The SOMM Journal

August / September 2015

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Page 49 of 132

{ }  49 Immortalized by Meridith May / photos by John Curley OUR HISTORIC VERTICAL TASTING OF YALUMBA'S "THE SIGNATURE" FROM SIX DECADES TAKES PLACE ON TWO COASTS "THERE'S A REASON THAT THE BAROSSA VALLEY HAS VITI- cultural jewels," says Robert Hill-Smith, fifth-generation head of Yalumba, Australia's oldest family-owned winery, founded in 1849. "There is a re-discovery from the vines planted in the 1840s through the 1870s that were used for fortified wines. They were able to accumulate sugar and survived phylloxera because they were on original rootstock. As we moved into dry wines, one hundred years later, we experienced a renais - sance. It's a greatness that was staring us in the face." Blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz is an Aussie thing, and sur- prisingly many of the oldest Cabernet and Shiraz vines in the world are in South Australia. In fact, it was Yalumba—in the beginning of the 21st century—who sought to clarify the issue by creating an Old Vine Charter that was adopted and expanded by other Barossa winegrow - ers to designate age classifications. "Cabernet Sauvignon from the Barossa is structured with tannins and significant austerity," explains Hill-Smith. "That mid-palate austerity, called the donut effect, needs to be filled in. That's where Shiraz plays its role. It's the only variety that can substitute for any Bordeaux grape, and does it to good effect." Gathered in downtown Napa at The Thomas (left to right): Rhett Gadke, Wine Director, The Bounty Hunter/Napa; Kathy Marlin, Managing Director, Negociants USA; Chuck Hayward, Wine Buyer, JJ Buckley, Oakland; Meridith May, Publisher/Editorial Director, The SOMM Journal; Robert Hill-Smith, Proprietor, Yalumba; Willi Sherer, MS, Wine Director, Redd/Yountville; Ryan Woodhouse, Wine Buyer, K&L Wines/Redwood City; and Marian Jansen op de Haar, National Wine Consultant, Fleming's Steakhouse. Vintages presented for our tasting of Yalumba's flagship wine, Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz blend "The Signature," dated back to 1962, along with the 1961 Show Reserve Claret precursor. This was an unprecedented vertical with master sommeliers and retailers in Napa and New York. Note this 1975 vintage "Walter's Blend" (Walter Smith was Managing Director of the winery from 1908 to 1937) is referred to as a Claret (85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Shiraz). As a result of negotiations with the European community, the word would eventually be forbidden on Australian wine labels.

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