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.


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. Read the rest of this entry »

Yalumba: Introducing Samuel’s Collection, Part I

19 11 2019

By Peter Vetsch

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

Yalumba is tidying things up a bit.  The Barossa stalwart, now on its 5th generation of family ownership dating back to 1849, traces itself back almost the entire length of the history of its region (whose first Shiraz vines were planted in 1847).  But 170 years of growth and development later, Yalumba’s impressive lineup of wines was starting to lack some internal organizational cohesion, with some forming part of a demarcated grouping or collection (the wildly successful Y Series being a key example of why this can be a boon to consumers) and others standing on their own, without clear delineation as to their place in the company hierarchy.  This would not be much of an issue for a smaller-scale producer, but when you make 52 different bottlings, it’s nice to know where things fit.  Enter Samuel’s Collection.


This new mid-tier range is both a corporate reorg and a celebration, a way for a number of excellent but disparate Yalumba offerings to find a home as a tasteful homage to the winery’s founder Samuel Smith.  The Collection, featuring all-new clean, modern label art, features seven wines:  four reds from the Barossa Valley and three whites from the neighbouring Eden Valley.  The reds (Bush Vine Grenache, GSM, Shiraz, Shiraz Cab) all share measured ripeness, fermentation using ambient yeasts and a more lithe, transparent take on what can be a region known for muscle-flexing; the whites (Viognier, Roussanne, Chardonnay) are all similarly streamlined takes on sultry grapes, rooted in Eden’s cooler weather and acid spine.  I have had prior vintages of both of tonight’s reds, known back then as the Old Bush Vine Grenache and The Strapper GSM, and their packaging and branding was so divergent that it looked like they came from different wineries.  No longer.  The threads that unite now take centre stage…even the price, as every wine in the new Samuel’s Collection should hit the shelf at a $25ish mark.  As will be seen below, it is a group worth seeking out. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Review: 2014 Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache

18 09 2015

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

Raise a glass to Grenache!

Raise a glass to Grenache!

This is a bottle of eager-to-ripen Grenache from the scorching Barossa Valley in Australia.  This is a delicate, pretty, dainty, almost ethereal wine.  These sentences are both somehow true.  Happy International Grenache Day, everyone!

Yes, the third Friday of every September is set aside to celebrate the wonders of a grape that is prominent on the world wine scene, yet still strangely underrated, often anonymously doing the heavy lifting in a Rhone-style blend and only occasionally stepping out into the spotlight on its own.  This is my second time toasting the grape in September:  I revelled in the glory of the Okanagan’s first ever Grenache back in 2013.  I appear to have missed this global vinous holiday last year, but am now fully prepared to make up for lost time.

Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, founded 166 years ago in 1849 and still in the family today.  You may know them for their string of top notch value wines (the Y Series Viognier is particularly awesome for what it costs), but they have offerings all across the price spectrum, and their standing and longevity has given them access to the types of fruit sources necessary to put quality in the bottle.  With respect to Grenache in particular, Yalumba owns some of the oldest Grenache vineyards in the Barossa Valley; the fruit sourced for this bottle was planted between 1898 and 1973.  Vines that pre-date your great-grandparents used for a $22 wine!  Yalumba is also the only winery in the Southern Hemisphere to have their own cooperage, so they select and import oak and then toast it to their liking and make their own barrels.  Cool. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Review: 2011 Wine Men of Gotham Shiraz Grenache

7 11 2012

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

Cartoon Aussie label looks can be deceiving.

Don’t worry — this won’t be the wine you think it is.  After living through over a decade of mass-produced, hugely ripe, straight-ahead, destined-for-export cheap wines coming out of Australia bearing tongue-in-cheek labels laden with any number of hand-drawn creatures, we can all be forgiven for looking at any sub-$15 Aussie red with a cartoon label with a touch of skepticism.  While I think the country as a whole often gets unfairly typecast by virtue of the overwhelming response that Yellow Tail and its brethren received when they burst onto the international market, it’s probably fair to say that most inexpensive Shiraz still tends to follow this formula…after all, why mess with success, especially the economic tidal wave of success that these wines continue to enjoy?  But this bottle does exactly that, delivering a wine that is light years from what your taste buds are expecting of a Shiraz Grenache from Down Under and trampling on some prejudices while it’s at it.

The first hint that Wine Men of Gotham’s Shiraz blend might be different from most is its alcohol level:  at 13%, it’s a good 1.5% to 2% lower than the standard modern Shiraz from Australia.  This is particularly unusual/impressive because (1) the regions where the wine’s grapes originate (Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Riverland, although the label bears the catch-all “South Eastern Australia” name due to this multi-zone viticultural collaboration — SE Australia is an area that spans most of the grape-growing land in the country outside of the West Coast) generally tend to have warmer-than-average climates, which encourages faster sugar ripening and thus higher-alcohol wines, and (2) Grenache grapes are known for producing wines with heightened alcohol levels, especially in hotter climates.  It’s near impossible to produce a big, goopy, jammy Shiraz Grenache at 13% alcohol, which suggests that the Wine Men had something else up their sleeves for this bottle. Read the rest of this entry »

Coming on Monday: Tasting In Stereo, Part II!

17 03 2012

It’s been a few months since the inaugural edition of Tasting In Stereo, a multi-blog collaboration with online wine writer extraordinaire Tyler Philp, founder of North of 9 Fine Wine, that saw us each separately drink a pre-selected bottle, write up our own thoughts independently of each other, and then simultaneously publish our reviews at a set time to give our loyal readers two perspectives on the wine for the price of one.  Our first crack at this blogs-colliding concept back in August proved what a valuable tool it was:  we reviewed the 2008 Sister’s Run Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley and had fairly contrary impressions of the bottle, but discovered after the fact the context that explained and justified our disparate points of view.  Tyler wasn’t a fan of the Shiraz and thought it was overly jammy and alcoholic…because he drank it outside on a hot, sunny evening on his patio.  I thought the Sister’s Run was a remarkable bargain that offered great fruit without going overboard…because I drink my reds colder than most people and had this one after it sat for about 30 minutes in my fridge.  The whole simul-review turned out to be a cautionary tale about the impact that service temperature can have on any given wine, which was a pretty unexpectedly cool result.

Tyler's site -- click the pic to visit. Well worth the trip!

And now, 6 months or so later, we’re doing it again.  Join us on Monday, March 19th at 9:00 p.m. Mountain time, when we will simultaneously unveil on our respective sites our write-ups of the latest lucky bottle we’ve chosen for double scrutiny.  I won’t tell you what the bottle is, but I’ll say that it’s German, which means I’m almost guaranteed to be very happy with it.  Hopefully Tyler isn’t as biased by Teutonic wine-love and can act as everyone’s voice of reason…you’ll just have to check back Monday to find out!




Wine Review: 2008 Schild Estate Barossa Shiraz

26 03 2011

My wine-loving history in a bottle.

I’m psyched about this review tonight for a few reasons.  First, I have been buying Schild Shiraz basically since I started collecting wine.  This 2008 will be the 4th vintage that I’ve purchased (making Schild my first legit vertical), and while four years isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, it takes me back to my earliest serious interest in wine, a time when ALL I drank was Australia Shiraz. (Incidentally, who DOESN’T start drinking wine via Aussie Shiraz?  It’s like the vinicultural gateway drug.)  Second, this particular bottle of Schild was the recipient of an honour this year that many $100+ bottles would kill for:  it was named the #7 wine of the year in Wine Spectator magazine’s Top 100 Wines of 2010 list.  This doesn’t mean that Wine Spectator thought that this $28 bottle of Shiraz was the 7th best wine on Earth last year, but it does mean that, when taking quality, availability, value and other factors into account, this Schild rose almost to the top of the heap.  Spectator scored it 94 points (very rare for a wine at this price point) and generally showered it with praise.  Third, unlike some of the bottles I’ve discussed in recent weeks, this one is widely available almost everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

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