The Shiraz wines of Yalumba

A well-known name on British wine shelves, Yalumba is much more than a brand: it has been owned by the same family since 1849 when it was found by British brewer, Samuel Smith.

Based in the town of Angaston in the Barossa Valley, fifth generation Robert Hill-Smith and his family are in charge today, in what has become a very significant wine business. As well as producing wines under the Yalumba label, Hill-Smith Family Estates owns a whole catalogue of wineries and brands across Australia, including Jansz and Dalrymple in Tasmania, Pewsey Vale, Mesh and Heggies in Eden Valley, Ringbolt In Margaret River, and more. They have also crossed the Tasman Sea and own New Zealand wineries Nautilus and Opawa. Finally, the mega-brand Oxford Landing is another of the family’s businesses.

This tasting focused on Shiraz wines under the Yalumba label. These are all from vineyards in the homeland of the Barossa and what is effectively an elevated sub-zone, the neighbouring Eden Valley.

I’ve previously reported on a vertical tasting of all vintages to date of Yalumba’s icon wine, The Caley, a blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, but all of the wines below are pure Shiraz, with the exception of the Hand Picked Shiraz + Viognier, where a small Viognier component was included in a similar model to that employed by many top producers of Côte-Rôtie in France’s Rhône Valley. There are other Shiraz wines in the Yalumba portfolio, including the popular Y Series, which is widely available and priced around £10.

The Wines

(2023) Barossa fruit is sourced from across the region and the wine matured for 12 months in a selection of French, Hungarian and American oak. A vibrant crimson colour, it is rather subdued on the nose compared to the big trophy wines here, but there is elegance, red berries and redcurrants, a light smoky or ashy edge giving a savoury hint. In the mouth it is a very nicely composed wine, with plenty of fruit, medium-body, and enough structural tannin and acidity to offset the supple fruits that dominate. The oak is worn very lightly, adding a little roundness and smoothness. 2021 vintage in Waitrose priced £12.99 at time of review.
(2023) From vineyards aged from 10 to 35 years old, this is matured for 12 months in 26% new French, American oak barrels of various sizes, the balance in older larger barrels. A very lifted style this, all violets and kirsch cherries, very much more perfumed than the Galway bottling. Smooth and creamy on the palate, it adds a plummy, fleshy depth to the brighter fruit notes, and plenty of pepper and spice. The finish brings some grainy tannin and pert acids, finishing on fruit and spice.
(2023) This blend includes Viognier skins co-fermented with the Shiraz, and the blend was matured for 14 months in 23% new French oak hogsheads, the balance in one year and older French oak. There's more pepper here than in the Octavius, but also more lift of florals and even peach, presumably from the Viognier. In the mouth it is super-ripe and sweet, a substantial wine with texture and a depth of red and black, smooth and supple fruit. There is plenty of spice here: clove and tobacco, a keen edge of acidity and quite creamy tannins to offset the bittersweet finish of fruit skins and cocoa.
(2023) A blend of 67% Barossa and 33% Eden Valley fruit, 28% of the 2016 spent 22 months in new French oak barriques and hogsheads, the balance in one year and older American and French barrels. One of the Eden Valley vineyards here was planted in 1854, and the average vine age for the blend is 80 years. A deep crimson/black, the nose opens with chocolate, vanilla and tobacco spices at present, though a rich pool of black fruits begins to emerge. There's a little floral or lighter red fruit nuance in there somewhere too. The palate is fantastically opulent, the creamy weight of fruit and density of tannins gives real richness, the sweet red cherry and blackcurrant fruit is generous and mouth-filling. A very natural feeling balance of structural acidity and oak tannin extends the finish. There are no stockists listed for this collectible wine at time of review, though various back vintages are available using the wine-searcher link.

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