9.01am, Tuesday 12th October, The Clocktower, Yalumba, Angaston, Eden Valley, The Barossa, South Australia
Here we go folks – the last job of our UK trip, in London, and we were off into the depths of The City itself – Moorgate. This is where you seem to find all the ‘suits’ – the bankers, the legal eagles, all sorts of ‘bizniss’ folk. Mind you people, it is London, so the suits – for the boys – are generally quite the Saville Row thing, very sharp, and they have these neat shirts with super cufflinks – I like that. The gals are all in tailored skirts and jackets and generally up on serious ‘you wouldn’t want one of those spikes through your toes’ heels – fab stuff.
Chris (yep, our bearded bloke in London) and I were into the thick of it at ‘an off the beaten Moorgate track’ new private members club, Eight. A discreet entry hall off a side street and up a single lift into a glass and steel tower above some old terrace houses, and we were into a series of bars, libraries and dining rooms – all humming with some sort of activity. There was a Caribbean style promotion going on in one with mojitos and salsa music, a very serious dark suited bloke conference in a corner of the main dining room, a group of young folk winding down after work in the main bar, and then there was us setting up a Yalumba masterclass in the Library.
Now just before we get started on the wines – how did we end up in Eight?
Once upon a time there was a seriously good sommelier named Walter Speller who ran the wine store at Le Pont de la Tour, an iconic restaurant that’s nestled into the Shad Thames – on the water – in the shadow of Tower Bridge. Definitely up there as one of London’s dining rooms with the best view in the city. That’s where I met him about nine years ago on my first working trip to London. We hit it off, he liked what Yalumba was doing, and we’ve worked together on many of his projects since. Walter has now gone out on his own and consults across London, and across the Channel actually – into Eurpoe – and one of his lists is at Eight. He’s an absolute wine nutter though, so just your ordinary tasting isn’t on for Walter. He’s all about going that one step further, and that’s why the Eight members have these tremendous masterclasses that he organises on a regular basis.
So our focus with this event was to show how the French concept of ‘terroir’ applies also to our region, The Barossa. To illustrate this in the glass, we used three Grenache wines and five Shiraz wines. We started the folks off with a glass of Jansz bubbles – introducing them to Tasmania as a premium sparkling wine producing region – then we got into the main event. With the first bracket of wines – the contrast was between:
- 2008 Bush Vine Grenache – a blend of 14 vineyards all on the Barossa floor, average age of the vines 45 years
- 2005 Habermann Single Site Grenache – a small 2 acre vineyard in the Tanunda foothills planted in 1972
- 2005 The Nursery Single Site Grenache – a less-than 2 acre section of vines near Vine Vale planted in the 1960s
This really showed off the differences in ‘raspberry over rosemary’ middleweight fruit and herbal undertones expression that Grenache is all about – according to the variation in soil and climate across the vineyard locations. This was a bit of a revelation for the folks, seeing as most of them were not familiar with 100% Grenache wines from Australia – let alone individual vineyards of such small volume and character.
The Shiraz bracket was a comparison of:
- 2008 Patchwork Shiraz – a blend of Shiraz vineyards across the Barossa floor and Eden Valley high country, average age of the vines 35 years
- 2005 Octavius Old Vine Shiraz – a blend of seven vineyards across the same ground as Patchwork, where the oldest vines are 113 years on their own roots
- 2005 Swingbridge Single Site Shiraz – planted at Craneford in the Eden Valley in the 1920s, less than 2 acres
- 2005 Hahn Farm Single Site Shiraz – 2 and a bit acres planted by the Hahn family near Vine Vale on the Barossa floor in the 1970s
- 2005 Fromm Single Site Shiraz – 1 and a half acres planted by the Fromm family near Lyndoch in the 1940s
This bracket ended up having a multiple focus – firstly with the 2008 Patchwork and 2005 Octavius, it was an excellent way to show how vine age works, with the contrast in fruit weight, depth, presence, aromatic lift, and palate length.
Secondly, it was a mini education on the massive range of expression that exists with respect to the aromas, flavours and textures of Shiraz across the Barossa region – the warmer floor areas and cooler Eden Valley vineyards – which essentially is what terroir is all about. Briefly, with the three single site wines, the cooler Swingbridge vineyard had mint and eucalypt that was almost more Cabernet than Shiraz with a leaner more ‘European’ cooler palate; the Hahn Farm was your classic cinnamon and clove, red and dark berry aromas, plum and warm rich solid well balanced fruit juices on the palate ; and the Fromm was the really earthy almost smoky bigger style from the southern end of The Barossa. All three vineyards showing the influence of exactly where they’re planted in the glass – which is ‘terroir’.
So mission accomplished on the night, and from the discussion and questions afterward, – a real education on Barossa Shiraz and Grenache and what they can really do. Afterwards, most of the members took bottles into the dining room for dinner, where the chef had matched up several dishes to the wines. Here’s my ‘dish of the night’ – not Walter (that’s him holding the plate) – but the Butternut Squash Risotto. Not easy to get spot on, but they did! And it was just the right thing with the 2008 Bush Vine Grenache. Thanks Walter, thanks Eight, and due to popular demand, we’ll be back with another masterclass in the not too distant.
And that folks, was the end of our work in London – this trip. Good results all round, and I’ll be keen to get back to pick up the threads in the New Year.