Yalumba The Cigar Cabernet
Known for it’s long term cellaring potential, Cabernet Sauvignon has once again become the world’s most widely planted grape varietal.
As of 2015, the grape accounted for about 314,000 hectares under vines around the globe and that number is only increasing!
The success of the grape is perhaps due to its adaptability and versatility. While the varietal originated in France through a chance crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc its influence has spread across the globe from the Americas (notably California’s Napa Valley and Santa Cruz Mountains and in Chile, Colchagua and Maipo Valley) to South Africa ( Stellenbosch) and even New Zealand ( Hawke’s Bay).
In Australia, Cabernet has made a real impact in the Margaret River in the West and notably, the Coonawarra in South Australia. Such is the success of the grape that those regions are now recognized globally for producing world-class examples of the style.
We perhaps tend to take our good fortune for granted because there are so many exquisite cabernet wines on the shelves of our local bottleshops at prices that represent outstanding value. You certainly wouldn’t find a 90 plus pointer from a winery in Bordeaux (noting that most of their cabernet is blended) selling at a sub $50 price point. But in the Coonawarra, there are any number of producers whose Cabernet rates well above 90 points yet offer it to consumers at only a very modest asking price.
The Coonawarra has been making table wines for over 120 years after the region was first developed as a fruit orchard in the mid 1800’s. It was Scotsman John Riddoch who was the pioneer of the local wine industry and to this day, his name is synonymous with quality cabernet from the district. And the uniqueness of the local cabernet is a product of the Terra Rossa (red) clay soils which are a product of the weathering of limestone in the presence of iron oxide. It’s perfect terroir as the limestone assists in water retention while the soil adds to the grape flavour, character and assists in developing a voluptuous ripeness over a long cool ripening season.
The strip of precious terra rossa soil is known by Coonawarra locals as “The Cigar” due to its distinctive elongated shape. And Yalumba have recycled the moniker as the name for one of their cabernets from their famed Menzies Vineyard. It’s a wine that typically rates at around 90 – 92 points from good judges like James Halliday and Robert Parker but sells at only around $30 a bottle. I’m not going to suggest that it’s up there with its stablemate, The Yalumba Menzies Cabernet, but that’s a headline act that sells at about twice the price.
The 2015 vintage of The Cigar is the current release and like previous years, it’s sealed under cork. It’s a nice touch but signals that the wine is held in high regard by its maker, Natalie Cleghorn. The season wasn’t great for quantity as bunch numbers were low, but a dry December and January kept the berries small meaning that the fruit was intense in colour and concentrated in flavour and tannin.
The depth of crimson red colour is typical of the region. Give the glass a swirl or two and you’ll pick up notes of violet, licorice and white pepper, before the ripe blueberries appear with the first sip and partner on the mid palate with characters of spicy plum, savoury cassis and a leafy herbaceous undercurrent. But the real pleasure of The Cigar is in the conclusion where the praline chewy tannins meld in a spicy eucalyptus laced finale and persist until the next sip is taken. Just perfect with slow-cooked barbecue beef ribs!