Yalumba: Introducing Samuel’s Collection, Part II

23 11 2019

By Peter Vetsch

[These wines were provided as samples for review purposes.]

Having already acquainted myself with the first half of Yalumba’s newly compiled seven-wine Samuel’s Collection (and made a mental note to track down the other whites in the Collection beyond the Viognier, as Eden Valley Chardonnay and Roussanne sound glorious), I was eagerly awaiting my turn on the back nine of this reorganized and rebranded assembly of mid-level bottlings, which for the first time let the Barossa’s calling card take centre stage.

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Each of the Yalumba Barossa Shiraz and Barossa Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon previously went by different monikers, aimed towards different audiences just emerging from the critter wine wave:  the former was known as the “Patchwork Shiraz”, while the latter was called “The Scribbler”.  At some point it was rightly decided that a more serious veneer and a highlight of place better suited these focused, linear wines than a kitschy name and the playful marketing that rode the length of the first Aussie wine trend; the outside of the bottle now more accurately reflects the liquid within.  Bring on the Shirazes.

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2017 Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Barossa Shiraz (~$25)

The 2017 growing season, from which each of tonight’s wines hails, started off wet but ended dry and slightly cooler than usual, allowing for long and controlled ripening, perfect for Yalumba’s more measured take on a region better known for bombast.  The fermentation of this Shiraz was kicked off with native yeasts but then later augmented by cultured winery yeasts, adjusted in each case on a batch by batch basis.  There are those who would say that the dominance of cultured yeasts is such that the presence of any of them as part of your fermentation process means that any impact of the native yeasts gets swallowed up and drowned out, such that commitment to indigenous yeast fermentation is an all-or-nothing process; if your cultured yeast strain itself hailed from ambient winery yeasts, however, at least this dominant invader is itself a native son.  After this mixed fermentation process completed, the wine saw 10 months of maturation in French, Hungarian and American oak barrels of varying sizes, only 15% of which were new.

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This is clearly a bigger, heftier offering than the Bush Vine Grenache or GSM from Part I of this tasting, but it remains short of being either opaque or purple, instead coming out of the bottle a brilliant, mostly translucent ruby colour.  My initial impression is one of caution, as though Yalumba was being careful with the joie de vivre of the Barossa’s most famous export.  Fresh blackberries and nutmeg aromas swirl with eucalyptus and topsoil, sunbaked earth and tomato leaf in somewhat subdued fashion.  The full essence of Shiraz arrives on the palate in the form of fleshiness and textural resistance on the tongue, but flavour-wise it remains in school-uniform buttoned-up form, with snappy tannins acting as hall monitor.  Copper, black raspberry, black pepper, bay leaf, oiled leather and tomato soup notes hew towards umami on the back end but then finish in spritely fashion on a wave of reviving acidity.  Perhaps a touch on a restrained and clinical side for Barossa Shiraz, but well-paced and clearly put together with care.

88 points

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Stelvin Rating:  7.5/10 (As discussed previously, I have a lot of time for these.)

2017 Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Barossa Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon (~$25)

Apparently Shiraz and Cab Sauv have been blended in Australia for nearly a century, and Yalumba fully commits to the blend in egalitarian fashion here, melding 51% Shiraz and 49% Cabernet in an effort to let both grapes shine.  There is a bit of winemaking experimentation going on here as well:  some of the grapes used for this bottle were hand-picked and crushed into open-top fermenters that permit the release of heat and interaction with oxygen during the fermentation process, while others were machine-harvested and the fermented in static fermenters.  This procedural diversity is augmented by the fact that, once again, a series of different ferments were used in varying batches of the wine, involving different combinations of native and cultured winery yeasts.  Is this motivated by a spirit of curiosity or an attempt to self-create additional complexity and points of distinction within blending lots?  Or both?  The final blend spent slightly less time in oak than the pure Shiraz, aging for 8 months in 16% new barrels, again from three different countries and in a multitude of sizes.

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This is certainly the most visually dense wine of Samuel’s Collection, coming in nearly but not wholly impenetrable.  As compared to the previous offering, the Cabernet half of this bottle’s aromatic profile adds playful currant, violet, blueberry, vanilla and smoke to the mix and acts to bring the still-reticent Shiraz base out of its shell a little bit.  This added dose of extroverted vivaciousness springs immediately to the forefront on the palate.  The fruit hits first, wavering back and forth between red and black, with odd watermelon and even tropical accompaniments on the fringes.  Then pavement and dust and charred oak close ranks and temper the enthusiasm slightly, placing limits on the permissible levels of fun, but not enough to ruin the party.  Structurally the various elements of the blend do not achieve quite the same level of harmony as seen in the other bottles of the Collection, but with time they should achieve greater levels of integration.  I don’t know that either of these finale reds quite match the standard set by the first two reds of Samuel’s Collection (particularly the incredible Bush Vine Grenache), but neither will disappoint at their price point, and the Collection as a whole paints a measured, consistent take on new-school Barossa Valley.

88- points

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