There is a move around the world to make wines more elegant, especially in regions that are known to consistently produce bottlings that are big, ripe, heavy and well-extracted. There are a number of reasons, based on accessibility and drinkability, but also on marketing, to assist turning over stocks. Most consumers don’t cellar their wines for very long nowadays, and many wine aficionados just don’t have the space or conditions to cellar wine in.
There are a number of traditional producers who just won’t change. Not because they can’t or cant’ be bothered, but more for maintaining the style they are best known for. Penfolds ‘Grange’ comes first to mind. A modern, skinnier, ‘elegant’ ‘Grange’ will not be true to its history and style. There are some factors such as bottle-aging and the complexities derived from longer maturation that can’t be denied as not being reproducible by more elegant and approachable wines which develop to maturity more quickly. So the more modern wines can lose out on extra detail and interest.
I’m glad that Yalumba haven’t mucked about with the style of their flagship ‘Signature’ wine. It’s usually an approximate equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, from Barossa fruit, and maybe some Eden Valley fruit – which is still technically Barossa. The fruit is picked as the most typical and flavoursome available, and the resultant blend is given plenty of traditional barrel aging. At its best, it is full, dark, blackish and dense with very ripe, but not over-ripe fruit. There’s plenty of structure and it’s designed for aging. And it ages extremely well, 20+ years easily within its reach. And it develops layers and layers of complex flavours.
On a special occasion with ‘The Prince’, SWMBO and I opened our last bottle of 2006 Yalumba ‘The Signature’ Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz. Each year is a tribute to someone important to Yalumba, and for this superb vintage, the signatory was Sales and Marketing man Ralph Dunning. I’d met the man and was taken by his professionalism as well and character and humour. A real personality, who spent 26 years with the company. The wine was still an infant in many respects. In its youth, it was sweet and plush and our there with ripeness and structure. Now, after 10+ years, it was still deep and dark, near impenetrable. If anything it had closed-up shop a little, with the exuberance of youth gone, but the gravitas of some age appearing. Immense depth and concentration of ripe black fruits with liquorice, black pepper and spices, along with complexing savoury game-nuanced earth and mineral secondary elements just peeking through. The detail of these nuances were overlaid by the fruit still. The structure and grip, and body suggest it has another two decades ahead of it. The wines of the more recent years – and I’m meaning the last 20, will age even better than the first wines, initiated in 1962. This 2006 aged 22 months in American, French and Hungarian oak hogsheads.