Yalumba Releases the 2016 Vintage of The Caley Cabernet Shiraz

Yalumba's flagship The Caley

© Photo provided

Yalumba's flagship The Caley

Yalumba's flagship The Caley

© Photo provided

The 2016 vintage of The Caley, Yalumba’s flagship wine, is the fifth release of the Cabernet-Shiraz blend that was created to honour Fred Caley Smith, a family ancestor whose detailed letters provide much inspiration for the estate’s viticultural approach today – especially in terms of sustainability.

The first five vintages

The first vintage was 2012, released in 2017. A wine has been released every year since, expressing vintage variation through the prism of Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra and Shiraz from the Barossa – with some additions of Eden Valley Shiraz.

The adventurous ancestor

Fred Caley Smith, grandson of Yalumba founder Samuel Smith, was a horticulturist who spent 18 months trekking across the USA, Britain, Europe, the Middle East, India and Sri Lanka in the 1890s, observing scientific and horticultural developments and reporting back to his family in frequent letters and four detailed journals that the Hill-Smiths had transcribed by archivists. What he learned had a profound impact on Yalumba’s vineyards. “Caley was the oldest son of the third generation. It was his right to take over the family business,” says Jessica Hill-Smith, Caley’s great grandniece, explaining how his curiosity drove his desire to learn and explore. She said that Caley’s father agreed to this grand tour “on the proviso that his son would write regularly and report. This was a 29-year-old man who had grown up in Angaston, South Australia, population 200. He landed in San Francisco first and throughout that time and his travels he opened up new markets and met experts everywhere he went.”

Creating a benchmark

For more than a decade, the family had also wanted to create a benchmark. “A wine that sits above everything else we do at Yalumba and that can sit alongside the famous wines of the world,” Hill-Smith says. “We felt like honouring him with the wine was the right time to bring the story alive.” That this wine had to be a blend was clear: “We knew it had to be a Cabernet-Shiraz, it has been part of our history, we have old clarets that date back to the early 1900s. Claret, then, for Australians, was Cabernet-Shiraz, it is part of our identity.”

The perfect year

Yalumba’s winemaker Kevin Glastonbury explains how 2012 was the perfect year in which to blend the inaugural Caley. “2012 was an amazing vintage in South Australia – it gave us the opportunity to blend across regions. If you could tick every box, this is the year that did: perfect winter rainfall, just enough heat, a perfect growing season. Intense fruit and structure.”

The verdict

With the release of the 2016 vintage, Yalumba have now presented a very neat vertical of a wine that speaks as much of its Australian heritage – the wines could simply not be from anywhere else – as of innate elegance. It would have been easy to go for sheer power and muscle, but they chose not to. Like its namesake Fred Caley Smith, the wine treads lightly and knowingly.