I always get a kick out of Australian wine names and labels. They seem to have a lot of fun with them. Take for instance the “Dead Arm Shiraz” or the Laughing Magpie. Both are very serious wines, with names that would never garner respect in the old U.S. of A. Then along comes Yalumba’s “The Signature”. One would assume from the name and the serious looking label that this is a wine that takes itself seriously, like a good Napa cult cab. Then you read the back label, and you realize the Aussies are at it again, funny as ever. You see, “The Signature” is a very fine wine that is intended to honor one of Yalumba’s important employees every year. The honoree gets to sign the back label, and the winery writes a short biography of the honoree on the back label. For 2001, the honorary recipient was Geoff Linton, the technical manager for Yalumba for thirty years. Now I have never met Mr. Linton, nor have I ever seen him for that matter. But one assumes from the back label that he must be a rather portly fellow. And he must have a good sense of humor as well. Rather than honor the fellow, they just about roasted him! The biography starts “Corpulent and round he sits, carefully filling a spoonful of lemon curd tartlet….the pizza and scallops are long gone.” What a way to honor someone! Perhaps we can take a lesson from our friends down under and stop being so up-tight all the time. I’m sure the roast was done with a friendly demeanor, and not meant to offend. That label would never survive in America.
Back label not withstanding, The Signature by Yalumba is a very serious wine. For those unfamiliar with Yalumba, it is sort of like the Robert Mondavi of Australia. It is a huge winery. Just like Mondavi runs the gamut from $150 dollar Opus One to 6-dollar Woodbridge, so runs the gamut at Yalumba. For those whose exposure to Yalumba has only been on the lower end, you are missing out on some great juice at the upper end. Yalumba’s priciest wines (The Reserve and Octavius) generally sell in the one hundred dollar range. The Signature can oftentimes be almost as good, at least in some years, and can usually be had in the $40 range. Not cheap, but reasonable for the quality. Mr. Parker seems to have fallen in love with this one, heaping mid 90’s scores on recent vintages. For 2001, The Signature was 60%Cabernet Sauvignon, and 40% Shiraz (the Aussies call it Shiraz, we call it Syrah, but it is the same grape). It was aged in American and French oak. Although I am usually not a fan of decanting, as it allows too much bouquet to escape, this is clearly a wine that benefits from a short breather before consumption, at least if drank now. For those who like a mouth puckering tannic wine, drink this wine now, and drink it without decanting. It is a real in your face tannic brute. My father would love this wine. I like my tannins a little tamer, so I had to let it sit for a good half hour or more. It was just a little too tannic and oaky for my taste on first pour. After a brief sitting spell, I revisited the Signature and found that it settled down nicely. When paired with something hearty, this can be a compelling wine. The bouquet didn’t fade, despite my decanting, which is a nice sign of quality. It has a lot of fruit. Mostly blackberry and raisin. If you like peppery, full bodied thick “stick to your tongue” wines, this is for you. If your tastes run more towards silky smooth wines, stay away. I suspect that I drank this wine a little too early in its life. It clearly has the backbone to last at least another 15 or 20 years. I think it probably won’t realize it’s full potential until about 2009 or so. I enjoyed the wine, but wished I kept it longer before popping it open. I have a few more bottles, and they will be moved to the back of the cellar for now. This wine has great promise. In summary, I give it 3 1/2 stars for drinking now. I give it 4 1/2 stars for those with cellars and the patience to let it mature. And 5 stars to Mr. Linton, who must be a great sport. Thanks for the thirty years of wine dedication!
Region: Barossa, South Australia
* Prior Wine of the Week Winner!