Negociants' Icon Tasting

Published by Sally on December 24, 2010

The Hill-Smiths are a pioneering Aussie winemaking family, with history dating to the mid 1800s.



As owners of Yalumba they are members of Austalia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW), and they also own a number of other wines including Pewsey Vale, Heggies Vineyard, and Redbank Wines

A fellow member of AFFW, Jim Barry, owned by the Barry family, is distributed by the Hill-Smiths’ import and distribution company, Negociants.

They recently held a tasting in London of what they call the icon wines, i.e. pretty much the posh kit.  And well worth searching out it is too.

Tasting notes, London, November 2010

Jim Barry, The Florita Riesling 2008, Clare Valley, ~£24
11.5%. Intense lime juice and pith nose. Palate with exotic notes of quince and marjoram. Intense plentiful fruit, in dry, steely style. Purity of fruit, very clean and precise.

Jim Barry, The Armargh Shiraz 2006, Clare Valley, ~£90
15.5%. Dark, bitter chocolate-dipped roasted plums, savoury old wooded toasty notes. Savoury, tarry, dense, sweet, almost porty elements coming through. Butch and muscular.

Jim Barry, The Benbournie Cabernet sauvignon 2002, South Australia, ~£56
15%. Spicy with some fruitcake development on the nose; smooth tannins, nicely melded. Alcohol is well integrated, and the palate still has richly sweet primary fruit; not much palate evidence of bottle age. Big, soft, then a hint of savoury at the finish is the only suggestion of an older wine.  

Jim Barry, The First Eleven Cabernet sauvignon 2006, Coonawarra, ~£23 
14.5%. Reticent nose, then linear blackcurrant fruit attack, smoothly textured, warm big fruit, no great subtlety. Rather chewy tannins, and rather grippy around the edges.

Jim Barry, The McRae Wood Shiraz 2005, Clare Valley, ~£24
15.5%. Smoky, tarry, chewy nose, fine-grained almost velvety texture. Dark, rich plums, tar, sweet dark chocolate, lush, sweet, fruit, in a big, well toned body-built structure. Lushly smooth. Good. Everything well proportioned in a big frame and in the right place.   

Heggies Vineyard, Chardonnay 2009, Eden Valley, ~£13 
13.5%. Creamy, toasted vanilla nose, nicely done overt new oak with fresh, lifting aromatically spiced citrus mid palate. Linear, elongated in mouth profile, with fresh core and elements of elegant restraint. Good.

Heggies Vineyard, Reserve Chardonnay 2007, Eden Valley, ~£16 
13%. Smoky, dried citrus nose, with light caramel notes and fine-grained texture. A big wine holding itself in check with some aplomb. Ginger and cinnamon aromatics among the medium bodied sweet flesh of ripe, baked citrus fruits. Finishing with a light mocha note of complexity.

Jansz NV, Tasmania, ~£14 
Chardonnay dominated blend, with pinot noir. 12.5%.
Poached pears, and Nice biscuits, with smooth, fine mousse, fresh, and fruit-forward palate of pears, apples and allspice-infused citrus. Ripe fruits with a good density and intensity of fresh fruit, nicely balanced. Good. I like this for its uncomplicated simplicity.

Jansz 2005, Tasmania, ~£20
Five years on lees. Chardonnay 51%, pinot noir 49%; 12.5%.
Brioche and dried spiced citrus fruit skins. Fine mousse, with a fresh core amid ripe, sweet fruits. It has complexing savoury, doughy character emerging, nicely balanced with good volume of fruit and a decent length of finish.

Mesh, Riesling 2009, Eden Valley, ~£17 
A joint venture between Robert Hill-Smith and Jeffrey Grosset, of Grosset Wines.
12%. Fennel and preserved lemon nose. Herbal complexity in linear profile, Less in a pure, primary fruit mould, more into the herbal, stony, almost gunflinty spectrum. Smooth and layered, but then not quite as long a finish as the palate promised. Still with a firm, steely finish. Good.

Pewsey Vale Vineyard, Riesling 2010, Eden Valley, ~£11
13%. Lime pith and jasmine nose, fresh, limey attack, smooth and finely textured, with some sophistication of palate length and profile. Pure lime zest with aromatic complexity from jasmine and fresh ginger.  Long finish. Good and elegant.  

Pewsey Vale Vineyard, The Contours Riesling 2005, Eden Valley, ~£14 
13%. Citrus, kerosene with lanolin notes just beginning to emerge. Dense palate flavour with aromatic smokiness and hints of toastiness coming through the lime and steeliness. Long finish.

Redbank, The Anvil Shiraz 2006, Beechworth, ~£25
14.5%. Dark fruit, bitter chocolate, complex nose, smooth palate attack, sophisticated and gentle attack which persists. Alcohol not really noticeable. Dark chocolate, liquorice-stick, aromatic-tarry mid palate notes. Yet not much more than medium bodied. Silkily textured and refined. Smooth, fine, deeply flavoursome, with some savoury graphite notes. Serious and very good.

Vasse Felix, Heytesbury Chardonnay 2008, Margaret River, ~£23 
13%. Aromatic tar with sweet cinnamon and allspice-infused fresh oranges and lemons. Tropical notes emerge mid palate in this nearly full bodied style. Creamy, ginger-spiced double cream on the finish gives weight to this wine’s fat and breadth. Balanced and integrated in an overt, modern style.

Vasse Felix, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Margaret River, ~£18 
14%. Herbal hint of tar and green pepper on the nose. Smooth fresh, crunchy black berry and black currant palate attack. Silkily smooth fruit texture. Some nice refinement and elegance of silky tannin structure here. More-ish. Medium bodied, elegant, sophisticated, with upright backbone. Long in the palate length and finish. Very good.

Vasse Felix, Heytesbury 2007, Margaret River, ~£35
14.5%. Cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petit verdot. 
Spice and cedarwood, sandalwood, medium plus weighted, open knit, mildly chewy youthful texture. Baked red fruits – cherry, forest berry fruits. Big, soft fruits of high concentration, and some complexity. Big fruits, fleshy rather than muscular.  Decent finish. Good.

Yalmuba, Viognier 2009, Eden Valley, ~£12
14.5%. Apricot, peachy and ginger nose, very clear varietal definition. Smooth, glycerol-slippery texture, alcohol fully integrated in the mid palate. Full-fat body, toastily spicy in its typical, straightforward style.

Yalumba, The Virgilius Viognier 2009, Eden Valley, ~£25 
14%. Reticent nose, silky texture the first thing that hits the palate, quickly followed by a blanketing peachy, creamy fruit in a serious expression of viognier. Full-fat body, slippery sweet texture, spicy depth and non-overt sweet concentration. A wine that demands attention. Long finish. Good.

Yalumba, FDR1A 2006, Barossa, ~£20
14%. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.  (Fine Dry Red, barrel selection 1A) 
Deeply coloured, with spicy, herbal nose,liquorice-sweet attack and sweet, dense black berried fruits. Succulent, silky textured and sophisticated, though warmth of alcohol comes through at end.  Small price to pay for sweet, lush fruit and linear-textured profile. Good.

Yalumba, The Signature 2005, Barossa, ~£27 
14.5%. Cabernet sauvignon / shiraz.
Warm, spicy, minty, in a rich, traditional Barossa style – big, fat, mouth-filling, lush, sweet, all -enveloping. All held together well with a glycerol thickness. Big sweet fruit, spicy, stewed black berries, liquorice stick and herbal – thyme.  Warm, thick finish. Good.

Yalumba, The Reserve 2002, Barossa, ~£49 
14%. Cabernet sauvignon and shiraz
Sweet vanilla and characterful, stalky brambles on the nose, and followed up on palate. Tannins smoothing out nicely, still immense primary fruit, very little fruitcake of bottle age, just a gentle melding of tannin. Big softie and nice for that.

Yalumba, The Cigar 2008, Coonawarra, ~£14
14%. Cabernet sauvignon
Black cherry and allspice/cinnamon nose, smooth, finely crushed black berry fruit, with fresh backbone, medium bodied, and with alcohol well integrated.  Freshness is the  key driver here, with crunchy, fresh fruit, nothing baked or stewed. Fine grained youthful texture. Long finish. Very good.

Yalumba, The Octavius 2004, Barossa, ~£49
14.5%. Old Vine Shiraz
Red cherry and victoria plum spiciness on the nose. Smooth, bright cherry, youthful fruit, no sign of bottle age. Mid palate complexity aided by floral perfume. Young and crunchy-fruited still, with hints of milk coffee and warm mulling spices. Smooth and textured. Complex and very good.

Yalumba, Hand Picked 2007, Barossa, ~£18
14.5%. Shiraz-viognier
Gentle mocha, spiced red berries with smooth-aromatic palate attack. Hint of bitter phenolics on the mid palate, which is gentle and a bit loose. 

Yalumba, The Menzies 2005, Coonawarra, ~£27 
14.5%. Cabernet sauvignon
Dark, charcoal and mocha nose. Hints of fresh leather savouriness emerging on the palate. Aromatic tarry core, full bodied, sweet black fruit, dark, brooding, fat and still lushly sweet. Black berry fruits emerge to greater concentration on the palate. Smooth, rounded, full, with big, softie tannins, in a brash style. Good. 

Yalumba, Fromm Vineyard Shiraz 2006, Barossa Valley, ~£35
14%. Single site at Lyndoch
Lifted, red cherry, cranberry fruits, with richly toasted oak coming through on the palate;  dark fruits, charcoal notes and rich chewy tannins. Big, quite butch, pretty classic Barossa valley expression.  Big and fruitfully chewy.

Yalumba, Hahn Farm Vineyard Shiraz 2006, Barossa Valley, ~£35
14%. Single site at Light Pass
Dark, ripe stalky nose. Sweetly luscious dark berried fruit. Slippery texture, dark berries, big and fat and rather loosely structured, without clear definition of backbone.

Yalumba, The Scribbler 2008, Barossa, ~£12
14.5%. Cabernet sauvignon – shiraz
Herbal and liquorice nose mellowing into spicy red berry fruits in a lifted, fresh-fruit-salad sort of spectrum, with fresh acidity to the core which lifts the bearing of the wine. Gentle texture, with focus on the fruit and spice. Finely textured, warming, with an attractive degree of elegance for a wine of this alcohol.

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