Have you ever been to Yalumba Family Winemakers before?

Up until recently, I hadn’t. I knew about it, I had enjoyed a few of their wines, but I had never visited. So when I finally got myself to the Barossa to meet with Yalumba’s Wine Rooms & Events Manager, Sally Johnson, I was absolutely blown away by the historical charm, character and beauty of the property. I honestly thought “how have I never been here before?!”

Thanks to an extensive array of outstanding offerings at their Cellar Door, Yalumba Family Winemakers have won the 2020 Best of Wine Tourism Awards for the Wine Tourism Services category. Even though Yalumba is Australia’s Oldest Family Owned winery, the team at Yalumba have been working very hard for the last two years creating a range of unique wine experiences for their guests. This is Yalumba’s first Best of Wine Tourism Award and for them, it is a great recognition for the effort and hard work that has gone into building a portfolio of world-class experiences. In addition to a variety of wine flights, the incredible experiences on offer include:

  • ‘Yalumba Unearthed,’ a master class showcasing six of Yalumba’s finest wines.
  • The ‘Yalumba Cooperage Tour,’ begins with a brief rundown of Yalumba’s history, followed by an exciting visit to the cooperage to learn about the craft of wine barrel making. The tour concludes with a tasting of the Samuel’s Collection of wines in the Wine Room.
  • ‘Yalumba Unlocked’, an experience that takes you on a complete tour of the grounds with a generous local produce platter to enjoy at the conclusion of the tour.
  • The ‘Barossa Grenache Discovery,’ allows guests to see some of Yalumba’s finest Grenache vineyards and sample a few wines whilst among the vines. The tour concludes in the wine room where guests enjoy a stunning local platter of seasonal produce with a glass of Grenache in hand.
  • ‘The Signature Tour,’ a special experience beginning in the Wine Room before visiting the Signature Vineyard at Lightpass to enjoy a vineyard tasting while soaking up the stunning views over the Barossa Valley. This includes a tour through the Hill-Smith family’s private museum cellar and lunch with paired wines.

Something that is completely unique about Yalumba, is the fact that they are able to control every element of the wine making process as they have their own onsite nursery, cooperage, bottling line, vineyards and winemaking facilities.

Sally was kind enough to show me around some of the gorgeous estate, and something that really caught my attention was the onsite cooperage. It is an amazing facility, the only onsite cooperage in the Southern Hemisphere, allowing the business to control the oak element of the winemaking process.

The Cooperage sources oak from France, Hungary and America. The oak is seasoned ‘in country’ and then arrives at Yalumba on a pallet in roughly pre-cut lengths. It is up to Yalumba’s two in-house Coopers to bend each length and build each individual barrel by hand. Barrel Making season, or ‘Bend Season,’ runs from November to May. During this period, two Coopers can make up to 6 new barrels per day, or 300 to 350 barrels per year. Visitors can check out the cooperage by undertaking either the ‘Yalumba Cooperage Tour’ or the ‘Yalumba Unlocked’ tour.

One of Yalumba’s most iconic wines is the Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz. Every vintage since 1962 has featured on the label, the signature of a nominated signatory who has contributed greatly to Yalumba or the local community. The nominee also signs the barrel in which the Signature wine is aged and matured. Each of these barrels is displayed in the Signature Cellar, a breathtaking private event space filled with history and charm. Just being in this room, and soaking up the atmosphere was a definite a highlight of my visit.

It was amazing to see the roll call of names amongst the signatories, which include wine luminaries such as Peter Lehmann and Brian Walsh. One name that also caught my eye was ‘Judy’ – a beloved employee who began her career at 17 years old as a lab assistant, and who is this year celebrating her 40th year at Yalumba. Sally told me that,

“When we talk about the signature and the signatories it speaks to the culture we have here at Yalumba. It’s about Pride in the product, it’s about pride in community and it’s about honouring people who show those attributes that sum all that up.”

After our time in the Signature Cellar, Sally led me down into the original underground concrete fermenting tanks, known as tank 11 and 12. The large vessels were originally used to ferment wine, but they have now been converted by Grieve Gillet Andersen Architects into tasteful and authentic private function spaces. The walls are still lined in the traditional coating of beeswax and paraffin adding to the theatre and feel of the venue. For those who undertake ‘The Signature Tour’ above, the lunch with paired wines is held in this incredible area.

After finally paying Yalumba a visit, I could not be more impressed. To my mind, the stunning estate grounds, the cooperage, and their incredible event spaces make the location a must see for anyone visiting the Barossa. Add to this the amazing wines of provenance on offer, there is nothing at Yalumba that does not excite the senses. At 170 years old, Yalumba is bursting with historical stories and traditions. These stories and traditions are kept alive through vibrant narratives told by knowledgeable ambassadors who have a genuine pride in their work, and the Yalumba winery itself. 

Yalumba is a thoroughly deserving winner pitted against competition of the highest calibre. This award represents an outstanding result for an outstanding and indeed iconic South Australian winery.  Well done Yalumba!

Written by Mariette Morris, 2019 Wine Media Cadet