Thursday, December 3, 2009


I just realised I took my mates on a tour of 'Australia's First Families' of the Barossa yesterday. Quite inadvertently but that's how it happened.

Quite frankly, straight up, the Yalumba tasting was AMAZING! Perhaps I get a bit overly excited/enthusiastic sometimes over these tastings but I feel that yesterday's tasting was one that few if any Australian cellar doors could genuinely match right now. Aside from being loaded with excellent wines it was incredibly concise, all that was lacking was the Jansz wines as an aperitif.

I must thank the staff (headed by Amanda) on the day who happily opened and poured everything asked. In the end I think around a dozen or more bottles which were stated as 'unavailable for tasting' were opened and poured for our pleasure. It truly helped to show the true extent of where the Yalumba company sits in the scope of Australian wine today. Once again, what a cellar door tasting!

Thanks again to Amanda and the staff for their incredible hospitality, generosity and even the guided tour of the cooperage!

As with the Henschke notes, this was quite a casual tasting, so no notes taken. The following comments are based on memories. I've set my notes out in the same fashion as the wines were poured for us - in a mini-vertical fashion. Once again, I'm not sure any other cellar door in Australia could put together such a concise tasting of wine styles based on current releases. Very impressive stuff. Here are my opinions:

Pewsey Vale Riesling 2009
Heggies Riesling 2009
Mesh Riesling 2008
Pewsey Vale Contours Riesling 2004
Pewsey Vale Prima Riesling 2008
I've been on a bit of a riesling trip lately so this might've been my favourite mini-vertical, all Eden Valley too! I'm still a little unsure about the 09 Heggies, it seems a bit ripe, pungent and stonefruit-like, but the 09 Pewsey Vale still impresses me. The Contours is the real highlight here though. Bottle aged riesling is a great concept, highlighted by the 04 Contours' strong, pronounced lime juice characters with just a hint of honey/toast and a wonderful oily texture. It might be only a quarter of the way into its life. Although fairly luscious, (not too) sweet and pure, the Prima seems to require a bit more acidity for me, while being a fraction overpriced at $22.95, which, as explained to me, might be because of its (cost price $2) Vino-Lok closure.

Yalumba Vermentino 2009
This Langhorne Creek sourced wine is Yalumba's answer to sauvignon blanc, and what a surprising success it is! Clean and fresh, pungent but not too pungent tropical fruit characters are the order of the day. It fully achieves what it sets out too. Very good white for the region regardless of its grape of origin. I was told it is a Y-Series wine but I couldn't see any indication of it on either the label or price ($15 as opposed to all other Y-Series wines being $10). $10 would be very nice here....

Yalumba FDW (7c) Chardonnay 2008
Heggies Chardonnay 2008
Fine Dry White for anyone wanting to know hat FDW stands for. It's also possibly the most talked about chardonnay in Adelaide right now. It's incredibly linear, tight and restrained, with a strong lemony accent over mineral, light nutty barrel ferment notes. It's superbly balanced and composed, very restrained and Chablis like, with a long, shapely, mineral, tight and chalky finish. Amazingly only $25, give it 3 years. The Eden Valley sourced Heggies is a complete contrast in style - rather pungent with melon/nectarine/grapefruit notes and buttery vanilla oak. It's an altogether more forward, bold style, but very nice all the same. Amazingly, I'm told the Heggies Chardonnay is to be discontinued (remember the Heggies Pinot Noir anyone?).

Yalumba Y-Series Viognier 2008
Yalumba Organic Viognier 2009
Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2008
Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier 2008
Obviously the house specialty white, I'd like to see any other Australian winery match this set right now. In all honesty I didn't see a lot of difference in the first 3 wines here, all fairly humble, apricoty, slightly phenolic viogniers (I'd go the Y-Series because it's the cheapest), but then you hit the Virgilius - Bang! Wow! Shazam! It bares very little resemblance to the other wines. It's instantly nutty, toasty, savoury, complex and textured - about 4 steps up from the other wines (and the previous vintage). You can find a full review on this site under the other whites tag, but it might've tasted even better on this particular day. Yalumba also provided special viognier glassware for this part of the tasting, the likes of which I've never used before. I loved them though - the shape reminded me of a protea.

Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2008
This Barossa sourced wine's caused a bit of a minor fuss over here, I didn't even realise it was Yalumba. Funnily enough Amanda was unsure why the bottle made no mention of it either, but it certainly mentioned its medals. For a Barossa temp it contains nice spice, as well as a rather firm, dark cherry fruited palate framed by prickly tannins, but I'm not sure it packed outstanding depth.

Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache 2008
Yalumba Single Site Moppa Grenache 2006
Yalumba Single Site Vine Vale Grenache 2006
Despite being relatively unimpressed by the Old Bush Vine at the Royal Adelaide, I hit it up again. It still seems a bit too sweet edged, sour and dirty for me, but it is a $10 wine made from old vines so maybe I'm being too harsh. I'm just not sure if Barossa grenache is my thing (but McLaren Vale - yeah!). The single site wines are made in a similar vein to Hardy's Tintara Single Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz. At $55 each they're both vinified in a similar fashion, encouraging each wine to display its individual site character. They're both very good, extremely supple, medium-bodied Barossa grenache wines with a meaty, musky, almost gamey and floral perfume with just a hint of liqueur cherry/plum. Oak is extremely well integrated and passive. The one problem - I couldn't pick the difference! Both wines seemed almost identical to me! Although fantastic Barossa grenache, I'm not sure if similarity is the point of single site wines.

Yalumba Hand Picked MGS 2006
Yalumba Hand Picked Shiraz Viognier 2007
From what I understand the Hand Picked MGS replaces the Hand Picked Tempranillo/Grenache/Viognier in this range. A shame really, as the very ambitious and original TGV quite impressed me when I've drunk it in the past. It will be missed. The 2007 Shiraz Viognier though, was surprisingly brilliant. Rather shiraz dominant and dark fruited (Eden Valley viognier), it's plump juicy and generous, with a viognier component which seems to add more spice as opposed to floral lift or apricot notes. It's very long and genuinely full, with great length and a much firmer cut of assertive tannins than I expected. I also liked the 06 of this but somehow the 07 has improved upon it, significantly.

Yalumba The Scribbler 2008
Yalumba The Signature 2005
I want to start by saying thank god for honest cellar door hands! Amanda began this tasting by saying she thought the 2008 Scribbler wasn't up to the standard of the magnificent 07, something I'd previously read but had yet to discover for myself. Lo-behold, she (and others) were right. Honesty goes a long way in the cellar door environment. It just seemed a little raw edged, while lacking the concentration of bright, juicy fruit which so blessed its predecessor. I found the 2005 Signature a very smooth rendition of its style. Rather meaty, ripe and almost currant-like fruit which managed to just stay within the confines of ripeness. It contained a very good measure of vanilla oak and polished tannins. A good result for its season but I think it's maturing a little quicker than some other recent Signatures, 2004 in particular.

Yalumba Reserve Cabernet Shiraz 2002
Yalumba Octavius Shiraz 2005
Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
What a way to end the tasting. None of these wines are on Yalumba's standard tasting list (like most the wines we drunk actually). To be honest this was my first ever tasting of Yalumba's flagship Reserve Cabernet Shiraz ($120) and I don't think I could've picked a better vintage to start. It contains that lovely lifted freshness, depth and layered characteristics which so defined Barossa 02's, with both cabernet and shiraz in perfect harmony now at 7 years old. Lovely fragrant vanilla/cedar/chocolate oak and lusciously smooth textures. I thought this would be my least favourite of the trio but it ended up being quite the opposite. The 2005 Octavius initially shows some very pronounced, fresh and fragrant nutty oak, overlying deep, dark plums, chocolate and berry fruits. It's quite an amazing 05 Barossa shiraz, contradicting both its difficult season and the 80 litre oak octaves it was aged in. The 2006 Menzies needs no introduction. I still find it very firm, deep and tannic, in true 06 Coonawarra style - it's definitely a well balanced, long term keeper.

Heggies Botrytis Riesling 2007
Yalumba Botrytis Viognier 2008
Admittedly we didn't try these wines (a beckoning Henschke and time constraints) but I thought I'd include them here to give a better impression of the concise range of brilliance offered by Yalumba's cellar door. There will be a review of Heggies' Botrytis Riesling posted soon though.

So there you have it. What an incredible tasting across an amazing variety of wine styles (but where's the Jansz party starter;). I'm not sure if any cellar door in Australian could really match that collection right now, all those mini-verticals....
Of course, this is only a selection of what is available for tasting at Yalumba's cellar door, we just happened to be particularly picky on this day ;)

Once again infinite thanks to Amanda and the all staff at Yalumba who were present on the day.


  1. Yalumba - consistency, value, authenticity and a serious serve of flavour. Hard to go past really.

  2. Thanks AG. I really liked Yalumba before but after that tasting I have a whole new level of respect for them - A wonderfully concise, magical tasting with wonderful hosts. Now that's living!

    No paro idiots trying to pinch sample bottles or glasses either AG ;)