Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Wines of the week… Is $365 too much to pay for a bottle?

Would you ever spend $365 on a bottle of wine? If so, what would make you dig that deep?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering a lot lately, after tasting Yalumba’s new red, The Caley, named after Fred Caley Smith, a grandson of Samuel Smith (founder of Yalumba Wines) and a man whose wide global travels helped horticulture and viticulture in South Australia so much that he was made an honorary horticultural commissioner for the South Australian Government in the late 1990s.

This year, Yalumba Wines sent me three bottles of The Caley from 2013, 2014 and 2015 to taste at an online event hosted by winemaker Kevin Glastonbury and Jessica Hill-Smith.

The Caley is a blend of two grapes and two regions. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are not typically blended together, unless you’re in Australia. The two regions are Coonawarra (home to the Cabernet Sauvignon from The Menzies Vineyard) and Barossa Valley (home to the Shiraz).

Price aside, I am impressed by the wines, which are given all the full winemaking treatment. Long maturation in oak provides next level controlled oxidative maturation and smoothness to these wines, of which the 2015 was my top pick.

I am still pondering the price.

Will The Caley take on Penfold’s Grange to rival it at auction in years to come as a highly collectible showpiece? Perhaps, but the price is beyond my budget. That said, I like this wine enough to rate it highly and make it a wine of the week.

Happy weekend wine-ing.

Wine of the week

2015 The Caley $365, 19/20

The first vintage of The Caley was first released in 2012 and it has since been made from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages. It is a classic unconvental Australian blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz from Coonawarra and the Barossa Valley, respectively. The percentage of new oak wine is high, as is the wine’s maturation time. Every vintage of The Caley that’s been made to date has had 21 months of maturation in barrel, with high proportions of new oak. Winemaker Kevin Glastonbury says the aim is to have about 40% new oak, which may drop back to 35% over time. This vintage, the 2015, had 46% new oak and the wine tastes full bodied, spicy and has powerful notes of cedar and secondary complexity but it’s the structure of the ripe Cabernet Sauvignon which leads this savoury, black olive and dried herb tasting red wine from Yalumba.

It’s a keeper. You could tap into it now, given the wine is five years old but give it another decade and it will start to reveal the aged dark fruit and floral perfume that the great Cabernets of the world are revered for.

Yalumba Wines was founded by Samuel Smith in 1849 at Angaston in the Barossa Valley, South Australia.