June Wines of the Month: Yalumba The Caley 2012 & Pintas Vintage Port 2015

Fifth generationer Robert Hill-Smith presents Yalumba The Caley 2012, named after third generation family member Fred Caley Smith

These pages have been a little quieter than usual because May has been exceptionally busy, with two trips to Portugal, thrilling tastings at home and abroad and a flurry of deadlines all converging at once.  Suffice to say, it was not easy to single out my Wines of the Month. 

The Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier Vertical tasting alone fielded at least three contenders!  A Riverland white piqued my attention at Matthew Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines and, by all accounts, was the talk of the town (more on that next week).  A seemingly modest Moreto from an Alentejo co-op was the Portuguese equivalent.  Another charmer.  This one old vine and ungrafted.

But choose I must and, for out and out pedigree and panache, these two were hard to beat.

Yalumba The Caley Cabernet Shiraz 2012 (Coonawarra & Barossa)

The Caley is the first new red wine that has been launched by Yalumba in more than a decade.  It’s nothing new, in the sense that it is that most classic, uniquely Australian of blends – Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz.  Yalumba are long-term purveyors of the genre.  Apparently, when founder Samuel Smith’s grandson Fred Caley Smith (after whom this wine is named) visited relatives in India, they shared a bottle of Yalumba Claret – a Cabernet Shiraz blend.

These days, fans of the genre are probably familiar with Yalumba Signature –  a very fine Cabernet Shiraz blend, of which I’ve been lucky enough to taste fabulous back vintages.  Since 1988, it has been made from pure Barossa fruit, however the original incarnation (which dates back to 1943 and was known as Galway Vintage Claret) comprised a blend of Coonawarra Cabernet & Barossa Shiraz.  The Caley marks Yalumba’s return to blending Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon (52%) and Barossa Shiraz (21%).  With a bridge of 27% Barossa Cabernet, it is the slinkiest of wines.

Riding on the crest of a cracking year – “we had a surplus of beauties” – the launch of The Caley was, was a function of vintage.  Hill-Smith told us “Walshy [Yalumba’s then Director of Wine, Brian Walsh]” rings me to say he’s looking at a batch of ferments and there are so many beautiful ferments, it’s the year to look at a Coonawarra Cabernet and Barossa Shiraz.”  Simple as that.  Indeed, keen to scotch any suggestion that this new flagship wine had anything to do with brand architecture, he joked “we were not setting out to make a wine to appeal to Russians.”  In fact, I had to worm the price tag (£225) out of him!

It would seem that Yalumba has not entirely kicked the habit of being “appropriately modest most of the time” (Hill-Smith). As the fifth generation Hill-Smith observes in the foreward to The Caley’s launch booklet “…we are crafting wines that are world class and we are emerging from a period where we tended to cringe a little.” 

That said, as you can see from the exalted wines shown before The Caley passed our lips, the launch was confidently contextual.  With good reason.  The Caley is an exceedingly fine example of, not only Australian Cabernet Shiraz, but also the Yalumba style, which I would define as ‘with your pleasure in mind.’  As Chief Winemaker Louisa Rose once told me, we make wines for the table – it’s about drinkability. The Caley is delicious.  And I suspect it will be as long-lived as some of the beauties which went before it.

A gorgeous nose and palate, deep with inky, intense cassis, yet with the delicacy and fluidity of expression to carry the detail – fragrant, sweet dried herbs (lavender and rosemary), exotic black tea and a hint of lamb fat (or is that auto-suggestion).  Lithe, very slinky, with delicious, nuance-teasing line. Fine oak and fine but plentiful, purring tannins are well blotted by its perfumed, bright, seemingly indelible blackcurrant and kiss of cassis.   Transporting.  The Caley was aged for an average of 22 months in French barriques (35-40% new), then blended, bottled and cellared for 36 months prior to release.  14%

Wine & Soul Pintas Vintage Port 2015 (Porto)

Sandra Tavares da Silva and Jorge Serôdio Borges of Wine & Soul have knocked it out the park in 2015 – for both their Douro wines and this Vintage Port.  Since the first 2003 release, I’ve been mighty impressed by this intense, imposing Vintage Port from Pintas vineyard’s aged field blend vines in the Vale de Mendiz, Pinhão Valley.  The 2015 is no exception – a really terrific expression of a year which once looked like it would be generally declared.  Make no mistake, this is a top notch Vintage Port.  Inky and tightly coiled (initially, almost impenetrably so) with an abundance, a shower, of fine, mouth-coating, long haul tannins and a deep seam of glinting blackberry, blackcurrant and plum to mine.    Bright and polished, with flashes of esteva and ripe citrus as it opens up, it is a masterful exercise in balance and power, capturing the ripeness and structure of the year, whilst firmly keeping its powder dry.  Explosive gunpowder, I reckon!

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