After 168 years, Australia’s oldest family owned winery Yalumba launches ‘The Caley’: A Coonawarra ‘super claret’
Australia’s oldest family owned winery, Yalumba has recently launched a wine that has been 168 years in the making – The Caley Coonawarra & Barossa Cabernet & Shiraz. “The Caley is the pinnacle of a long winemaking journey seeking excellence – a ‘super-claret’ that rightfully honours one of Yalumba’s most adventurous sons. It is the result of an unwavering commitment by Yalumba to Australia’s own unique red wine style – Cabernet & Shiraz – from the Galway Clarets of the 1940s, through the Signature and FDR 1A that started in the 60s and 70s and The Reserve that was created in the 1990s. I see it as a symbol of Yalumba’s perseverance and patience – an acknowledgment of the importance of time in crafting great wine,” says vigneron Robert Hill-Smith.
Sourced from Yalumba’s own Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon estates in Coonawarra and two old vine Shiraz vineyards in Barossa (Yalumba’s Horseshoe vineyard and the Burgemeister Linke Block), The Caley is structured for longevity. “The Caley brings together the linear elegance, firm tannins and persistent acid structure of Coonawarra Cabernet with the voluptuous, textural richness of Barossa Shiraz,” Hill-Smith adds.
The wine has been named in honour of Fred Caley Smith, grandson of Yalumba’s founder Samuel Smith. Fred was a horticulturist who had a profound impact on the development of Yalumba’s orchards and vineyards. He is best remembered for an 18-month ground-breaking research journey that he undertook in 1893 and 1894 to the USA, UK, Europe, the Middle East, Sri Lanka and India. The 29 year-old’s detailed and poignant letters to his father, sent home every few days were collected and kept in the Yalumba archive. Over subsequent generations they have provided inspiration and encouragement for the winery’s outward looking international handshake. “Australian wine is at an exciting time in its evolution. It can use an authentic story of aspiration, struggle and persistence. The Caley is that story – of a long journey that is a long way from over,” reminisced the vigneron.
He added, “I felt that given our long history in the making of this quirky blend of Cabernet and Shiraz, a Coonawarra-Barossa creation may yet become our ultimate achievement. Our very Australian-ness is captured in the pragmatism of so many of Australia’s early wines – lyrical creations that were about the wine, not the rules – and The Caley is such a wine. It is a great example of our rich wine culture of experimentation and a willingness to give it a go.”
Established in 1849, Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family owned winery. Having just turned 35, Samuel Smith departed from his hometown of Wareham, Dorset with his wife Mary and their four children. Boarding a three-masted barque called China, the family set sail from Plymouth to Port Adelaide, arriving 11 days before Christmas. After a short time in Adelaide, the family load their possessions into a dray and trek north to a small settlement called Angaston. Samuel works as a gardener for the town’s eponymous Angas family and in 1849 plants his own vineyard with son Sidney.
The settlement of South Australia was drained of men seeking their fortunes in the goldfields of New South Wales and Victoria. Smith was not one to be left behind, returning four months later with £300 of gold. With this he purchases 80 acres of land, two horses and a harness – thereby cementing Yalumba’s place in the world. A year later Yalumba’s first wine is released. By 1858 Smith is dominating the local wine shows – a trend that hasn’t slowed in more than 166 years. Today, Yalumba is led by fifth generation proprietor, Robert Hill-Smith. A fiercely independent fine wine producer, Yalumba is driven by innovation, sustainability and excellence. It is the only winery in the southern hemisphere to have its very own cooperage.
The crafting of oak barrels is a proud tradition at Yalumba with a coopering history dating back to the turn of the 20th century. With its own on-site cooperage, Yalumba is one of a few wineries in Australia, and one of a small and select group of wineries in the world, to enjoy this privilege. The winery selects the oak, then carefully crafts it into barrels to bring even more character to the wines created in the Barossa. The oak chosen adds flavour, aroma and complexity to our wines. It is such an important stage in the winemaking process, that wine maker Kevin ‘KG’ Glastonbury selects the oak himself to ensure an abundance of flavour and that every last drop has the potential to become something great.
After the staves are imported from the best forests in the world, they are fashioned into tightly bound oak barrels that are then fired to delicately toast the wood, creating the perfect home for Yalumba’s wines to develop, until they find their way to the glass. Once seasoned, the oak is delivered into the hands of the Yalumba coopers to be fashioned into barrels. After being carefully cut and manipulated into shape, the cooper then fires the barrels to toast the wood.
The Yalumba coopers employ a long, slow, medium toast, which is proven to be more homogenous and penetrates deeper into the staves. This process helps to eliminate any surface blistering and results in a sweeter more even toast that softens the aromatic compounds. The outcome is a delicate, toast that elevates the natural aromas of the wine and provides the winemaker with a greater control and consistency.