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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
6 Dec 2013

From $13.99, Aus$17.39, €11.80, £10.99, NZ$22.99

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The 2011 grape harvest was billed as the vintage from hell in South Australia but I have found quite a few 2011s made there to rave about. I absolutely loved S C Pannell Shiraz 2011 McLaren Vale, for instance, though this seems to be available exclusively in Australia and at about three times the price of this delightful and widely available antipodean answer to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, albeit much more mature than any 2011 or 2012 Châteauneuf would be.

For this wine to be easy to find in the US at under $15 or £11 a bottle (far less than it costs in Australia), Yalumba, 'Australia's oldest family-owned winery' as it is proud of pointing out, must surely be swallowing some profit on export markets. And for a wine made from 30- to 70-year-old vines, certified by Barossa's old vine guardians, it is a veritable bargain. It's also a sign of the rehabilitation of Grenache in Australia. The country has a grand total of nearly 1,800 ha of this old variety, most of it in Barossa, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale. This is a drop in the ocean of Shiraz produced by the 42,000 ha of Australian's dominant red wine grape planted all over the country, but this particular wine shows just how charming South Australian Grenache can be. When I first tasted the 2011, I found it a bit treacly but when I re-tasted it recently it had settled down into a lovely mature wine about which I wrote 'Pale ruby. Warm, gentle nose that approaches you in a cloud. The opposite of heavy though with a dried tobacco leaf finish after lots of gentle sweetness. Mild and friendly. Very recognisable antipodean relative of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Certified old vines in the Barossa scheme. VGV' (My Purple Pages abbreviation for 'very good value'.)

This is one of the wines regularly listed by Majestic in the UK so I was able to taste the 2012 recently and noted it as: 'Soft and gentle. Tugs at your sleeve rather than shouts at you. Interestingly dry on the end but the tannins have been well managed. Clearly old vines. GV'. The bad news is that the price has gone up. The Majestic price for the 2011 was £9.99 if two bottles were bought whereas the 2012 is £13.74 and £10.99 if two bottles are bought.

Here's what Robert Hill Smith (cousin of Michael Hill Smith MW of Shaw+Smith) and his team have to say about the 2011: 'Yalumba is extremely fortunate to have a resource of very old, gnarled bush vines which produce low yields of Grenache. A range of terroir can be seen across the different vineyards, from sandy soils to sandy loam to red-brown earth over red clay. To maximise our blending options, all batches of Yalumba Barossa Bush Vine Grenache are crushed as separate parcels. Some batches retain their stems to help contribute another flavour dimension. The wild yeasts present on the grape skins are allowed to initiate fermentation and, once that has progressed, cultured winery yeasts are added. Particular batches are then selected to remain on skins post-fermentation, further contributing to greater complexity and individuality. After draining and pressing of skins all batches are racked to barrel for maturation.' The notes on the 2012 vintage are creditably slightly different and a little more detailed.

I'll spare you their tasting notes, while noting that they recommend the following food matches: 'a juicy roast, or poached pork belly, joined with roast capsicum, coriander and cashew pesto'. and several other independent UK merchants are offering the 2011 for around £11.75 and it is widely available around the world, not just in the US but Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and even Fiji, according to, as well, of course, as Australia and New Zealand.

I hardly need say that this wine is screwcapped … Rather to my surprise, I see that this is the first time we have chosen an Australian wine of the week for at least six months. See our collection of 130 tasting notes on recently tasted Australian wines published this week.

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