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26 July 2014

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Yalumba: when quality counts

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yalumba 2012 - Yalumba2.jpgYalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery and that heritage shows itself in an outstanding range of white and red wines.

Way back in 1847 English brewer Samuel Smith set sail with his family on a four-month voyage to Australia in search of a new life. He arrived in South Australia and purchased a 30-acre parcel of land near Angaston in the Barossa Valley, north-east of Adelaide. Samuel named his patch Yalumba, an Aboriginal word meaning ‘all the land around’. He and his son planted the first vines in 1849 and so the story of Yalumba vineyards began.

It’s difficult to imagine Smith foreseeing what his fledgling company would become. Now, 163 years later, it is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery and Smith’s great, great grandson Robert Hill Smith has made Yalumba a paragon of viticultural and winemaking practice. Leaders in environmental matters, one of only two wineries in the world to have its own cooperage (Haut-Brion in Bordeaux is the other), source of much of Australia’s finest vines through its nursery… the company’s approach is breathtaking in its scope.

Hill Smith attributes this success to foresight, commitment, patience and teamwork. A key part of that team is award-winning winemaker Louisa Rose, head of winemaking at Yalumba and Hill Smith Family Vineyards. Trained at the acclaimed Roseworthy Agricultural College in Adelaide,

Rose first worked at Yalumba as a cellar hand before joining the winemaking team in 1993. Chief winemaker since 2006, she seeks to create individual wines in the distinctive Yalumba house style, which reflect a thoughtful interpretation of grape variety and terroir.

Brilliant Barossa

yalumba 2012 - Yalumba1.jpgThat unique terroir is the Barossa, Australia’s best-known wine valley. Situated 60 miles from the Great Southern Ocean, the hills of the Barossa catch enough cooling sea breeze to make elegant white wines possible. But that breeze doesn’t make it down to the valley floor, where red Shiraz and Grenache vines can bask in the heat. This means that Yalumba boasts a terrific portfolio of wines – from taut, minerally Rieslings to a fine range of lush, powerful reds – all made with the least intervention possible.

In the vineyard, respect for nature is paramount, with organic and biodynamic practices in use to encourage biodiversity and maintain the health of the vines and the land for generations to come. And in the winery, Rose isn’t afraid to take risks. ‘I want my wines to be a little edgy; to excite the drinkers,’ she explains. This approach has led to her pioneering work with Viognier, a grape for which she has a special passion. ‘The Virgilius’ is a textured and beautifully balanced Viognier, made from grapes grown in the high country of the Eden Valley, which pays testament to her considerable talents with this variety.

‘The Virgilius’ forms part of Yalumba’s premium ‘Rare and Fine’ collection, which also includes ‘The Signature’ Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, ‘The Reserve’ Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz and ‘The Octavius’ Old Vine Barossa Shiraz. These wines are the pinnacle of Yalumba’s portfolio, which also branches out to explore Old World grape varieties and single estate bottlings that capture the essence of the Barossa and Eden Valleys.

On the menu

With such a diverse portfolio, it’s little wonder that Yalumba wines have become a firm fixture on restaurant wine lists in the UK. ‘I stock a whole range of wines from Yalumba – it’s still a family-owned company and you can feel the passion from the top to the grassroots,’ says Roger Jones, chef/proprietor of Michelin-starred restaurant The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. ‘For me, the Rieslings are the benchmark for New World dry Rieslings. But the array of reds is also amazing and I’ve been really impressed with the baby of the family: the Bush Vine Grenache.’

yalumba 2012 - Yalumba3.jpgChristine Parkinson, the award-winning wine buyer for the Hakkasan Group, is another fan. ‘At Hakkasan we have listed Yalumba wines almost since the restaurant opened,’ she says. ‘Right from the beginning, we liked the quality and the character. The wines have a clear sense of place, perhaps because of Yalumba’s long history, and are always consistently good. They are also food-friendly, so it has been easy for us to list them over and over again.’

This feature was published in the summer 2012 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle.

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