and puncheons with batonnage. This is a selection of the best 8-10 barrels from 90-95 produced. 19.0/20 Aug 2017 RRP $54.50

Yalumba ‘The Cigar’ ‘The Menzies Vineyard’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Full, even, black-red colour with black hues, near impenetrable. The nose is very fresh, elegant and tightly bound with intensely penetrating aromas of blackcurrants and cassis liqueur, along with mint and an array of herbs, with blackcurrant leaf. This has beautiful purity, and reveals a little minerality. Full-bodied, the palate is tightly packed and very densely concentrated with intense and penetrating flavours of pure blackcurrants and cassis liqueur, along with mint herbs. The palate possesses very fine-grained tannins and fresh, crisp acidity, and the wine has a very long, tight, dry finish. This is classical Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon showing startling fruit intensity and purity. 8-12 years ahead. Coonawarra fruit, predominantly from ‘The Menzies’ vineyard, fermented to 14.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 26% new French oak barriques and French and Hungarian oak hogsheads. 18.5/20 Aug 2017 RRP $31.50

Yalumba ‘The Menzies’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Very dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour with some garnet on the edge. The nose is very concentrated and intense with rich, ripe aromas of blackcurrants, blackberries and cassis, a little mint and fragrant, lifted herbs, a touch of eucalypt, unfolding interwoven layers of fruit and pencilly oak. The palate is sweetly rich and luscious, the fruit melded with ripe, substantial tannin structure, revealing layers of blackberries, blackcurrants, cassis liqueur and mint, revealing nuances of eucalypt and cedary, pencilly oak. The fruit is supported by strong, ripe, fine tannin extraction and ripe acidity that carries the wine to a sweet and long finish. 10-15+ years. Fruit from ‘The Menzies’ vineyard Coonawarra, vines 35 y.o., fermented to 14.1% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 34% new French hogsheads and barriques, and 2% new Hungarian oak hogsheads. A vineyard selection, undergoing very vigorous selection to produce a reduced quantity of wine, around 8.000 cases. 19.0/20 Aug 2017 RRP $52.50

Yalumba ‘Patchwork’ Barossa Shiraz 2014
Moderately dark ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the edge. This has a fragrant and elegant nose with moderately full and concentrated aroma of ripe blackberry fruit along with black plums, liquorice and spices. This showcases elegance and aromatics. Medium-full bodied, the palate possesses rich, luscious, elegantly proportioned flavours of blackberries, plums black pepper, liquorice and spices. The fruit is underlined by fine, dry tannins with some sweet oak. The acidity is balanced and integrated, and enlivens the juicy, lingering finish. This is a classical Barossa Shiraz with accessibility. 5-6 years. Barossa Valley floor fruit from 14 different sites, vines 15-35 y.o., fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 13 months in 11% new American oak and 6% new French oak. 18.0-/20 Aug 2017 RRP $25.00

Yalumba ‘Paradox’ Northern Barossa Shiraz 2015
Dark, deep black-red ith slight garnet hues. The nose is softly full with harmoniously interwoven aromas of ripe, black and dark-red berry fruits with complexing savoury eucalypt and mineral notes, the nose building in density, unfolding layers of interest with aeration. Full, deeply packed and dense, with flavours of ripe blackberry fruit, the sweetness and lusciousness are complexed by plenty of savoury, gamey and earthy notes. The fruit richness is balanced by good, fine-grainy tannin extraction providing plenty of grip, but the flavours prevail to full the palate. Beautifully complex and layered, this will keep 10+ years. Shiraz fruit from the Moppa district, vines planted 1922, indigenous yeast fermented, and aged approx. 20 months in 15% new puncheons. 1,000 dozen made. 18.5+/20 Aug 2017 RRP $33.00

Yalumba ‘The Signature’ Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2013
Full, dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour. The nose is moderately concentrated, but showing real depth of ripe blackberries, blackcurrants, plums and liquorice with gorgeous spice notes and hints of eucalyptus. The nose is harmonious and quite complete in presentation, unfolding sweet and cedary oak layers. This has a youthful robustness. On palate, this is rich, luscious and openly accessible, unfolding layers of blackberry fruit with black liquorice and plums and subtle cassis notes. The fruit grows in layers and expression and is matched by plenty of tannin extraction. This has a grainy robustness and vigour, with mouthfilling flavours and excellent length. This will become more integrated over the next 10-12 years. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon from 5 sites in the Barossa Valley and 48% Shiraz mainly from Nuriootpa, Barossa Valley, fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 20 months on 37% new French, Hungarian and American oak. 19.0-/20 Aug 2017 RRP $55.00

Yalumba ‘The Octavius’ Barossa Old Vine Shiraz 2013
Very dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour, near impenetrable, with youthful purple tints. The nose is very elegant and fine in expression, still tightly bound, providing finesse, but clearly brooding with the power and intensity to be revealed. At present, this shows a beautiful aromatic purity, with sweetly ripe blackberry fruits, liquorice, spicy oak and rich plums. This exudes remarkable finesse. On palate, this has great intensity of tightly bound and refined fruit flavours of blackberries, pepper, plums and liquorice with an array of spices and exotic oak. The extraction is very fine-grained and powdery in texture, but allows the sweetness and finesse to prevail. The wine carries to a very long and sustained, lush and exotic oaked finish. This will age well for two decades. Fruit 53% from the Eden Valley and 47% from the Barossa Valley, vine 84 y.o. on average, fermented to 14.0% alc. and aged 20 months in 42% new French and American octaves. 19.5-/20 Aug 2017 RRP $107.00

Yalumba ‘The Caley’ Coonawarra and Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2012 
Black-red colour with a near impenetrable heart and youthful purple hues. The nose is very frim with intense, ripe, but vibrant and youthfully lively aromas of blackcurrant fruit with cassis liqueur, liquorice, spices and black plum nuances. Layers of aromatics unfold with sweetly ripe black fruit detail, spices and refined oak. On palate the vibrancy and vitality of the fruit is the feature, with sweetly rich, lusciously ripe and gorgeously layers flavours of blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, along with succulent plum, spice, liquorice and chocolate notes. The mouthfeel is exceptionally vibrant and expressed with great energy, the fruit underlined by very fine-grained, flowery tannin structure. There is still much to resolve, but this has incredible balance and accessibility The wine flows with drive, energy, vibrancy, intensity and finesse. A statement wine of great finesse, interest and intensity. 20 years possible 52% Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon from the ‘Ming D’ block, 27% Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon, and 21% Barossa Shiraz from the Burgemeister ‘Link Block’ with Eden Valley fruit, fermented to 14.5% alc., the wine aged 22 months in 31% new French barriques and hogsheads. 5,900 bottles made. 20.0/20 Aug 2017 RRP $390.00

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