A wine tasting with Jane Ferrari (pictured) is a special event. She is fast becoming a legend in her own time like the company she works for, Yalumba Wines, founded in 1849 by Samuel Smith in Angaston, South Australia.
Jane, a Roseworthy graduate now winemaker at Yalumba and Communicator Extraordinaire, travels the world marketing her company's product, "white knuckle stuff", she says of some of the markets, a little easier in New Zealand where wine drinkers have been fans of Yalumba for years.
Jane is a natural entertainer and like the car that shares her name, excels in her craft.
She plays to the audience and we love her as she gracefully admits that the All Blacks played better than the Wallabies when the arch rugby rivals played for the Bledisloe Cup match the weekend before. She was at the match in Wellington, a lone prick of yellow amongst a sea of black, the shame of Australia's loss quickly soothed by the sight of Carlos Spencer's quivering thighs.
Such is Ferrari's spirit that bubbles into the wines in the glass in front of us. "But I just tell the stories mate, if it wasn’t in the glass, it wouldn’t work", she says.
There are some stars among the current releases, especially the whites from 2003 and the reds from 2002 but it was the vertical tasting of the company's premium wine, 'The Octavius' that I was most looking forward to. And a surprise inclusion was Yalumba 'The Reserve' 1998, a wine I had not heard of before but with a rating of 98/100 by Robert Parker, it was a wine that followers of this American's ratings had escalated to one of the most sought after of Yalumba's products. Did it deserve this rating? Absolutely.
Yalumba's Viognier (vee-on-yay) is an impressive start, especially the Virgilius – the first time I have enjoyed this wine immediately on release. This grape variety was planted by Yalumba in 1980 and they've certainly had the downs with the ups. Years of winemaking and viticulture experience tell in these wines.
Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2003
Medium gold colour. Slightly nutty on the nose, it opens up with time to show hints of musk. Quite neutral in the palate, it starts to enrich with good mouthfeel and a lemon bread aftertaste. Quite warm. Food friendly.
14% alc. RRP $17.70. Screwcap.
Yalumba The Virgilius Eden Valley Viognier 2003
Light gold. More mellow bready, apricot aromas. Lovely entry, warm, dry and spicy, mouthfilling with lifted flavours of lemon bread and apricot with a full-bodied, rich nutty finish. Wonderful persistence. Dry, full, with very slight nuances of lemon grass, musk, ginger and apricots as it lingers. Very stylish.
14.5% alc. RRP $50.25. Screwcap.
The red wines are probably what Yalumba is more famous for.
Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2002
Crisp, musky berry spices, violets, liquorice, lifted spicy finish. Nice weight, not too heavy, hints of strawberry and cherry as it lingers. Nice medium weight wine.
14.5% alc. RRP $20.50.
Yalumba Barossa Shiraz 2002
Bright youthful red. Lovely aromatics of spicy cedary vanillin oak, raspberry, savoury, ever so slightly herbaceous (herbs de Provence). Spicy in the palate with black pepper and liquorice, firm meaty tannins, rich cherry fruit, fruit cake finish. A soft wine with plenty of alcoholic warmth, lingering spices. Open and approachable, clean, warm, sweet and generous.
14.5% alc. RRP $20.50.
Yalumba Barossa Cabernet Shiraz 2001
Showing a little more development to the colour. Rich intense, leathery aromatics, creamy deep oak, vanilla, violet and cassis. Some acidity, spicy backbone, savoury tannins, leathery finish with the generosity of Shiraz coming through. Dry finish. Good on its own for a dry style but would be good with food.
'Old Australian Claret style'.
13.5% alc. RRP $20.50.
Yalumba The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Jane called this the 'green meanie'. Colour starting to develop. Lovely aromatics, floral in some respects – nutmeg, cigar, sweet earth, mint coming through. Firm tannins, meaty, a five spice intrigue, a touch of mint, cedary oak, leather, oxo. 'A baby Bordeaux', it does need time to evolve. But I don’t think it is green.
14% alc. RRP $41.
Yalumba The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
Earthy, delicate tight cassis character, meaty, firm, a hint of anise, dry finish. A contrast to the 1999, this has a lovely brightness of fruit than lingers on the finish with sweet leather, cigar and that quintessential Coonawarra mint. There's a lovely generosity to the flavour with persistence and elegance. Fruit wins over the tannins.
13.5% alc. RRP $41.
Yalumba The Signature Barossa Cabernet Shiraz 2000
Good colour, still pinky rims on black centre, just becoming a little watery. There's a lovely opulence to the aromas. thick dusty Shiraz, creamy vanillin oak, tar, mocha, yummy spices. Upfront fruit belies the tannin behind. Very approachable and generous but has the legs to age. Lovely concentration and depth. Looking very good. Savoury finish. Mouthfilling, chewy aftertaste. Good acidity with mint and mocha lingering.
This year's Signature is named for Peter Lehmann.
13.5% alc. RRP $41.
Yalumba The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 1998
Very deep rich scent, just a hint of eucalypt, cassis, hint of vanilla and mint. A very rich concentrated wine with wonderful fruit, liquorice, musk, bready oak, lifted spices, nutmeg. Very seamless, beautiful wine.
Earthy, wonderful flavour, mouthfeel and length. Plenty of vibrant spice, lifted acidity, lingering cassis with hints of cherry and black liquorice. Soulful!
14.5% alc. RRP $126.
With Jane in town it was the perfect excuse to open up back vintages of the company's flagship wine, the Yalumba Octavius Old Vine Shiraz. Although the Octavius name was used on wines prior to 1990, it is only since the vintage release of 1990 that the wine has been made from Barossa old vine Shiraz, usually 100% Barossa or from the nearby Eden Valley as in the 1993 vintage wine. The wine spends 26 to 27 months in oak.
Octavius takes its name from the 90-litre American oak' octaves' that are coopered at the Yalumba. Evidently it is the only red wine in the world that is matured in such small barrels.
Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 2000
Rich, intense, black smelling, opens up, crisp berries. Oily and tarry in palate, concentrated rich tannin structure, wonderful voluptuous hit of plummy fruit, soft sweet fruit on palate belies the power behind.
13.5% alc. RRP $126.
Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 1999
Sweeter fruit, floral berries, liquorice. Dry, grainy tannins, lovely sweet berry fruit comes through – plums heading into crisp blackberry (not quite ripe blackberry), very powerful yet amazingly elegant with lovely oak sweetness – vanilla, liquorice, cherry and hints of that coconut American oak – lively fine tannins. An underrated vintage showing very well now. Great persistence. Quite spice and lifted when coming back to it. Still showing flashes of youth.
14.5%. RRP $126.
Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 1998
From a warm vintage, this wine smells earthy, a little closed, quite savoury with cigar box and leather until the sweet fruit breaks through to emerge. Just starting to develop secondary characters, softening "like a feather pillow on top of a brick floor" said Jane This wine opens up beautifully to deliver what we expect from the vintage – a creamy chocolatey richness, lush fruit and a hint of mintiness on the finish. A very generous wine, a winner.
14.5% alc. No longer available.
Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 1997
Chocolate, mocha, leather and liquorice on the nose. "Chicory – the smell of coffee in the coffee machine just after the coffee has finished grinding" said Jane, a description that fitted the wine well. A wonderfully structured wine, very savoury, chocolatey with creamy oak and plum/cherry/blackberry coming through to linger. Serious wine, hints of liquorice on the finish, grainy tannins and great length. Looking very good.
14.5% alc. No longer available.
Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 1996
A beautiful example of Barossa Shiraz. Still very primary, lots of juicy fruit, creamy oak, lovely aromatics, red liquorice – a huge beast when young now soft and generous. This has everything you expect in top Shiraz - spicy red fruits, creamy oak, liquorice, pepper – it is seductive and delicious with cherry lingering on the finish. A wonderfully structured, amazingly youthful-looking wine from the star vintage of the 1990's.
14% alc. No longer available.
Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 1995
Faulty bottle. Not reviewed.
Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 1993
Copyright Sue Courtney
A dense, locked up repressed wine on release, Jane calls this the 'Dark Knight'. Now, 11 years on from vintage it is still dark but sensuous with it. Quite closed on the nose, pencil shavings, oiled leather, mocha, and dark berries with an earthy overtone, it was poured from a 3-litre bottle and probably would have shown better if decanted. It opens up well in the glass to show rich, sweet, mushroomy flavours with hints of smoky bacon, mocha, tar, pepper and a touch of creamy chocolate on the grainy tannined, sensuous, savoury, intense, long finish. It has a lovely vinous persistence. I can imagine enjoying a glass of this with slow cooked beef in red wine with mushrooms, Osso Bucco or Lamb Shanks.
13.5% alc. No longer available.