Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Wine Review: Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz (2010)

Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz (2010) Review:
Price: £8 per bottle
Availability: Supermarket and online

The craze for all things organic seems to have continued apace these last few years with around two billion pounds per year now spent on organic produce here in the UK. Wine has not been exempt from this up-swell of demand and barely a week goes by without another new organic (and often biodynamic) release. Aside from appealing to health and sustainability conscious consumers, there is also evidence that farming organically is better for the vines and vineyard and whilst there seems to be some debate on this, organic farming may just produce better wine too.

Originally the technique of radical and experimental wineries and winemakers (some may argue that this mantle has passed to those who now practise biodynamics), organic winemaking is now well established in the mainstream of wine production. Thus it should come as no surprise that well known and famous winemakers are now pursing organic farming programmes (or at least endeavouring to integrate some organic practises into their farming techniques) and Yalumba is one such winery.

The oldest family owned winery in Australia, Yalumba was founded in 1849 by Samuel Smith (an English migrant and brewer) who purchased a 30 acre plot of land near Angaston, South Australia and began to plant his first vines by moonlight. Actually an aboriginal word meaning the “land all around”, across five generations and 160 years Yalumba has acquired most of the land around its original Angaston home with holdings all over South Australia and a range of over fifty different wines.

One of the leading proponents of environmentally friendly wine growing and making in Australia, it seems only fitting that Yalubma have marked their environmental credentials with the launch of this Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz. The first winemaker in the world to be awarded with “The Climate Protection Award” by the US Environmental Protection Agency, recognised by the Australian Government’s Greenhouse Office as a “leader” in greenhouse gas management and winner of the “International Green Apple Award” for environmental best practices, Yalumba’s environmental credentials are not in doubt.

The grapes for this 2010 Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz come from two family owned, organically certified vineyards. Organically certified for over ten years, these vineyards belong to the Barich family (in Murray River) and the Strachan family (based in the Sellicks Foothills sub-region of the Mclaren Vale). A cool December and January in 2010 saw the Shiraz grapes in these vineyards ripen slowly through the early part of 2010 before the grapes were harvested at optimal ripeness in early March. The wine was then fermented with naturally occurring wild yeast present in the grapes from the vineyards, with minimal winemaker intervention through until bottling. Unusually for a South Australian Shiraz these days, this Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz has seen no oak aging during the winemaking process, something which ought to allow the natural flavours of the Shiraz grape to shine through without being masked by the sometimes overpowering influence of oak.

Bottled in a low shouldered, “Burgundy”-shaped bottle, this Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz is sealed with a screwcap. One of the pioneers of the screwcap in Australia, Yalumba has been bottling it’s wines like this for over 40 years and has very much set an example to the rest of Australia (along with Hardys, McWilliams, Penfolds and Brown Brothers who also assisted in the development of the screw cap). In this month’s focus on Australian Shiraz, nearly all of the wines reviewed have been sealed with a screwcap.

In the glass, this Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz is an intense and rich ruby in the centre of the glass, losing intensity towards a vivid cranberry hue at the rim. No rusticity or browning is present at the rim of the wine (a product of no oak aging in the winemaking process) although the alcoholic content is fairly obvious on swirling at 14.5% in alcohol.

On the nose, this Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz displays almost hedonistically rich and concentrated forest floor fruit. An initially waft of plum and mulberry languidly overlays and supplements a core of blackberry jam and blueberry. Almost smoky in nature as you approach the glass, as your nose nears the rim it is drawn deeper into the labyrinth of flavours that lurk within it. A very accomplished nose, although one that is lacking in the pepper and spice that for many people defines the nose of South Australian Shiraz. Slightly lacking balance in this respect the opulent fruit simply washes over any spice that may break it up and add texture and interest.

In the mouth though, trademark Shiraz spice does return. Primary pure black and red fruit flavours set the palate of this Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz in motion, soon to be broken up by a ripple of ground pepper that runs through the mid-palate. Moderately long, the palate fades away on a smooth milk chocolate note that contains hints of the blueberry and plum that came before it. Tannins are nicely integrated and a lack of overt oak prevents the finish becoming too sweet or dry. A nicely balanced wine in the mouth, this Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz would last well for up to five years, although it is questionable as to whether this Shiraz has structure and depth to last and develop beyond that. This Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz is potentially a good match for a variety of lighter dishes, rather than the heavier meat dishes that Aussie Shiraz may typically favour.

Slightly stuck in the middle ground between genuine value Aussie Shiraz (at £5/6 per bottle) and more expensive and reputed single vineyard offerings at £10+ per bottle, this Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz is an interesting proposition for shoppers from a price perspective. Priced slightly more expensively than most entry level Shiraz, this Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz offers a genuine level of quality which is rarely found cheaper. However, for just a few pounds more per bottle, fascinating single vineyard and boutique wines can be found. Which a shopper may chose remains open to question...perhaps some more “market research” is in order!

Yalumba Organic South Australia Shiraz (2010)

Score: 84/100 – Enjoyable, un-oaked, pure fruit Shiraz.

Value for Money: 7/10 – Fairly priced. Offers a genuine step up in quality for a small price increment.