Jess Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, knew exactly what they wanted: the ideal setting in Australia to grow Rhône grapes. They found it in 2001, in Yangarra Estate in the McLaren Vale region. They also wanted a winemaker who could turn those grapes into outstanding Rhône-style wines. They found him in Peter Fraser, who believes in preserving the essential taste of the grape in his wines.
Yangarra, aboriginal for “from the earth,” came with a rare gift: 40 acres of 66-year-old Grenache bush vines. Such old vines produce barely a half-ton of grapes per acre (younger vines can give up to 15 times as much), but that half-ton yields intensely rich, concentrated flavors — flavors that can be found in Yangarra Grenache 2007 ($30), a bright, lightly peppery wine with excellent acidity.
Yangarra Shiraz 2009 ($20) has balanced, black fruit flavors and a round, full body. This is a grape with two distinctive personalities. In France and other wine regions where it is known as Syrah, it is spicier, Fraser says, and shows white pepper, Mediterranean fruits and more texture. Called Shiraz in Australia, it is fuller bodied, displaying black pepper; black fruits; and softer, rounder tannins.
Blend three Rhône grapes — Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre — and we have Yangarra’s Cadenzia 2007 ($25). “Grenache adds perfume and acid,” Fraser explains. “Shiraz gives body plus plum and cherry tones, and Mourvèdre offers tannin and savory herbs.” The name Cadenzia comes from “cadenza,” an improvisation that an orchestral soloist, moving away from the written score, may play at the end of a performance. Several wineries in McLaren Vale make a version of Cadenzia, each improvising in its own way on the Grenache grape.
In 2006, Yangarra introduced High Sands Grenache Reserve ($70–90), a wine to be made only in the best years from the lowest-producing vines. Tasting the first High Sands when it was six years old, I found an intensely flavored, velvety-textured wine with a lingering finish.
Yangarra vines, now certified biodynamic, are producing the kind of grapes the Jacksons wanted. Peter is turning them into the kinds of wines they wanted — wines, indeed, “from the earth.”
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