It is strange how the brain works. Insignificant memories can be returned by the strangest of things. Today I had the chance to try a few wines from Australian producer Yalumba, and when I was trying them, I was transported back to the tasting that I wrote my first post for this blog about in the early months of 2008. It was held in a huge tent in Edinburgh, and I can remember as though it was yesterday, the venue and the people at the table showing me these wines for the first time. As I write this blog post in my house overlooking the North Sea, my memory transports me back to my old, dark flat, overlooking a council offices car park, on an uncomfortable brown sofa. Silly, insignificant memories being dragged up from some deep part of your brain for no apparent reason.
Anyway, to the wines: Yalumba is located in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. Founded by Englishman Samuel Smith two years after he emigrated to Australia in 1847, he named it after the indigenous Australian word for "all the land around". He heard of the gold rush and realised that he could get the capital he needed to build his vineyards. After going off for four months, he returned with £300, which allowed him to buy more land, equipment and build a new house. Now run by a fifth generation descendant, Robert Hill Smith, he became one of the youngest MDs in the Australian wine industry, and got the entire company back under family control.
2011 Yalumba Y Series Vermentino
The fourth vintage of this wine showed bright clean aromas of sweet peach and a touch of clementine. A little bit of alcohol coming off but then quickly integrates with some up front sweetness with flavours of pear, which leads onto clean citrus with some underripe banana coming through. Nice balance, a little bit of honey fattening things up and floral elements making it pretty on the finish. 87pts £10.99
Vermentino: Mainly found in Italy, Vermentino is spreading to other parts of the world including the South of France, California and, obviously, Australia. Known by many other names, it has a good sugar/acid balance which resulted in it often being used as table grapes! When made into wine, it generally has a lower alcohol content, and flavours of apple and lime, with a medium body.
2010 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier
Apparently, Yalumba is 'the largest producer of Viognier in the world'. Big claims, but according to the women's magazines I skimmed through in the dentist's waiting room last week, size doesn't matter* and I was preparing for the wine to be a bit boring. The aromas of fresh peach and some lovely floral notes got my interest, and then some cashews came off with a touch of dried apricot. The palate has nice balance, some good sweeter apricot fruit and then there is a touch of the parma violet soapiness coming through with some good oilier textures. A pleasant finish with a bit of white pepper, and a really nice Viognier. 89pts £14.99
*It was a 'do I diet to make my boyfriend fancy me again' agony aunt column - just in case you were wondering
Viognier: Historically from the Northern Rhone, Viognier has been exported through the world as a potential alternative for Chardonnay. Grown in the area during the Roman Empire, the grape declined until there was only around eight acres left in the 1960's, but over the past five decades, this has grown back up to around 750 acres. Prone to powdery mildew, Viognier is difficult to grow, and this may be the reason it has it's name, from the Latin 'via Gehennae' meaning 'valley of Hell'! It is a grape known for its floral qualities which makes it a good pairing for Thai food.
2010 Yalumba The Strapper Grenache Shiraz Mataro
The naming of this wine bothers me. You and I know that Mataro is Mourvedré, so why call it Mataro when everyone else in Australia calls it Mourvedré when in a GSM blend? Having said that, it was nice. Bright fresh cherries and a little bit of bubblegum coming through on the nose. The palate has a smoky sweetness coming through, then a little bit of tobacco and then some pepper coming out. A lot of spice on the finish, although the alcohol is very well balanced. My other problem with this wine is that it is just a bit clunky. There is no flow with it - being flavour after flavour after flavour and never allowing one to lead onto the next. Wines should tell you a story, and nice as though this is, it doesn't. But that is me being overly critical! 86pts £15.99
2005 Yalumba The Signature Cabernet Shiraz
This is a barbecue in a glass, starting off with aromas of char-smoked green peppers that blend seamlessly with a barbecued beef element mixed with dark fruit and chocolate. The palate is very soft and subtle, with lots of juicy fruit, a bit of sweetness and then some delicious vegetal and mint elements coming through giving structure. Just delicious and a wonderful example of aged Aussie wine. 93pts £32.49
2008 Yalumba The Cigar Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon
A lovely bright fruit with some cherry, menthol and a little bit of sweet clay elements too. There is a sweetness coming out that is nice with cherry, plum skin and chocolate. A graceful, elegant wine with a bit of Australian power and Coonawarra menthol. The finish as a spicy and tarry flavour that is long lasting and pretty. 92pts £20.99
I like Yalumba's wines, they are well made, taste Australian and yet don't suffer from the dreaded over extraction and barrels of sugar! They are widely available so even if your budget doesn't stretch so far, give some of their entry level wines a shot.