Yangarra Estate Vineyard makes some of the best red wines I have tasted from Australia in recent years, and to understand why, I thought it might be useful to start with what Yangarra’s three new releases are not.
First, they are not generic, as so many reasonably priced reds from Australia can be. Second, they are not unwieldy victims of a massive, over-the-top fruit style. And third, their use of oak is judicious and doesn’t hit you over the head like a two-by-four.
We’ll get to what the wines are about in a moment. But first, the Yangarra estate is located in the coolest part of the McLaren Vale region of South Australia and has 250 acres of vines, mainly the Mediterranean varieties shiraz (syrah) and grenache among the reds and viognier and roussanne among the whites.
The three new releases, all from the 2007 vintage, are Yangarra’s McLaren Vale Shiraz, Old Vine Grenache and Cadenzia, a blend of grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre. They have a suggested price of $25, which, while not inexpensive, represents superb value for wines with this kind of finesse.
Bright and refreshing
Yangarra’s Web site offers some insights into how this quality is achieved, from a reliance on wild yeasts for fermentation (as opposed to artificial yeasts that are often used to create a specific flavor profile), to aging in mainly seasoned barrels (those that have been used before), which impart a more subtle oak profile than new wood, to the estate’s superb soils, the remains of an ancient mountain range.
As I reviewed my notes on the three wines, I noticed that I used the word “bright” in describing each of them. That brightness, of course, comes from relatively high acidity that balances the ripe and generous fruit. I also liked them just slightly chilled, which made them all the more refreshing at this time of year.
The Shiraz has notes of cassis and blackberry, earth, sage and mocha, while the Old Vine Grenache has a similar earthiness but with cherry and black cherry fruit and a dark chocolate accent. The Cadenzia goes back to the blackberry and sage combined with a green olive note and a vanilla touch.
The right combination
A favorite? I’ll have to pass on that question because I enjoyed each wine immensely. While I think of them mainly as meat wines, (mix in some fresh herbs as you grill steak, lamb, pork or even chicken), I also enjoyed the Cadenzia with a thick and savory pasta sauce simmered down with fresh tomatoes, onions and lots of diced eggplant.
A year or so ago, when I tasted the 2006 vintage of these wines, I thought something was missing, and the ‘07s helped me put my finger on what it was: elegance. The ‘07s are slightly lower in alcohol (all are just under 15 percent) and, I suspect, a bit higher in acidity.
With its ‘07 reds, Yangarra hits the right combination — serious, substantial wines that are also fun and easy to drink, which is just what I’m looking for in my wines.