A Signature Aussie blend
As I look through the list of people honoured by Yalumba’s classic Australian blend ‘The Signature’, I am moved by the long-standing service of the signatories.
Over fifty people have been acknowledged since the wine was first released in 1962, more if you include the 1995 vintage which honoured all Yalumba employees.
What strikes me most is the extraordinary commitment and dedication of staff members over many years. It is a stark contrast to the present day where people change jobs as frequently as they upgrade their iPhone.
The Signature Series began in 1962, initially under the Galway Vintage Claret label. A blend of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz – though historically not always in that order – was adorned with the signature of a person who had made a significant contribution to Yalumba.
What is most impressive about this, is that the people who are recognised are from all facets of the business. Though the early releases were named after family members, such as company founder Samuel Smith, the honour extended to employees and close associates of the company. The 1971 signatory Alf Mader, was a winery foreman with fifty years of service, and Vic Di Biase, honoured with the 1997 vintage, was a Cellarman with almost thirty years under his belt.
Artist Ron Skate (1976), horse trainer Colin Hayes (1978) and grape grower Eddy Waechter (1992) have also been honoured.
According to current winemaker Kevin Glastonbury, the vineyard resource for The Signature has been consistent over the years. That said, it will evolve as Yalumba refines and improves their vineyards, many of which are of considerable age.
The Signature is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz from the Barossa zone: predominantly the Barossa Valley but sometimes a portion from Eden Valley as well. The modern blends are slightly cabernet dominant, and although the hallmark of the style is richness, maintaining brightness and freshness is vitally important.
Harvest dates are critical in the maintenance of style, which has been pared back in recent years. There has been a concurrent decrease in new oak use, with a specific reduction in the American oak component. Eventually, all the oak will be of French and Hungarian origin, crafted in Yalumba’s in-house cooperage.
Yalumba did not make The Signature 1965, 1969, 1972, 1979, 1980, 1982, 2007 and 2011 due to the fruit not reaching the quality required.
The current vintage is 2013, marking the 55th release of The Signature, and it pays tribute to Yalumba’s ‘Director of Wine’ Andrew Murphy. Murphy worked his way up through the ranks, starting as a cellar hand, rising to Cellar Manager, before qualifying as a winemaker and progressing to Operations Manager.
The wine is deeply concentrated, though surprisingly quiet, with the cabernet component asserting itself throughout the wine. Though it is one to tuck away in the cellar for a few more years.
A sneak preview of the 2014 vintage, released mid-2018, demonstrates the continual evolution of the style. It is bright and medium-bodied with admirable harmony and succulence.
Yalumba is currently showcasing the ageing potential of The Signature with a small museum-release of the 2006 and 2008 to the on-premise market.
The 2006, which recognises the extended service of Kevin Renshaw, Yalumba’s Group Commercial Director and Ralph Dunning, General Manager of Marketing, is a ripe, rich and juicy wine with chocolate and savoury oak. The cabernet component is around 69%, higher than normally seen. It is drinking well now though has the capacity for further cellaring.
Judy Argent, Yalumba’s Planning & Process Manager, was saluted by the 2008 vintage. It is an amazingly bright and perfumed wine with chocolatey richness and dried fruit nuances.
What resonates deeply is that ‘The Signature’ range recognises that the process of getting great wine to market is a team effort that spans all facets of a company, large or small. And It shows a lot about the ethos of the family-owned Yalumba.
Great wine is undoubtedly about what is in the glass. But without the people that orchestrate the cellar management, bottling, packaging, sales, distribution and company administration, our glass might never get filled in the first place.