9.14am, The Clocktower, Yalumba, Angaston, Eden Valley, The Barossa, South Australia
Hi folks, I’ve been off the air for a bit as I’ve been battling a really nasty virus that’s sweeping through The Barossa at the moment. With any luck it will clear up in time to go visit the knee surgeon next week – yep – still hopping around on one leg from the last UK trip! But it was back to work yesterday to look after a visiting colleague of ours. My part of the program was to show Tracey from our UK office “The Barossa” – the lie of the land and how it developed as a truly regional food and wine culture.
First, let me introduce our Negociants UK “at the coalface sales team” that looks after us throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. The photo was taken in September this year during a tasting of all Yalumba wines in that arena. We organised it upstairs in The Signature Room (wallpapered with photos of the Yalumba Cooperage) at The Phoenix – top gastropub near Victoria Station, London. Left to Right Tracey (LP), Cardigan Man (Chris), Heathrow (Emma), Job Spec (Val), Jo, and in front – Simon In Charge.
Our visitor to the Barossa this past week was Tracey, and yesterday we spent a good part of the day touring both the Barossa Valley floor and the Eden Valley high country. I put together a whistlestop tour of vineyards to illustrate how the French concept of terroir applies in our world, and to do this, I chose Shiraz that goes to Single Site, The Octavius or The Signature wines, and Cabernet Sauvignon that goes to The Signature. See what you think, and remember to look down at the dirt. When folks visit The Barossa, invariably they look at the vines, the wineries, the churches – everything but the dirt. But the patchwork quilt of what the vines are growing in across the region really defines a lot of the expression of the fruit – so it is a huge part of the diversity that exists wine wise.
The Fromm Single Site Shiraz vineyard just outside of Lyndoch (southern end of the Barossa Floor), planted 1936. The dirt is classified as a ‘mixture of Dale Family red brown earth and Wilsford Family terra rossa’. This is one of the earliest ripening shiraz vineyards that we work with, is all of 0.74 Ha or just under 2 acres, and goes into the 2005 and 2006 Fromm Single Site Shiraz.
The Waechter Shiraz block is on the Angaston foothills near Penrice, and the soil is a ‘red brown earth in the Light Pass fine sandy loam family’. This 0.84 Ha or two acre section of vines was planted in 1925, and it gets the effect of the cooling gully breezes come summertime. The fruit generally makes The Signature or The Octavius each year. Just for the record, the current owners are Mark & Marie Waechter, and Mark’s dad – Eddy – was the signatory on the 1992 Signature.
The Grope Old Vine Shiraz Block is 3 acres of vines planted in 1919 right in the middle of the Barossa Floor at Light Pass. The dirt is ‘light Pass fine sandy loam red brown earth’ and the old vines seem to love it – always giving up top shiraz fruit that makes The Signature, and in some years when it travels really well it is selected out of the barrels earmarked for The Signature and put into The Reserve.
The Heine Family Shiraz block is up near Golden Gate Mine Road in the Eden Valley, and with the vines at about 80 years is one of the old timer vineyards up in the high country. I put this one in because it’s a real contrast in the soil type – which is more in line with the ‘grey brown podzolic’ sort of thing that’s found up that way. This fruit has made The Signature several times and is part of the current release 2008 FDR 1A , which is an ‘Eden Valley fruit subset’ of what would have made The Signature in that year – so a leaner, higher acid, more red berry fruit and fragrant version that was strong enough to stand on its own as it was from a strong vintage. Again for the record, John Heine is featured as the signatory on the 1999 The Signature Cabernet Shiraz, another solid vintage that’s still stretching fairly elegant legs.
The Tricentenary Grenache Block is 1.12Ha or two and a half acres of bush vines planted in 1889 on the ‘Nuraip sand’ near Vine Vale. This is pretty much shifting river sand – lots of it – over clay. Again, the vines seem to thrive on it and consistently give up this lovely raspberry layered over rosemary herbal stuff that goes so well with anything lamb, anything duck, or even – as we tried this last trip at the fabulous Cocoon restaurant in London – ‘Baked Fillet of Pacific Cod with Kinone Miso & Mirin Glaze’.
True story – it was match of the day with the 2008 Bush Vine Grenache!
So after our last day out and about after a very intensive week at Yalumba Home Base, we’ve packed Tracey back off to the UK with possibly the best tool to work with when you’re talking to folks 16,000 km away about Yalumba and The Barossa – actually having been out there amongst it all from the ground up. Good luck with it all Trace – and have a good weekend wherever the rest of you all are.