Yalumba – 160 years of family winemaking tasting

Barossa-based Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family owned winery and yet remains one of its most innovative.  This tasting celebrates 160 years of winemaking with old favourites (and old vintages) plus some innovations, notably the single site wines (something of a winemaking trend across Australia) and Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.

Jane Ferarri, Yalumba’s roving ambassador, was on hand to answer questions.  Jane is a winemaker who started working for Yalumba in 1987 after graduating from Roseworthy.  Apart from a four year stint at Barossa boutique winery Rockford, she’s been a Yalumba gal ever since.  Jane is a veritable fount of knowledge.

NB this may be teaching some grannies out there to suck eggs but just in case you didn’t appreciate the distinction, the Barossa is the Australian Geographical Indication (“GI”)  which encompasses both the Barossa Valley GI (the valley floor) and Eden Valley GI (the high Barossa).  Most wines are a blend of both GIs so sport the Barossa GI on their label.  Within both GIs there are an increasing number of unofficial sub-regions, sometimes mentioned on back labels, like Greenock or  Lyndoch – see this map on the generic Barossa website for more details.

Yalumba Chardonnay Wild Ferment 2008 (Eden Valley) – toasty/spicy nose with lemon, white peach. Lots of acidity, a little chalky in texture with succulent melon.  Very crisp with a suggestion of nuts and honey.

Yalumba Chardonnay FDW (Fine Dry White) 2007 (Adelaide Hills) – not in the UK – a nutty character to the nose, melon, white peach, savoury textured palate’ exciting texture and savouriness and risky acidity;  just lacks a little depth/length a the moment but, with c 5 year old vines, shows lots of promise.

Yalumba Viognier Eden Valley 2008 – floral, musky nose; ditto on the palate with an admirably good freshness and definition and, though it has some green tomato notes, these are part of the balance as opposed to simply unripe. Quite textured, suggesting it will develop an oiliness. Good.

Yalumba Viognier Virgilius 2007 (Eden Valley) – toasty, roast hazelnut nose, lovely balance to the rich, subtlely cedary fruit with succulent lychee, aniseed and good length.  Very good.

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2008 (Barossa) – pale, bright, floral with sweet cherry, pomegranate, good freshness and delicacy aand silky tannins.   A lifted finish with spice & violets.  Very good.  In line with a trend towards making Grenache in a more delicate, floral way, as Steven Pannell puts it, treating it like” a warm climate Pinot Noir.”

Yalumba Grenache Haberman 2005 (Barossa Valley) – from vines planted in Tanunda in 1972 at just below 300m, making for a breezy,  moderate climate.  The nose is a little varnishy/linseed with a burnish of oak and more old fashioned feel and in the mouth than the others with dried fruits  (raisins and dates).

Yalumba Grenache Tri-Centenary 2005 (Barossa Valley) – planted in 1889, this 1ha plot is in Vine Vale. It shows a smoky, floral, very mineral nose with good definition on the palate, a distinct floral violet character. The finish is quite mineral, tight, fine – very good.

Yalumba Patchwork Shiraz 2007 (Barossa) – quite malty with toast and mocha – a rich veener of oak; attractively dry and savoury in the mouth with lots of liquorice lift and ripe but sinewy tannins beneath fleshy plum fruit. Well done.

Yalumba Shiraz Octavian Old Vine 1996 (Barossa)– that linseed burnish of oak to the . nose together with cherry liqueur and cofffee. Ditto on palate, which has a blast of sweet raspberry liqueur around firm ripe tannins, so again that sinew to finish.   Good old fashioned wine. 14.5%

Yalumba Shiraz Octavian Old Vine 2005 (Barossa) – tight, good fruit definition here, ripe plum, blackcurrant, ditto on palate, very focused blackcurrant with cassis, fleshier plum, a currant, tight small berry feel, more than a hint of blueberry/almost raisin. Ripe sinewy tannins.  14.5%

Yalumba Shiraz Swingbridge 2005 (Eden Valley) – at just over  400m this Craneford vineyard, planted in 1920, produces a well-structuered, tightly coiled wine with a core of sweet plum, hint of eucalypt; very iron fist in velvet glove.  Tons of potential.

Yalumba Hahn Shiraz 2005 (Barossa Valley)– from a vineyard planted at Light Pass in 1970. much more savoury, vinous character – sweet ripe cassis fruit, much more modulated character than first, black cherry, berry and currant, dry mineral finish, very vinous. long, subtle finish. Very good.

Yalumba Shiraz Fromm 2005 (Barossa Valley) – at 150m, this Lyndoch vineyard was planted in 1935 and makes powerful but relatively open-knit, approachable wines.  This is a linseedy and smoky on the  nose, notes which follow through on an expressive, super-modulated palate with just the right balance of tenor (cassis) and bass (savoury) notes in full stereo surround. Vinous and gorgeously supple already.

Yalumba Signature 2004 (Barossa) – the Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon reds of the 50s and 60s were not bottom shelf default blends but among the most accomplished wines.  Yalumba have continued to take the high road with the Signature blend which they’ve made since 1962.  This shows a blueberry nose, with lovely texture, fruit definition and subtle oak on the palate. It just saturates the mouth– like colour bleeding out on paper rather than coming at you in one direct hit. Vinous, subtle, long, great balance. Love the fruit purity.

Yalumba Signature 99 – corked…

Yalumba FDR (Fine Dry Red) 2004 (Barossa Valley) – a nose of bright, blackcurrant fruit with violets and liquorice which follow through on an opulent palate with waves of lush ripe, perfumed and succulent crushed cassis, black cherry and blueberry.  Mocha and coconut add to the headiness, though the nuanced finish is tight and long with minerals, dried herb and coal dust.

Yalumba FDR 1999 (Barossa Valley) – a linseed character with liquorice to the nose and palate; mellow in the mouth with well defined blackcurrant, tar and earthy tufa/porcini.  Very good length, with fine grained tannins;  persistent and vigorous.

Yalumba The Reserve 2001 (Barossa) – only made inexceptional years, it is a blend of the finest twenty barrels of Shiraz and Cabernet.  Very tight and blackcurranty nose and palate – sinewy, with good freshness and a fine tight, finish. Plenty of oomph to follow but an elegance to this too. The Cabernet shows a hint of greeness but this is part of its edge and complexity.  Very good.

Yalumba The Reserve 1996 (Barossa) – aniseed, blackcurrant, still very tight on the nose but the palate is plusher if still tight, more blue fruits, sweet plum but with a core of blackcurrant.  Super-svelte now, mellowing a little, letting the shiraz show, but a long life ahead. Blackcurrant comes back with a juiciness and almost painfully tight expression on finish. A serious keeper.  Very good indeed.

Yalumba Signature Reserve 1989 (South Australia) – a little green with lavender (?) on nose; a little muddy on the palate with an earthy lentil character, some mint? Coonawarra pokes through very strongly – that tufa Coonawarra clear here. Dry. (Not called reserve anymore, just Signature).

Yalumba Harry Mahlo Signature Claret 1977 – looks quite muddy, oxidised.

Yalumba Galway Vintage Reserve Claret Alfred Wark Blend 1966 – some earthy developed notes there, good depth of colour, sweet plum on the palate, cassis, the structure is a little loose (tiring) but the flavours are still interesting with a reasonable persistence of dried herbs and plum, black tea; fading a tad, drink up.


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