Not too long ago, K&L SF had the treat of tasting through a selection of Aussie wines from Yalumba. Our guide that day was none other than Yalumba ambassador Jane Ferrari. Jane, who is also a trained winemaker, travels the globe dispensing her knowledge, wit and passion for a country and wine growing land far far away from these California shores. After meeting Jane and learning more about this super dynamic winery, a trip to Australia is at the top of my “to go” list.
Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family owned winery. Located in the Barossa Valley near the town of Angaston, this venerable domaine was established by a British brewer named Samuel Smith who emigrated with his family from England in 1847. After arriving in this new land and building a home for his family on the banks of the River Torrens, Smith decided to move north, to the town of Angaston.
Here, Smith purchased a 30 acre parcel of land on the settlement’s south eastern boundry. He named the place “Yalumba”, an aboriginal word which means the “land all around.” In 1849 Smith and his son Sidney planted the first vines (by the moonlight) on the property. And the rest is history..
160 years and 5 generations later, Yalumba is widely considered to be one of the most influential and dynamic properties on the continent. In addition to retaining fine vineyard sites predominantly in the Barossa and Eden Valleys, Yalumba also maintains one of Australia’s largest viticultural nurseries. Along with supplying high quality cabernet sauvignon and shiraz vines to winemakers throughout Australia, the Yalumba Vine Nursery also supplies the countries growers with pinot noir, chardonnay and viognier cuttings.
The winery is also the only one of its kind in Australia ( and only several in the world) to have its own cooperage for crafting oak barrels. All of Yalumba’s French, Hungarian and American oak staves are first air dried for an extended period of time (i.e. several years) in order to leach out any bitter or overtly harsh flavor components from the wood. The staves are then assembled by Yalumba’s own coopers, who then fire or toast the barrels to a light to medium finish.
On this particular day, Jane tasted us on the following lineup:
Clicking on a wine will bring up a winery tech sheet with additional information.
2009 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier (note: tech sheet/link is for the 2008 vintage)
Fast forward to a week later (last Tuesday to be exact) when K&L’s Aussie Wine Buyer featured this ambitious line up for our K&L staff tasting. One noteworthy comment, these 25+ wines included not only Australia, but New Zealand and South Africa as well.
I am always psyched to taste Jimmy C’s selections, and this tasting was no different. As usual, several cool climate wines (pinot noir in particular) were showing beautifully that day. However, one wine in particular stopped me mid spit..ha! Nearly four months after my first Medaille de Mumu, here is the second. And guess who it’s from. Yalumba!
Wine Name: FDR1A
Composition: 68% Cabernet Sauvignon 32% Shiraz
Region: Barossa Valley
Alcohol: 13.5 %
US Importer: Negociants USA
US Retail: $35
Food: Yalumba recommends a Stilton cheese. I can also imagine a gorgeous pan seared filet mignon accompanied by a dollop of creamy gorganzola cheese and a baked potato.
Yalumba first created the outstanding “Fine Dry Red” ..FDR1A back in 1974. The goal here was to create a benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend that showcased the terroir and potential of Australian wine. Since that inaugural vintage, the FDR1A has only been produced 3 times..in 2000, 2004 and 2006. Other than the desire to produce the best cabernet/shiraz blend, there has not been a consistent “recipe” for producing this wine. For instance the 2004 is Barossa Valley all the way, while the current 2006 release comes from vineyard sites in the cooler climate and higher elevation Eden Valley. The elevage regime is vastly different here as well. (13 months for the 2006 vs. 23 months for the 2004)
With the 2004 vintage, fruit for the FDR1A was hand-picked (always), de-stemmed and fermented in open top stainless steel fermenters. Natural yeasts are allowed to initiate the fermentation process, however cultured yeasts were then added to complete the fermentation. The wine was then aged 23 months in a combination of American (46% new, 33% 2 year) and French (21% 4 year) oak barrels. The wine is neither fined nor filtered.
The 2004 Yalumba FDR1A is intense, elegant and seamless all at once. Here you’ll find the requisite black currant for which cabernet sauvignon is so famous, however thick, lush fruit is not the only thing going on here. Bay leaf, camphor, slight dusty earth notes and mineral present themselves every so subtley to give this wine a flavor profile that is so much more complex than just about any new world cabernet blend that I have tasted in..forever. Full bodied, but not so pumped up that you couldn’t enjoy it tonight. Good acid, fine medium ++ tannins indicate that this wine can still go the distance if need be. 5-8 more years? Right now all of the components of this wine are hitting their mark and are grooving together. So, so impressive.
Next up: The Hospices du Rhone.. Before, During and After!