Grapevine Archive for Yalumba
Our final visit was to Yalumba, in the town of Angaston, Barossa Valley. After a wet, stormy start to the morning, the cooler weather was a welcome relief after a few hot days and I was eagerly anticipating visiting the site of Australia?s oldest family owned winery. After soaking up the history of Yalumba from the storyboards in the cellar door, we met with Kirsty Gosse, brand administrator ? our host at Yalumba.
Founded by Samuel Smith in 1849, Yalumba is now headed by fifth generation Robert Hill Smith, who plays a pivotal role in marketing the premium brand profile Yalumba carries. Aboriginal for ?all the land around?, Yalumba took its name after the first vines were planted on a 30-acre parcel of land. Today they source fruit from the Eden Valley, Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills and are innovative in introducing new grape varieties to Australian drinkers, as well as predicting future trends and styles.
Winemaker Teresa was enthusiastic about the brand?s approach to up-and-coming wines like vermentino ? a great summer white with flavours of melon and grapefruit, zesty citrus and a refreshing, crisp acidity. This is just one of the varieties propagated in Yalumba?s own nursery, which provides consistency and reliability of vines as well as providing access to rare varieties and clones both for their own production and to growers throughout regions in Australia.
I was particularly taken by Yalumba?s interest in viognier, which even before my visit was a favourite white of mine. They have the largest commercial plantings in the Southern Hemisphere and have recently developed a viognier glass specifically for capturing the amazing nose of this wonderfully aromatic variety. Yalumba The Virgilius 2009 (The Society stocks the 2008 at £25 per bottle) is barrel-fermented in French oak barriques (more for texture than flavour) and has an intense nose of stone fruit (peaches and apricots), sweet spice and ginger. On the palate, it?s luscious and complex, floral and fruity ? a beautiful accompaniment to Moroccan food, blue cheese or even eggs benedict (wine for breakfast?? Wine not!). Of course, the wines were fantastic, but I was staggered by the amount of care and attention in the vineyards.
We drove out to the Heggies and Pewsey Vale vineyards to meet with Daryl, vineyard manager. His knowledge of the area, the land, climate, microclimates and specific areas of his vineyards was amazing. Of particular interest was that Yalumba have been using natural practices for nearly 30 years; this long without insecticides and 10 years without herbicides. The Pewsey Vale vineyard at 60ha ? almost entirely riesling ? has been organic for four years and is in its first year of biodynamic production and awaiting classification. The larger Heggies vineyard at 65ha ? riesling, chardonnay and merlot ? is irrigated from the onsite dam, which, when full, would hold enough water to irrigate the vineyard for three years!
The Society currently stocks Heggies Chardonnay (2010 at £12.75 a bottle); great intensity on the nose of stone fruit and oak. Due to the 500m altitude of the vineyard, this wine retains great acidity and on the palate a great minerality, as well as a complex texture from the wild yeasts used in the ferment.
As the biggest of the wineries, and a very well known brand, Yalumba by no means felt like a large scale production and retained as much care and attention as some of the smaller sites I visited. With incredible foresight and innovation of an enthusiastic team, I have no doubt that Yalumba will continue to stay at the forefront of South Aussie wine production.
Many Wine Society members will be familiar with the delicious South Australian wines of Yalumba. As such, I thought you may be interested to hear that the company was recognised at last week’s ‘London’s Green Awards’, where they won the award for ‘Best International Business for Creativity in Sustainability.’What’s more, they won out against a number of impressive (non-wine) organisations including Lal Pir Thermal Power Station in Pakistan and the Barbican Centre in London.
Having dealt with Yalumba for a number of years, this is no great surprise: their attention to detail is quite incredible (they even have their own nursery for vine propagation). As a family-owned business (and the oldest of its kind in Australia), ensuring the long term health of both its vineyards and business has been a key strategy for fifth-generation Robert Hill Smith.
In typical perfectionist fashion, Yalumba have therefore taken their sustainable policy to dizzying heights. They have spent 2 million dollars in the past decade converting vineyard over to drip irrigation, resulting in water usage dropping by 40% and saving one billion litres of water/annum (the equivalent of 1000 Olympic size swimming pools). They use no insecticides in their vineyards and offset each hectare of vineyard with a hectare of native vegetation (80% of this has been through their own plantings). In the winery, they have installed heat recovery systems for their refrigeration units, and their packaging is now 98% recycled or recyclable.
First and foremost, they make superb wine; yet their environmental credentials are of course highly commendable and a good fit with The Society’s own stance.
As well as the wines we currently stock, we will also be releasing an exclusive-label 2011 sauvignon blanc called ‘Circles’ (which will be priced under £7 per bottle). This will be available next year.