The Caley is only into its third vintage but with the launch of The Caley 2014, Yalumba is proving that it justifies rubbing shoulders with Grange and the other new super-premium Aussie blends that have recently taken the stage. To launch the wine, Yalumba boss Robert Hill Smith drafted in pal Bruce Tyrrell, booked a Royal Family hangout, shipped over a load of new and old beauties – including a Maurice O’Shea Hermitage 1942, amongst many others. Jancis Robinson MW, Steven Spurrier, Matthew Jukes and our man at the table Roger Jones were suitably wowed. Warning – this feature contains a fair degree of smugness.
Where previous vintages of The Caley have been more akin to equal parts of Barossa Shiraz and Coonawarra Cabernet, The Caley 2014 is based on 82% Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon and the excitement on the grapevine about the wine is well justified, writes Jones.
It’s the much anticipated email, no not from Michelin, but a personal email from Yalumba chief Robert Hill Smith asking one to join him for lunch, for the chosen few, and this year as an added bonus he brought along his chum; Bruce Tyrrell of Tyrrell’s Wines. And where better to hold it but the secretive Royal haunt, 5 Hertford Street, so secret the entrance is not even on Hertford Street.
If one can imagine the likes of Jancis, Spurrier and Jukes remonstrating that their valuable lap tops and bags were being taken off them at the entrance as it was a “private club and no vulgar social media instruments are allowed in”, it sets the scene. In the ‘Hong Kong style demo’, I managed to forget to hand in my iPhone so managed to get some pictures.
At the heart of this lunch is Yalumba’s promotion of their third release of The Caley, the classic copy of the traditional Aussie Claret, or more commonly called Shiraz/Cabernet blend. We compared all three vintages over lunch, 2012, 2013 and 2014. This is another bonus for me as it saves me delving into my stocks of The Caley and assess for myself how they are evolving.
Robert, of course, does not keep this gathering simple and as is the norm he brings out a Maurice O’Shea Hermitage 1942 (last time it was the 1944), this silky, sultana, chocolate, coffee-dark wine had a beautiful backbone of fresh dried berries that held it and a bright acidity keeping it a point.
Bruce Tyrrell chips in that his 4 Acres Shiraz 2006 sources grapes from the same original vineyard; the 4 Acres is quite outstanding, youthful of course, compared to the 1942, but this 2006 is just starting its journey. This vineyard was planted in 1879, and there is a delightful purity and restraint to this luxurious wine that will evolve lovingly. It’s Shiraz, but not as we know it; there is a Burgundian element to it.
However, prior to the exploration of reds we started off with the quite brilliant The Virgilius, Louisa Rose without question produces some of the finest Viogniers in the world; dried apricots, ginger biscuit, cardamon ice cream, layers of texture, purity, awesome.
Then it’s Bruce’s turn to shine with a trio of Chardonnays; Tyrrell’s Vat 47, 2017, Tyrrell’s Vat 47, 2009 and Tyrrell’s HDV, 2015. Bruce was at pains to explain how little acidity they now use, allowing the Hunter grapes to evolve themselves.
The 2017 is restrained and elegant – Bruce introduced screw caps to these wines in 2004 – it has less oak and the 100% basket press gives a fabulous purity to the wine. The 2007 has delicate white peaches and nectarines, pine nuts and a lingering mellow, buttercup flavour; still in its youth and evolving well.
The HDV Chardonnay is sourced, according to James Halliday, from the world’s oldest Chardonnay vineyard. This is all lemon and lime citrus curd, a nod to Grand Cru Chablis, taught and crisp with a restrained buttery finish. Tyrrell’s chief winemaker for the last 30 years, incidentally, is Andrew Spinaze, who joined the company 40 years ago.
Next up it’s a quadruple Shiraz masterclass from both stables; Tyrrell’s Vat 9, 2011 and 2007, and Yalumba The Octavius Shiraz, 2015 and 2009, hard to compare both stables especially as they come from two different regions, but what a fabulous flight.
The 2017 Tyrrell’s highlights again the changes Andrew, Bruce and Chris have made in the last 10 years producing such an elegant Shiraz, intense and spiced but the elegance and delicate body is quite outstanding. Likewise with The Octavius; whilst I loved the 1999 and the style, the esteemed guests were wowed by the 2015 – it was spiced and lifted, voluptuous, full of energy but that silky clean, focused mid-palate, increased use of French oak over American has toned down these wines with great results.
The trio of The Caley was a marvel, well suited to the delicate rack of lamb they were served with. The excitement about the 2014 is well founded, and is based on 82% Coonawarra Cabernet where previous vintages have been more akin to equal parts of Barossa Shiraz and Coonawarra Cabernet. This wine is rich and textural, a baby, but the precision of the wine is excellent, texture and depth, spiced and cedar with bright fruit.
A trio of wines to go with cheese, Yalumba The Signature (Cab/Shiraz) 2015 and 1996 and the 4 Acres Shiraz 2006. Again, we were shown how evolvement has been key in the Yalumba (a wine that was first released in 1962), with the 2015 delivering a beautiful wine – balanced floral, pomegranate and cranberry, touches of soft chocolate, fresh and bright on the mid palate, great now but will evolve
Thank you Robert and Bruce, and I am already awaiting that next email.