Firstly, let me explain I have a (totally misguided) sense of familiarity when it comes to Yalumba Winery. Having done extensive research into the winery and fallen firmly in love with it, in a way one only manages when applying for a job somewhere, I was rejected by them for the role of Cellar Hand for their 2016 vintage. I couldn’t remain too disappointed due to my complete lack of experience, but my appreciation for the winery stuck firm. So, fast forward 3 years, and it was with much excitement that I entered Corrigan’s Mayfair for their official launch of the 2013 The Caley – the second vintage (and therefore, in their own words, the most important) of their first super-premium wine. About time too, as Australia’s oldest family run winery – this has been 150+ years in the making.
A reception of Janz sparkling wine ensued, a stunning example of what New World sparkling can look like, complemented to perfection by a selection of hors d’oeuvres – a theme which set the tone for the evening thanks to a menu specially curated by head chef Aiden Gee, with the close help of Kevin Glastonbury (head winemaker at Yalumba) for the tasting.
On to the main event and an illuminating talk about the inception of The Caley by Kevin in which he took us through its philosophy – one which embodies, not a particular style (yet), but an expression of the finest berries, from the greatest plots of land of the Coonawara and Barossa, married with an obsessive attention to detail in the winery. This included the use of Indigenous as well as cultured yeasts followed by the gentlest of pressings. Minimal human intervention was encouraged, before the wine was left to mature for 20 months in a mix of 41% new French barriques and 29% in older French barriques and hogsheads, all made and seasoned at the Yalumba Cooperage. After bottling, the wine was cellared for a further 36 months before release.
After the speech, we were all poured a generous glass which we were instructed to keep throughout the entirety of the meal and to return to throughout. At first, The Caley ’13 embodied everything you’d expect from a young, impressive, Australian Cabernet-Shiraz blend. Full, sumptuous red and black fruits, both stewed and fresh, rich spice and a lean backbone of mint and eucalyptus. What ensued though, over the course of the evening, was a much more nuanced and delicate aspect to the wine. Notes of violet appeared and even light floral aromas. The powerful red fruit settled into itself giving way to the spicier, more complex aged French oak profile further lifted by the beguiling wild floral notes. Of course, the wines development over the course of the dinner only hints at its potential in bottle over the next 15 years, so we will have to wait and see. The only gripe I had here was that it would have been really interesting to taste against the ’12 which unfortunately was not on offer, as, according to Kevin, it is a different beast altogether, alas- another time. Although along that strain, it’s intriguing for a new wine to have such variation between its first two vintages, so I am also interested to see what it will offer over the coming vintages and how it will define itself in terms of personality and the ‘essence’ of ‘The Caley’.
Whilst this was on-going we were treated to some other members of the Yalumba Fine and Rare collection. To accompany the Hand-Dived Orkney Scallops, Black Pudding and Cauliflower we were served The Virgilius Viognier ’16 from the Eden valley. An absolute delight and one of my highlights of the evening. This Viognier starts its life pressed in whole bunches, undergoing wild yeast fermentation and is left to mature on its lees in old French oak barrels. Because of this the resulting wine is weighty, complex and rich with an almost oily texture. The nose gives off rich tropical fruits, cardamom and sweet biscuit which is followed by a surprisingly light, uplifting and fresh palate busting with aromatic green citrus and grapefruit. I look forward to seeing this wine age further to allow its flavour profile to harmonise and integrate further, having said that it was delicious as is.
The other standout wine for me was the Yalumba Signature Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz 2014. This was a lesson in absolute precision wine-making. It was a perfect balance of firm but silky tannins, mouth-watering acidity and perfect structure. This set the stage for a rounded palate of typical Australian wild red and black fruit, eucalyptus and black pepper brought together by the unifying qualities of old French oak.
This delightful evening was rounded off by The Yalumba Museum Muscat NV (served with cheese, of course). A classic velvety Muscat palate of grape, rose petal and orange peel. Luscious and rich in texture with a warm floral and raisiny finish.
A massive thank you to Yalumba and Corrigans for a great evening. I can’t wait to see how The Caley 2013 develops after such a promising start. Finally, and the icing on the cake - they have welcomed me over to get my hands dirty in their winery, so maybe one day I’ll even get to fulfil an unrequited dream…