A sneak peak from 'The Decanter Interview' Decanter Magazine, Feburary 2014 Edition
An aristocrat of the Australian winemaking industry, Robert Hill-Smith is a scion of one of the country’s most historic winemaking families. However, it’s his vision for the future that has turned Yalumba into a dynamic global success story, writes Adam Lechmere.
Passion for Viognier
Jukes also mentions the ‘huge camaraderie’ of Yalumba, which is evident to anyone who visits the handsome stone winery at Angaston. People enjoy working for Hill-Smith; most of his employees have been there more than 20 years. Low staff turnover is the surest sign of a happy company. I think what they like is his rather quixotic attitude. There’s his dedication to Viognier, for example. There are very few producers of singlevarietal Viognier in Australia and none come near to Yalumba’s comprehensive range, which goes from the Y Series Viognier, through the Eden Valley and up to the flagship The Virgilius, a wine which matures beautifully into something luscious and spicy, as I saw with the marvellously opulent yet precise 2003. Hill-Smith lays all the credit for this at the feet of Louisa Rose, his longstanding and low-key winemaker. ‘The Viognier project was going nowhere until Louisa came on board in 1995,’ he says. ‘They were flavourless, neutral, dry whites until we saw the fundamental importance of the winemaker getting into the vineyard.’ Once down among the vines, Rose and her boss noticed the flavours in the juice changing at about 12% potential alcohol. ‘It started getting really flavourful, with real personality,’ up to between 13% and 13.5%, he says. With strict yield control and canopy management, Rose stripped out flavours that were ‘overbearing and hot… a tropical onslaught’, and arrived at a style that has definition, power and finesse, from the Y Series and up.
‘There are few producers of single-varietal Viognier in Australia and none come near to Yalumba’s comprehensive range, which goes from the Y Series Viognier up to the flagship The Virgilius’
Adam Lechmere is a freelance wine journalist and former editor of Decanter.com
**Yalumba will have a number of their Viognier's available for tasting during ProWein**