At $65, this wine sits firmly in “icon” territory on price alone. What’s interesting to me is that its producer, Yelland & Papps, typically produces joyously, perhaps even excessively, easy-drinking expressions of the classic Barossa Valley varieties (Grenache, Shiraz). How will this approach translate to a price point at which drinkers will undoubtedly expect so much more?
Once I recovered from pouring a glass from what is surely the heaviest bottle I’ve ever encountered, the nose screamed immediately “more.” More fruit, greater density, a surplus of oak; this wine is quite packed with elements, and they struggle at first to make their way coherently from the glass. It’s like the Boxing Day sales of yore, shoppers trampling over each other to get to the single, ridiculously discounted fridge freezer on Level 3. There’s plum essence, fruit cake spice and rather glossy cedar oak in the main. Perhaps slightly lifted, which helps the red fruit notes sing. I don’t think there’s an excess of complexity; rather, the focus is on impact and sheer quantity.
If anything, the palate is even more forceful. There’s a thickness of mouthfeel and generosity of flavour that’s immediately evident on entry, and it fairly forces the mouth open in order to accommodate all that it has to offer (including a fairly visible alcohol level of 15% abv). Super concentrated plum juice, all manner of red and black berries, more spice, more oak. There’s so much here I’m not sure where to look, but I can remark with some certainty that few will be left wanting more flavour than is here.
All of which causes me to return to my starting point, which is to question the stylistic implications of a reserve-level wine. Yelland & Papps has taken a relatively conventional approach of “more is more,” and within the style this is a really good wine, full of quality fruit and showing well-handled oak in particular. And, although it’s not what I’d class as an easy drinking wine, this somehow feels right within the context of the producer’s house style. Yet I can’t help wondering what the alternate options might be. A finer wine, perhaps, more detailed and characterful? Something challenging, with more adventurous winemaking or angular flavours? A style that mines less well travelled implications of Barossa terroir?
It’s no doubt wrong to criticise something for what it isn’t, and I hope my note makes clear that this wine has several outstanding features. Perhaps my own craving for novelty is the issue in this instance; drinkers are advised to crack open a bottle of this and enjoy what the Barossa does best.
Yelland & Papps