A chance to taste the ultra-premium wines produced by the Hill-Smith family under their main Yalumba brand. From their Eden Valley and Barossa home territory, as well as as their Menzies estate in Coonawarra, the five wines here enjoy plenty of talking points: the Tri-Centenery Grenache from a vineyard planted in 1889 for example, or the Virgilius, arguably the first Viognier from outside of the Northern Rhône to really take the wine world by storm.
Head winemaker Louisa Rose led an online tasting which, unfortunately I could not attend, but it was still a great opportunity to taste these new releases.
(2022) Louise Rose's flagship Viognier was harvested over a two week period, presumably to balance acidity and the unctuous ripeness Viognier can achieve. That's done ever so successfully in this 13% abv wine, which spent 10 months in French oak. It is rich, the nose crammed with white flower and apricot notes, a creamy almond oak quality beneath. The palate has such lovely weight, textured and full, succulent with ripe, ripe fruit, orange acidity adding lovely tang and brightness. It's a wine that risks overloading the senses, but thankfully never does thanks to its precision and refinement.
(2022) The vineyard was planted in 1889, on red-brown clay in the heart of the Barossa Valley, the wine matured for just four months in older French oak barrels. Pale and quite transparent, the nose is beguiling, with floral and woodland scents, fine dried berry fruits and all sorts of mellow, autumnal notes. In the mouth just lovely delicacy and sweetness to the fruit, all herb-strewn cherry orchards, with a light creaminess of flavour and texture, and plenty of light and shade, some bittering notes of acidity and very fine tannins extending the finish. Note the price quoted is for the 2015 vintage at time of review, which I scored 94/100.
(2022) From Barossa vineyards, 53% is Caberent and 47% Shiraz, the oldest plantings dating from 1925. The wine spent 21 months in barrel, 28% new French barriques plus an assortment of different sized older barrels from France, America and Hungary. Creamy and ripe blackcurrant dominates the nose, with an undertow of spices and tobacco, a little graphite firmness suggested too. In the mouth it is sweet-fruited and smoothly-textured, so much blackcurrant flavour but edged with a gravelly intensity, some plum skin grip and bittersweetness of tannin and acidity playing against a touch of espresso from the barrels, into a long and harmonious finish.
(2022) From a vineyard in Coonawarra purchased by the Hill-Smiths in 1992, on terra rossa soils, the majority of the vineyard was planted in 1975. The wine matured for 22 months in barrels, 30% new French oak hogsheads, the remainder in older barrels from France, America and Hungary. Almost black in its saturated colour, fruit straddles blackberry, blueberry and damson plum, with a sheen of polished old wooden furniture, gigar smoke and again a firmness suggested by gravel and graphite. Sumptuously sweet and succulent in the mouth, and enveloping richness and depth of glossy black fruit lies over mocha and sweet smokiness, tannins so sandy and fine and acidity pert like cherry pits. It's big, it's classic, it's a wonderfully expressive wine of grape and place.
(2022) Picked from vineyards in Barossa (67%) and Eden Valley (33%), the average age of the vines is 80 years, with the oldest vineyard dating from 1854. Maturation is in a combination of new French oak (28%) and second use barrels of various sizes from French, American and Hungarian oak. There's a meatiness to the aromas here, as well as a depth of savoury black fruit, some toast and vanilla in a deep-set, rich set of aromas. In the mouth that sweet combination of vanillin oak and ripe black fruit is succulent and fills the mid-palate. So much chocolate and charry depth here, but tannins are creamy and svelte and the cherry ripeness of the acidity adds to the smooth and rounded picture. A baby of course.