Yalumba impresses with latest releases

Yalumba continues to stick to its guns and persevere with the traditional Aussie red blend, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, in various guises. In this month’s tastings I’ve reviewed their latest crop of high-end reds and I cannot recall being so impressed as I was this year. The vintages, of course, are outstanding: 2010 and 2006.

The ‘cab-shiraz’ as it’s rather loosely known in the trade, is a blend with a lot of history. When the so-called red wine boom took place in the late 1960s, there was very little cabernet sauvignon planted in Australian vineyards, and – before the Trade Practices Act was legislated – there was nothing to prevent wineries marketing wines labeled ‘cabernet’ that contained little or no cabernet sauvignon grapes.

However, the genuine blends of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon are legion, and among them are many of the greatest red wines ever produced in Australia pre-modern times. They include many Penfolds wines, crowned by the famous 1962 Bin 60A (tasting), the Hardys special bin wines of the 1950s and ‘60s, the Seppelt Great Western wines made by Colin Preece in the same era and the great wines blended by the Haselgrove brothers in the same period. Ron Haselgrove at Mildara produced the famous ‘yellow label’ series of cabernet shiraz blends and Colin Haselgrove oversaw the Chateau Reynella Private Bin blends – many of which are still drinking well today.

Yalumba and its winemakers are great believers in the tradition, and their Signature series (tastings) stretches back in an unbroken line to 1962. These wines can be somewhat oaky and stolid in youth but the best vintages come up superbly with time in the bottle. The Reserve (tasting) is more recent but is the company’s red flagship, with serious bottle-age before release (eight years), and the FDR1A (tastings) makes only sporadic appearances, the first being a fabled wine of that famously terrible wet vintage 1974. The letters stand for Fine Dry Red.

The new releases are 2010 FDR1A Eden Valley Cabernet Shiraz ($43 – tasting), 2010 The Signature Barossa Cabernet Shiraz ($53 – tasting) and 2006 The Reserve Eden/Barossa Cabernet Shiraz ($146 – tasting) – the last a real blinder of a wine and one of the few over-the-ton reds doing the rounds that really justifies its price, on the grounds of both age and character. I’ve suggested 30 years of cellaring, but properly looked after in a good cellar, it will see out 50. 

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