In 2014, the family behind one of Australia’s most successful wine brands, [yellow tail], purchased the famous Barossa winery Peter Lehmann Wines from Swiss based The Hess Group. It followed the death of Peter Lehmann in 2013, who had founded the winery in 1979.
It continues the rise and rise of Casella Family Brands, who produced their first bottle of wine in 1969 at their Farm 1471 near Griffith in NSW, with their first full vintage being crafted in 1971. The Casella family recognised a gap in the market in 1998 for easy drinking, bang for buck wines and the [yellow tail] brand was born, starting export in 2001. The group now sells over 12.5 million cases of wine a year in over 50 different countries.
It’s worth noting that while people turn their nose up at the [yellow tail] brand, in 2004 their Premium Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 won the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy. In the same year, [yellow tail] Premium Shiraz 2003 was awarded the Stodart Trophy. Two of the big trophies in the Australian Wine Show scene.
By taking those two premium trophies they showed they really know what they are doing, however because of the negative perception of the [yellow tail] brand, the Casella family set about building their portfolio, purchasing Peter Lehmann in 2014, Brand’s Laira of Coonawarra in 2015, Morris Wines in 2016 and Baileys of Glenrowan in 2017.
With Peter Lehmann they have taken a looking backwards to go forward approach. By that I mean they have looked back into what made Lehmann one of Australia’s favourite and well-known brands and built upon the connection that consumers have with the label. To that end they have re-acquainted us with the Very Special Vineyards or VSV range, and continued to build on the special relationships that Lehmann himself had built with over 140 growers in the region.
The VSV range recognises those special relationships, and the special pockets of land that produce fruit with quality and character. Portions of the fruit from the vineyards, sometimes small parcels of land inside vineyards, is set aside and used in small batch wine making to highlight the individual characters of that fruit. The range isn’t made every year, unlike some big name wines, only in years where the fruit is exceptional, and because of that you will find vintage gaps in the entire VSV range, where fruit just wasn’t up to the high standard that Lehmann himself had set.
We haven’t seen the range too often up this way in the past, with stocks and allocations being set for southern areas, however with the change of ownership we now get to see this outstanding range in our local independent bottleshops and at selected restaurants.
These wines make the perfect accompaniment to dinners and late nights with friends. With the cooler nights not too far away, I can’t wait to grab my favourite and enjoy with mates.
Some of the range:
VSV Ruediger Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 – blended from two low yielding vineyards from Dudley and Trevor Ruediger, north of Nurioopta, this creates a winethat shows just how good Barossa Cab can be, loaded with violets and deep dark fruits, a light touch of crushed tomato leaf and perhaps the faintest trace of green capsicum. It’s deep, dark, and brooding on the tongue, with good weight in the mouth. Will need a heavier or richer style food to complement, but it’s a great choice for a winter’s dinner party. 19/20points
VSV Hearnden Eden Valley Shiraz 2013 – for a wine with six years on it, it still tastes fresh as a daisy. Quite an elegant feel in the mouth, very different from the brooding Barossa style, and was probably the wine that caused the most discussion. Black currant and vanillin from the oak contact on the nose, delicate flavours on the tongue, that build with dark plum, subtle tobacco and some woody spice. 17.5/20 points.
VSV Carey Shiraz 2013 – big, chewy and hulking – if those words excite you in a wine, like they do me, then this is the one for you. Grown in the Lyndoch region of Barossa, the wine is loaded with big, deep dark flavours and aromas, chocolate, dark plum, some leather, cedar and earthy notes in there too, long and intense finish, it’s a definite “contemplation” style wine. Will hold well for another five or so years in the bottle. 19/20
VSV McCarthy Shiraz 2013 – another big, chest thumping, wine from the range, grown in the Bethany region of the Barossa, it’s super dark and inky in the glass, classic Barossa Shiraz flavours leap from the glass, chocolate, dark plum, some toasty oak and a dusty earth note. Long and lingering finish loaded with dark chocolate, able to hold another five or so years in the bottle too. 18.5/20 points
VSV 1885 Barossa Shiraz 2016 – fruit was sourced from the Schrapel’s vineyard planted out in 1885, in the subregion of Ebenezer. Deep dark and intense, there’s some dark plum, woody spice, a touch of ti-tree and choc mint almost menthol character to it. There’s a soft feel to it in the mouth, some dark blue fruits in the long, smooth almost polished finish. 17/20points
VSV Hongell Shiraz 2015 – grown by the Hongell’s on the western edge of the Barossa, it’s a bright crimson colour with dark plums and some mixed fruit cake spice, aniseed and late blackberries. That liquoricy/aniseed flavour dominates the velvety smooth finish, with some vanillin and spice. Long spicy aftertaste with ripe blackberries and some vanilla confectionary notes. 18/20