Yalumba, The Caley Vertical 2012 – 2016

Yalumba, The Caley Vertical 2012 – 2016

Notes, thoughts and scores on the finest, five-consecutive-vintage-red-wine-vertical I have ever tasted.  Made even more remarkable by the fact that these are the first five wine made under this label which is named in honour of Fred Caley Smith, a truly remarkable man whose character, memories and achievements are reflected in the nobility and class of this wine.

I encourage you to read his story here – https://www.yalumba.com/archives/fred-caley-smith-explores-new-york-city-1893

How it all started – the inaugural 2012 vintage

Some notes –

Taken from my 100 Best Australian Wines Report 2015-16

‘… a wine without a name except for a word hastily written down on a post-it note at last year’s The Great Australian Red competition – Caley.  2012 Yalumba The Caley, Cabernet / Shiraz is the finest young Yalumba red wine I have ever tasted.  Winner of The Great Australian Red 2014 (see www.thegreataustralianred.com), this wine combines Barossa and Coonawarra Cabernet with Barossa Shiraz and it does it with newfound accuracy and splendour.  I rarely go straight to a 19-point score when judging (not least because 18.5 ensures that the wine is called back for everyone to retaste) but this wine grabbed my attention and didn’t let it go until winemaker Kevin Glastonbury picked up the Trophy 36 hours after the wine first passed my lips.

Taken from my 100 Best Australian Wines Report 2016-17

‘… 2012 Yalumba, The Caley, Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz, which I promised you last year would be released this year, but will not appear on the market until 2017, did something which will never happen again, as long as I live.  It won the title The Great Australian Red for a second year on the trot.  If you consider that 26 judges over two years with over two hundred wines to consider collectively decided on the same wine twice (by only one vote, by one person) this is less likely than winning the lottery, so I have been buying Lotto and EuroMillions tickets ever since.  Needless to say, you have to taste this wine – I opened a totally secret bottle for a group of elite UK wine writers earlier this year to highlight the TGAR competition and further spread the word about this iconic style of wine and they were soon swooning in unison.

Taken from my 100 Best Australian Wines Report 2017-18

For the third year running, I have listed 2012 Yalumba, The Caley, Coonawarra & Barossa Cabernet & Shiraz (£225) in this Report.  It is a previous 20/20 wine that I have tasted on numerous occasions not least when it won the title The Great Australian Red two years in a row (in 2014 and 2015) – a feat that will surely never be surpassed.    Each year I promise that it will be released onto the market and each year Yalumba puts back the date to ensure that this wine is travelling at warp factor 5.2 on launch day.  I can, hand on heart, tell you that this wine will be shown to assembled dignitaries on 25th May 2017, 2 days after my own 100 Best Australian Wines Report launch at Australia House in London.  I tasted it again in February and Yalumba is correct – it seemingly doesn’t matter when this wine is uncorked – every minute more that it gets under its belt further enhances it unquestionable perfection.

The 2013 vintage

Some notes –

Taken from my 100 Best Australian Wines Report 2019-20

2013 Yalumba, The Caley, SA│14.0%│£240

Yalumba winemaker Kevin Glastonbury was in town last October to launch the follow-up vintage to the inaugural and epic 2012 The Caley – Yalumba’s flagship red wine.  2013 is a very different vintage to 2012 with more brawn and grip and so the UK launch for this wine was put back six months to allow the wine a little more time to soften.  2012 was a generous, enveloping style of wine, which followed the vintage conditions exactly.  2013 is a powerhouse, with density, structure and presence, but it is not a heavy wine!  Instead, this is a cerebral, through-provoking number with layer upon layer of savoury, noble fruit.  The differences between the yin and yang of these two vintages are also evident in the blend.  2012 was made of 79% Cabernet (of which 27% was Barossan and the lion’s share was from Coonawarra) and 21% Barossa Shiraz.  In 2013 KG marries 55% Coonawarra Cabernet with 45% Barossa Shiraz.  This makes the 2013 a more ‘historical-Aussie-claret-shaped’ wine and the extra splash of Barossa Shiraz helps to bring flesh to the upright, masterful Cabernet.  The richness here is amazing and I sense that KG actually prefers this wine to the thrilling 2012!  They are clearly both stunning and what I love about this 2013 is that it is fresh and crunchy in spite of its impressive dimensions.   The oak is expertly judged (41% new French barriques made at the Yalumba cooperage) and the tannins are firm but in no way astringent.  I found myself swallowing half a mouthful at the end of the tasting and the sensation was not that of a brutally young wine but of a mellow and serious creature.  I think that KG is rather pleased that the 2012 and 2013 vintages are so different because it shows how much effort and understanding goes into making and blending this stellar creation.  Like the counterpoint between the lush 1998 and the initially ‘quiet’ 1999 vintages in Barossa, these two releases will maintain their individual but independent characters forever.

The 2016 vintage

Taken from my MoneyWeek Magazine article 18th June 2021 (https://moneyweek.com/spending-it/wine/603398/wine-of-the-week-2016-yalumba-perfect-australian-red)

I am so passionate about the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz that, back in 2006, I started an annual competition in Australia with Aussie wine scribe and great friend Tyson Stelzer, entitled The Great Australian Red, to determine the finest wine that is made from what I call, ‘the blend that defines Australia’.  I believe that this partnership makes some of the most legendary red wines on earth.  Penfolds Bin 389, Wolf Blass Black Label and Yalumba’s own Signature are three awe-inspiring interpretations of this historic style of fine red wine.  Back in 2014, an unlabelled 2012 vintage wine from Yalumba won TGAR and the next year the very same wine won the title again.  The chances of this happening are akin to a lottery win.  This wine was eventually released as 2012 Yalumba The Caley – Yalumba’s inaugural, super-premium, flagship red wine.  Each release since has been nothing short of epic.  I tasted the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and my featured and soon to be released 2016 the other day and declared it the finest five consecutive vintage ‘vertical’ I have ever tasted.  I awarded the 2012 a perfect 20/20 score and this wine’s subsequent vintages have never dipped below 19/20.  The 2016 arrives in the autumn and you can reserve your stock now.  A maximum of 250 cases is made so it is one of the rarest great red wines on earth.  I awarded this 2016 another perfect 20/20 in my notes.  You read about it here first and you can see detailed tasting notes of each wine on my website if you would like to learn more about this cosmic creation.

Some thoughts and some scores

There is an enormous amount of information on these wines on the www.yalumba.com website and I wholeheartedly encourage you to take some time to read all about them and also to watch the film, too.  But for a quick snapshot here are the stats and also my own thoughts and scores on all five wines.

2012 Yalumba, The Caley

79% Cabernet Sauvignon (of which 27% is Barossa and the rest is Coonawarra) & 23% Shiraz (Barossa)

14% alc

6.7g/L TA

3.57 pH

Harvested 2nd – 20th March

You can see my notes above.  20+/20

2013 Yalumba, The Caley

55% Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra) & 45% Shiraz (Barossa)

14% alc

6.9g/L TA

3.44 pH

Harvested 23rd February – 25th March

You can see my notes above.  19.5+/20

2014 Yalumba, The Caley

82% Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra) & 18% Shiraz (Barossa)

14% alc

6.2g/L TA

3.52 pH

Harvested 28th February – 6th May

This wine was lined up for inclusion in my 100 Best Australian Wines Report 2020-21, which was due to be launched last May, but thanks to the global pandemic it was pushed back a few times and then abandoned.  In fact, there was a time when I thought I might be able to feature both this wine and the 2015 vintage in the same Report, which sounds bonkers when you consider that the inaugural 2012 vintage was featured in three consecutive Reports because of its postponed release.  How times change and how unpredictable is the world that we live in?  Anyway, when Robert and Jess Hill Smith launched this wine at 5 Hertford Street, in London prior to the pandemic,  I remember writing (rather cheekily) that this was the finest Cabernet Sauvignon that Yalumba had ever made.  Half tongue in cheek, but also half-seriously, if the percentage of Shiraz had dipped below the 15% mark this could have been labelled as a straight Cabernet.  Certainly from a taste point of view, Cabernet leads the way, but Shiraz does such an epic job here, too, even though mathematically it looks like its involvement ought to be minimal.  Granted, Cabernet forms the theme, like a huge and ornate mosaic of stunning flavour.  But without Shiraz, filling in the gaps, the flaws, the cracks, the missing pieces and the imperceptible imperfections in this Cabernet-dominant masterpiece, this wine would simply not be complete.  True to the recipe – there is no recipe.  This is the best wine of the vintage with the finest balance, the most alluring ingredients and the most Cab/Shiraz honesty and integrity and so when KG worked his magic, the percentages fell out at 82/18 and it will forever be remembered as the highest Cabernet percentage of all (until a vintage comes along with an 83% slice of Cab).  I love this wine.  It is thrillingly perfumed, superbly sleek, effortlessly sexy and there is a real ‘Aussie claret’ note about it which ought to make the Titans on the Left Bank blush.  19+/20

2015 Yalumba, The Caley

74% Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra) & 26% Shiraz (Barossa)

14% alc

6.5g/L TA

3.49 pH

Harvested 13th February – 2nd April

This was the other vintage that I have been prevented from writing about until now.  I usually want to save great wines like this for inclusion in an edition of my 100 Best Australian Wines Report, not least because it is the most important Aussie effort I make each year but, as I noted above, there hasn’t been a 100 Best Report for nearly two years, thanks to dreaded Covid-19.  I happen to think that this is the most ostentatious and exotic of the quintet and it seems to me that this is the wine that is most likely to appeal equally to amateurs and also wine trade professionals because it is so exuberant and so delicious at the same time as showing so much detail and class.  KG describes it as having attributes of the 2012, the 2013 and the 2014 all combined and aligned in the same glass.  This is a fascinating observation and I can see what he means.  In a funny sort of way it tasted more like a Shiraz/Cabernet than a Cabernet/Shiraz, but there are no rules in the world of The Great Australian Red and so, as the Yalumba mantra goes, you have the freedom (and also the pressure) to make the very best wine possible in each year.  Don’t forget that this is an extremely rare wine – one-fortieth or one-fiftieth of the production of the Grands Vins from some of the legendary Châteaux in Bordeaux!   I love the 2015 and I feel that it is an ambassador The Caley for the world on account of its gregarious nature and I hope that as many people as possible will be able to taste it so they realise just how special it is and also just how seriously Australia and Yalumba takes this style of wine.  19.5+/20

2016 Yalumba, The Caley

71% Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra) & 29% Shiraz (Barossa)

21 months in 25% new Yalumba-coopered French barriques

14% alc

6.5g/L TA

3.51 pH

Harvested 23rd February – 25th March

You have seen my MoneyWeek article above and this time that is all you are getting.  This wine WILL feature in my 100 Best Australian Wines Report 2021-22, which WILL be released this year.  Forgive me for the capitals, but I have had enough of this pandemic and so I am pressing on regardless.  You already know my score, but here it is again and it certainly bears repeating.  But before I type this perfect number again I would like to inform you that I tasted 450 bottles of 2020 En Primeur Bordeaux this year and I would, of course, love you to download this Report from this website.  The reason for mentioning this is that none of them warranted a perfect score, so I hope that this underlines just how remarkable it is that The Caley has done this twice in five years and also, with an average of 19.6/20, this accounts for my lofty headline at the top of this article.  20++/20

An important final word.  If you would like to dip your toe in the Yalumba The Great Australian Red pond before you put your hand in your pocket for The Caley, then I urge you to seek out Yalumba’s heroic ‘The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz’.  Pick any vintage you can find (they are all superb and this wine is widely sold) and you will have to shell out around £35 (Waitrose stocks the phenomenal 2016 for £33.99) and I venture that this will convince you of their prodigious skill with this legendary blend.

A note on my scores – The absence of a ‘+’ indicates a wine that is in balance and can be enjoyed relatively young thanks to its precocity and charm.  One ‘+’ indicates a wine that will benefit from medium-term ageing (in accordance with the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes.