Yarra Valley Wine Women: a visit with Yeringberg
Yeringberg‘s wines are eagerly sought out in Australia and a visit (by appointment only) is a must for any wine fan. Built in the 1880s, the de Pury family’s winery is protected by the National Trust and, as you can see from my 2016 post, it provides a unique glimpse into Australia’s winemaking history. Suffice to say Yeringberg was a shoo in for this November/December Arblaster & Clarke wine tasting tour (click here for details).
During February’s visit with Yarra Valley Wine Women, Sandra de Pury gave me a sneak preview of the latest 2015 releases (gorgeous vintage) and a peek at some barrel samples. Staring down a rather different barrel – the barrel of a fast and furious vintage – I learned about her plans to extend the winery. “My legacy,” said the fourth generation winemaker with feeling (the fermentation area is a tad cramped). I guess that’s heritage status for you, but life goes on. Doubtless de Pury, whose c.v. exudes resourcefulness (chef, management consultant, winemaker), will find a sympathetic way to make it happen.
Much as she has with the wines. These are not the edgier, envelope-pushing styles which have developed over the last decade or so, especially as Upper Yarra Valley fruit from cooler sites has made its mark. After all, Yeringberg is located in Coldstream which, despite the name, experiences a warmer growing season, hence the suppleness of the wines, muscular fruit and versatility with Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rhone varieties. However, de Pury’s wines have a restraint about them – an unshowiness. With seamlessly integrated oak, her wines let the fruit speak.
Yeringberg’s new UK importer is Wood Winters and, just this morning (in a post post postscript), de Pury told me the 2015s are about to set sail for these shores. She also reported on the 2018 vintage, telling me, “I think I’ve made some stunning 2018 wines. Quality and quantity together. It was really dry, it didn’t rain for weeks and weeks, then 1 inch just before the Cabernet pick, which washed off the dust and freshened up the fruit. Luckily we have water and could keep the vines ticking over, and it wasn’t actually very hot or windy – just dry. So there was zero disease pressure, and we could pick when the grapes were at their best. Now we desperately need rain to get the grass to grow, the sheep and cattle are starving and all being hand fed, which is expensive and time consuming.”
Yeringberg Marsanne Roussanne 2015 (Yarra Valley)
Confirming that 2015 was a great vintage, de Pury reported quality and quantity were both good. In a slow ripening year, I like the power and balance of 2015s from the Yarra very much. The Marsanne Roussanne – a 60/40 blend – was de-stemmed and crushed and spent a short amount of time on skins before being pressed, which perhaps accounts for a pleasingly ‘cool’ chalky texture on the attack and finish. Fermentation (inoculated) started in tank and was completed in seasoned French oak barrels, where the wine aged for around 10 months. The varieties complement each other very well, the Roussanne’s lifted white pepper and green tomato notes providing the detail and edge to warmer, pithy, riper-seeming Marsanne stone fruit. Or those were my assumptions about each variety’s role! It was instructive to taste 2017 barrel samples. The 2017 Marsanne was quite racy and chalky (for de Pury, Marsanne is typically tight early on but the raciness reflects a mild 2017 vintage). A more expressive barrel sample of 2017 Roussanne showed tangerine pith, pink grapefruit and white pepper; de Pury picks the Roussanne when it is “quite bronzed” for flavour intensity. 13.5%
Yeringberg Viognier 2013 (Yarra Valley)
Picking of the Viognier is staggered to produce the desired balanced. Classic exotic lychee and honeysuckle notes abound on perfumed nose and palate, the latter lingering long on the back palate. Succulent lychee tempers the ripe, touch syrupy/bruleed apricot. A powerful Viognier with intense varietal character. 14%
Yeringberg Chardonnay 2015 (Yarra Valley)
Very much showing the beautiful fruit intensity and purity of the vintage, with scented nectarine and subtly leesy, nutty undertows. This wine spent 10 months in barrel (30% new, which portion underwent malo), with fortnightly batonnage for the first three months. Well-integrated, gently cradling oak plays a supporting role, making for a supple palate with well-balanced, chalky acidity. A fruit-driven yet unshowy Chardonnay with the intensity and balance for mid-term ageing. 13%
Yeringberg Pinot Noir 2015 (Yarra Valley)
De-stemmed and crushed fruit produces a supple, very approachable Pinot Noir with fine grained tannins and good weight and impetus of sweet scented, lithe strawberry fruit. It is not as layered or textural as examples which have seen whole berry and whole bunch, but the mulchy, leafy sous bois nuances on the finish meld with and balance its undeniable fruit power. Very complete. 13.5%
Yeringberg Shiraz 2015 (Yarra Valley)
This is one charismatic Shiraz (co-fermented with 3% Viognier). Deep purple with vivid blackberry and plum, a pure core of blackcurrant and dynamic acid/tannin structure. Bright, juicy acidity propels, while the tannins rise on the mid-palate, cleaving the fruit closely to the tongue as if to ensure you don’t miss a drop of flavour. Of which there is plenty, delivered with lively panache. Not just fruit, but waves of liquorice and anise spice with lifted dried sage. Terrific perfume and persistence. Excellent. 14%
Yeringberg Yeringberg Cabernet blend 2015 (Yarra Valley)
As Sandra’s father Guill observed during my first visit, Yerinberg’s site is “perfect for Cabernet.” Site and vintage have conspired to produce a sublime Yeringberg – the estate’s flagship Bordeaux blend. In 2015 it comprises 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. Yarra Valley Cabernets are renowned for their softness of tannin yet ageability. How this fits that brief. A shower of ultra fine tannins so sheer and fine it seems to evaporate going through, makes for nothing less than a cascade of ripe, velvety cassis, blueberry and mulberry, with heady star anise, lavender and cedar notes – gorgeous perfume of fruit, spice and flower. Gorgeous full stop. Sensational in its seamlessness, it is pure cashmere. 14%