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Archive for the ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ Category

At Taylors, we take a lot of simple joy from the art of winemaking. To see family, employees and the community flourishing alongside our business here in the Clare Valley is incredibly rewarding for us. Yet we have to say, it’s also a thrill to receive recognition for the hard work that we put into each bottle and every vintage. So in today’s post, we’re excited to share a little about some of the highly competitive wine shows that we’ve taken part in this year, and take you through some of the awards that we’ve received. From both domestic and international wine competitions, these medals, commendations and trophies represent hours upon hours of hard work, innovation and persistence. They also tell us that our primary mission of presenting premium quality wines to the public is being recognised.

Crossing continents

With our increasingly connected global village, it is clear that in order to effectively share our winemaking dream, we have to get our wines out onto the world stage. In 2014, we have proudly taken our Australian red and white wines to shows in the USA, France, China, South Africa, Spain, New Zealand, Canada and Japan – to name just a few! And on the domestic front, we take seriously the feedback from local Australian competitions, where our Clare Valley wines have been judged against those from a suite of other Australian winemaking talent.

Ring in the New Year

January 2014 saw a great start to the year for us over in the States. The Winemakers’ Challenge International Wine Competition was held in San Diego, hosted by the renowned wine journalist Robert Whitley. There, our 2012 Estate Shiraz promptly garnered Platinum, as did the 2013 Promised Land Riesling. Considering that Whitley’s online publication Wine Review attracts one million visitors a year, we knew that we were already kicking goals for 2014 – in front of a worldwide audience. Then over to Europe, where the 2010 St Andrews Shiraz plus the Cabernet Sauvignon from that same vintage took out the Great Gold in Spain’s Catavinum World Wine and Spirit Competition. We then swung back home to the Sydney Royal Wine Show, where our 2013 St Andrews Riesling and the 2012 Estate Pinot Gris did us proud, both scooping Gold from a strong domestic pool.

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Taking it to the world

And so the year began to gain momentum, with competitions from France to China becoming opportunities for us to showcase our passion for winemaking. In the case of China, it became clear that this growing and discerning market of wine lovers was attuned to our dedication. For example, at the China Wine and Spirits Awards, our 2010 Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet not only took out a Double Gold for value – but also the Trophy for Australian Wine of the Year. These CWSA awards are among the largest and most prestigious in China. From our humble winery in Auburn to this kind of world recognition, well it can make you pause for a moment to catch your breath! And the whirlwind of awards overseas didn’t pause in Asia – the highly competitive Michelangelo International Wine Awards in South Africa also bestowed Gold upon our beloved 2012 St Andrews Shiraz. It’s a gracious nod from one antipodean winemaking country to another – and we’re delighted to accept.

A European flavour

You’ll probably understand that we get a little nervous about entering our wines in European shows – particularly in traditional wine growing regions. So as 2014 soared along and we headed back to Europe, we were thrilled to see our wines receive accolades from some of the most prestigious wine competitions. A notable highlight was being awarded not one but seven Gold in the AWC Vienna International Wine Challenge! This remarkable event is the largest officially recognised wine show in the world, so we were understandably proud of how our premium Australian offerings fared. Heading north, our 2012 Cab Savs from the Jaraman and Estate ranges, plus the 2013 St Andrews Chardonnay, all claimed Gold in Belgium. The Concours Mondial de Bruxelles is one of the biggest European wine competitions, with the jury being selected exclusively from within the wine profession. And then back down south from there in Switzerland, both the Taylors Estate 2013 Pinot Noir and the Taylors Estate Pinot Gris 2013 were awarded Gold at the prestigious Mondial des Pinots competition. Even France joined in the excitement, with the Vinalies Internationales Paris seeing our 2012 Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon stride away with a coveted Gold medal. Mon Dieu!

American dreams

Part of the New World collection of winemakers just like Australia, both the USA and Canada take winemaking very seriously. So when it comes to international competitions, we always know that we’re facing some strong contenders from across the Pacific. But that friendly rivalry didn’t seem to break our stride throughout 2014. The Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition saw us not only take home four Gold, but also Best in Class for the 2013 Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet. One of the most prestigious of the USA’s wine competitions, the LA event has been running for more than 75 years. More Gold then came via both the San Francisco International Wine Competition and the New World Wine Awards. And the American Wine Society bestowed the coveted Double Gold upon our 2012 St Andrews Shiraz. Particularly exciting for us, the San Diego International Wine Competition brought a well-earned Platinum medal for the 2013 Taylors Estate Shiraz. Now, heading over to the East Coast, the World Value Wine Challenge in Boston paid homage to our key convergence of quality and value for consumers: there, we were delighted to receive Gold and Best Buy for a suite of our 2013 vintage wines, confirming our commitment to making premium wines that are accessible to all.

And we have to say that we were especially privileged to be named Clare Valley Winery of The Year at the New York International Wine Competition. Our beautiful valley and winery, out there in full view of the world. Lovely stuff.

No place like home

Back home in Australia, we headed on over to the Rutherglen Wine Show. Now, it might seem to some like just a small country event – but don’t let appearances fool you. Those in the know understand that the Rutherglen Wine Show has a 125-year heritage, with judging that is well known for its intense rigour. Five panels of three judges each provide a score, followed by further judging by an independent associate, whose score is then combined with the others to establish an overall mark. It’s great to return to Australia after a whirlwind year and know that while international acclaim is terrific, the esteem of locals is also greatly appreciated. So when a local show like Rutherglen acknowledges our 2013 Eighty Acres Shiraz Viognier with a Gold medal – it makes the year’s overall achievements that much sweeter. Other local acknowledgement came at the prestigious Melbourne International Wine Competition, where the 2012 St Andrews Shiraz also brought home the Gold for Taylors. And still within the Victorian capital, the 2014 St Andrews Riesling earned not just Gold at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show – but also the Trophy for Best Riesling.

When the industry awards flow in as recognition of our ongoing labours at Taylors, it certainly puts a spring in our step! But it’s no secret that our passion for delivering exceptional wine would go on regardless of any particular acclaim. Sometimes, the greatest reward is just knowing that lovers of good wine are simply being treated to the fruits of our hard work and never-ending innovation.

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You’ve no doubt noticed those proud little seahorses floating on the label of one of our wine ranges. Grouped as three, the seahorses represent the hard work and camaraderie of the first three generations of winemakers in the Taylor family. And they also remind us of something uniquely beautiful and kind of odd – seahorse fossils found deep inland! In paying our dues to this quirky little creature, we chose the name ‘Jaraman’ for one of our classic ranges here at Taylors Wines. Here’s a little of the back story…

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Small fossil, big possibilities

Surprised and intrigued to find tiny fossilised seahorses when digging our first dam, we were reminded to always note all the little details of our land – viticulture 101! Those little fossils confirmed that a prehistoric inland sea had certainly swept across our currently landlocked acres, during some distant epoch.

The soil’s maritime history weaves terrific benefits throughout every vintage, because where there’s been ocean, you tend to get limestone… And what does aged limestone often leave behind? Rich terra rossa soil of course! Vine heaven!

The word Jaraman derives from an Aboriginal term for ‘horse’ that is found within a number of Australian Aboriginal languages and dialect groups. Just as we cherish the land that we work on, we also think it’s appropriate to recall the original custodians of this stunning Clare Valley soil.

 

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It might seem a small symbol, but our long-lived seahorse represents our combined responsibilities – to history, to the land, and to one family’s combined potential. We’re not the only ones drawn to the unusual magic of the seahorse logo – our wine packaging has actually been noted in recent awards for its elegance and appeal.

When two become one

Our Jaraman range of wines involves locating superior fruit parcels of one varietal, sourced from two distinct Australian growing areas. The mingling and vinification of these two contributory grape lots is then artfully orchestrated at our winery by our winemakers. History demonstrates that clan discussions, betrothal meetings and cross-tribal interactions between humans have been occurring throughout the lands of the Clare Valley for 40,000+ years. In that vein, we enjoy crafting the Jaraman range as a symbol of unions; the bringing together of two pristine grape sources from varying climes, in order to see what special chemistry might evolve at the hands of our winemakers. And the regions chosen are certainly diverse.

We source premium fruit from wine districts both near and far, such as Margaret River, McLaren Vale, Eden Valley, Coonawarra, Yarra Valley and the Adelaide Hills. Each presents iconic wine growing credentials, each has a unique terroir to work with.

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Perfect fusions

And how do we go about uniting the best grapes from two distinct and iconic growing areas, in order to create a unique Jaraman vintage? The process is far from random. In relation to the grapes that we choose for vinification, we avidly watch the growing season of each potential wine region. Catching up regularly with our regional growers, we’re able to gauge issues of quality and fruit compatibility. Once the best potential produce is secured, we move to the winery itself, ready to bring a Jaraman creation to life. Our special winemaking techniques are directed towards preserving the unique style and character of each fruit parcel, while also creating an end result that is so much more than the sum of its parts. And this can involve last-minute modifications to vinification and fermentation techniques, in order to enhance and/or or balance the features of each region’s grapes for that year. But that’s part of the creative challenge that we simply love. We’ve learned to note the little things, to innovate as we go along, and to honour the produce as it is presented for that vintage.

A case in point

Take for example the Jaraman 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. Utilising a deliberate combination of 72% Clare Valley grapes plus 28% from the Coonawarra region, our winemakers set to work developing a portrait of the particular conditions and nuances of the 2012 vintage. Our winemakers were keenly aware of the lengthy dryness in the Coonawarra 2012 season, followed by fairly marked diurnal temperatures shortly before harvest. This unexpected combination worked perfectly to develop and perfectly preserve residual sugars, before moving into a perfect slow ripening. With more benign growing conditions occurring over here in the Clare that year, handy late rains helped to ensure remarkable depths of flavour and colour during ripening. Both regions exhibited low yield, yet notable quality in available fruit, setting the stage for a Jaraman fusion of uncompromising distinction.

Pouring dark and purple-rimmed, with intense flavours of cassis and smoky choc-mint, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon demonstrates the merit and beauty to be found in marrying fruit from separate iconic wine regions. With deep varietal integrity plus lengthy and elegant tannins – this is a Jaraman offering both for now, and for years to come.

Unique unions

As we noted, we don’t just put any old two parcels of fruit together for the purposes of a Jaraman vintage. We look to diverse and distinct regions in order to ascertain the best available fruit in a given year. The Jaraman range provides an opportunity for single-source fruit to be lengthened and enhanced by the features of a sister wine region. In this way, overt ripeness can be better defined with flint, paler colour with richer hues, and thin mouth-feel can be rounded out by another region’s complexity.

Our winemakers cherish the chance to take two beautiful parcels of fruit in order to create an alchemy that is somehow familiar, yet in many ways new. In a land of diversity and geographical isolation, we’re privileged to bring differences together, to create the best wine marriages possible through the Jaraman range.

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In 1969 when Bill Taylor Senior went searching for land to fulfil his dream of crafting Australian wines that would rival the best from France, he knew from experience that the Clare Valley was something out of the ordinary. High altitude, limited rainfall, warm days, cool nights, plenty of limestone underpinnings, and not too close to the big smoke… an excellent mix all round for a winemaker. At first, the Taylors were able to source 440 acres of prime land in the beautiful Auburn region of the Clare. Following this initial acquisition and with great enthusiasm, the pursuit of excellence in winemaking began in earnest.

A quiet yearning
And yet… the original Taylor family dream had always been to secure a substantial landholding of around 1,000 acres.
It had been a core vision of the family to create an old-world style ‘estate’, featuring contiguous vineyards surrounding the central winery cellars. With this flame continuing to burn across the years, neighbouring property owners were approached by the Taylors for a first right of refusal should selling their land become an option. And at times fortune certainly smiled upon the Taylors; bundles of adjoining land eventually became available and these were divided into blocks known as Promised Land, Broadway, Lodden and Wakefield and quickly planted with vines. Land acquisitions now crept well into the several hundred acres. But one particular, most desired property to the north – St. Andrews, remained out of reach.

The long, long wait

St.Andrews Original WineryFrom the very first day that brothers Bill & John Taylor strode onto their newly acquired Clare Valley property in 1969, they knew that the adjoining St. Andrews land (firmly held for decades by one local family) presented some of the best wine-growing potential around. Yet trying to persuade the owners to offer St. Andrews for sale… well that was a job for a very patient family! Bill would politely enquire every now and then – but no deal. It wasn’t until,more than a quarter of a century later, the northern neighbour agreed on a price and finally, the last piece of the puzzle fell into place. Of course, when the opportunity finally arose for the Taylor family to acquire the St. Andrews property there was no debate about what to do. Never mind that funds had dwindled.  The family just had to find a way and thanks to an understanding bank manager, were finally able to add the crowning jewel to their estate vision!

The pinnacle
In terms of potential grape growing, winemaking and sheer beauty, St. Andrews was destined to be worth every penny – and every minute of the wait. St. Andrews really has become something very special to the Taylors – a chance not only for the family to resurrect a piece of Australian winemaking history, but also to showcase all that they’d been able to achieve over the years, via a select range of ultra-premium wines. These wines have become exemplars not just of the signature winemaking style, but also of the overall philosophy at Taylors. And it all started when Bill Taylor got the keys to the entrance gate of St. Andrews.

 Understanding the past

Historic St. Andrews winery
Part of making great wine is understanding the history of a wine growing area, which means getting your hands dirty – literally! When the boys were first wandering around the St. Andrews paddocks, there was plenty of rock kicking and soil sifting – getting a feel for the land as it trickled through the palm.  The beautiful old winery buildings were a site to behold as well and we were struck by the ability of our forefathers to create these amazing structures that stand the test of time.

The St. Andrews property is truly blessed with the rare terra rossa soil that is coveted by winemakers worldwide. This unusual soil type (literally translating as red earth) occurs most often in Mediterranean regions where prehistoric maritime landscapes once existed. Forming slowly across time, the original limestone eroded away and a rich red soil remains. Terra rossa-raised vines are able to balance perfectly on the knife edge where they are not too comfortable.  It is on this knife edge that the magic happens and the grapes that are produced display extraordinary character.

As well as paying attention to the soil, they also took their time to become deeply familiar with the topography, taking in sun paths, wind direction, rainfall history and frost patterns. These are all components that make up a wine’s unique terroir, or the subtle expression of its origin. Although the original vines had been removed by the time the land was purchased, Bill’s hunch as to why the historic owners had first chosen to plant grapes here back in 1891 proved spot-on, and the family now had the opportunity to create something special with their new plantings.

They were delighted to find discrete pockets of perfect growing conditions for a number of diverse varieties within the St. Andrews precinct. Rich, fertile soils for Chardonnay, sheltered east-facing patches for our cabernet and chill-loving riesling, and gentle western slopes for the sturdy shiraz – it was a vintner’s dream come true.

So it’s fair to say that before they got onto crafting any wine, the family gave these blocks a whole lot of quiet consideration. It’s a good idea to start at the beginning and let your winemaking journey evolve from there. And as they dreamed, they saw the growing potential for the St. Andrews range to become a true flagship of Taylors distinct winemaking capabilities.

Respecting the fruit

So much happens before the St. Andrews fruit arrives at the winemaker’s door. Precision pruning, careful frost monitoring and incredibly exact harvest timing are just some of the pre-vinification factors that ensure the delivery of pristine grapes for each variety and potential vintage. Even as the grapes grow, our winemakers are watching and noting pre-harvest factors to determine the very best and most nuanced manner in which to proceed with vinification.

Timing is crucial for fruit integrity and maintenance of flavours (we’ve been known to go like the clappers in order to get grapes from the St. Andrews blocks to the winery in about 10 minutes). Swift and gentle handling is the key preparation for a carefully composed fermentation sequence follow.

Our winemakers simply want to do justice to the grapes – plus to the land, climate and the hands that formed the fruit. For us, the grapes are royalty, and we greet them with the respect they deserve.

Quality and integrity

Sometimes we’re asked why certain vintages haven’t made an appearance in the St. Andrews range. The answer is simple – we just won’t skimp on quality. If conditions aren’t perfect, or a certain block doesn’t quite meet expectations, then a wine won’t be forthcoming from that year’s harvest. We insist on excellence and precision in the wines that we craft.

St Andrews RangeTo truly be our signature range, St. Andrews wines necessarily embody our philosophy: understand the past, know the place you’re in, and respect the fruit. If any of these factors aren’t honoured within a given vintage – well we’d rather wait and get it right. And if there’s one thing we have in spades, it’s patience! Whether it’s waiting for premium Clare Valley land to become available or holding off picking until just the right moment, it’s the Taylors way to allow all the time in the world whenever quality is involved. Via our flagship St. Andrews range of premium wines, we’re delighted to provide you with the heart and soul of the work that we’re carrying out here this unique corner of Australia.

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In a couple of weeks, we’ll be releasing the next vintage of Taylors Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – the 2013.  The wine has developed a ‘cult following’ since the first vintage release – the ’73.  Back then, the Taylor family were convinced the terroir of our Clare Valley estate could produce red wines of a pedigree to match those from the ‘old-world’ vineyards of Europe.  Taylors also released a Shiraz in 1973 but it was known as ‘Hermitage’ back then.  Whilst the Cabernet Sauvignon is the great love for Bill Taylor, Shiraz is a quintessential Aussie wine and a firm favourite of the general populous.  When Taylors decided to also plant some Merlot in 1995, the trinity was complete.  Over the last 45 years, Taylors has really become synonymous with quality red wines which is probably why our special cellar door Red Hot Red pack is such a popular item.

Taylors Red Hot Red pack

Taylors Red Hot Red pack

The pack contains a bottle each of the Taylors Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the Shiraz and the Merlot and is a fine way to compare and contrast the individual natures of these three noble varieties.  The pack was created to celebrate the launch of the first vintage release of Taylors Estate Merlot – the ’98.  It caused quite a sensation and our phone rang hot with retailers calling to order the new packs.  It was kind of fitting that the Red Hot Red pack was first available in the year 2000; it was a new millennium and it also marked a real shift in the winemaking approach for these red wine favourites.  At that time, a new winemaker had joined the ranks, one Adam Eggins, who brought with him a new philosophy borne out of many years’ experience in crafting champagne and sparkling wine; ‘respect the fruit’.  It was an ‘old world’ philosophy that valued keeping the fruit in as pristine condition as possible, handling the fruit gently to minimise maceration and contact with unwanted phenolic characters – particularly those from stalk tannins.  The first thing he did was to order the removal of all crushers from the winery.  Taylors would only de-stem, there was to be no more crushing of grapes!  The idea was to try to get as many whole berries into the fermenters as possible, thereby avoiding the juice coming into contact with these unwanted phenolic or bitter tannins.  The effect of this major operational grape processing change was noticed almost immediately by the wine judges and the gold medals and trophies started rolling in.  The Taylor family, spurred on by positive international success, funded a winery expansion project in 2007 and the new facility was processing grapes in 2010 with every facet engineered to protect and preserve the quality of the grape.  The result of this innovation has been the ability of our winemaking team to craft world-class wines that have continued to enjoy much international acclaim.

At the time of writing, the wines contained within the Red Hot Red pack; The Taylors Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the Shiraz and the Merlot have amassed a collective total of 118 gold medals, 15 trophies, 3 platinum medals, and 975 other awards, including Category Champion, Judge’s Choice, and Outstanding Value awards.  These wonderful endorsements demonstrate the success of this simple but unerring commitment to the ‘respect the fruit’ philosophy and to crafting outstanding wines of the highest possible quality and style; all for our pleasure and enjoyment…..how wonderful!

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The other day I stood next to another customer in my local bottle shop as we both perused the selection of red wines – he in a bit more of a hurry than I. His eyes frantically scanned row upon row of bottles – across and back, up and down. Suddenly, he gave an audible sigh of relief and reached for what he had been searching for… a bottle of Taylors Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Gee, I felt proud!
As our winemakers complete the finishing touches to the next vintage release of the Taylors Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, I can’t help but reflect on what an amazing journey this particular wine has taken since our first vintage release – the ’73. My grandfather, Dad and uncle were convinced the terroir of our Clare Valley estate could produce wines of a pedigree previously unheard of from an Australian producer. When we were first planting all those Cabernet vines back in ’69 the industry responded with comments like “What are you Taylor boys doing? Don’t you know you can’t make good fortified wine from Cabernet?”

We put the equivalent of 500 cases of the ’73 to bed in fine French oak hogsheads, waited until the time (and the wine) was right and then released it into the market place. Our winemaker at the time, Nick Holmes was pretty excited about the wine and wanted to enter it into some capital city wine shows. It picked up a few golds and then at the Adelaide show it was awarded the Montgomery trophy. We knew we were definitely on to something good!

Over the years the wine has developed a ‘cult following’. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has reminisced fondly to me ”You know, Taylors Cab Sauv was the first red wine I ever drank!” The philosophy behind the style has subtly evolved over the years but Dad was always clear, in his direction “only change it to make it better and make any changes subtly so that people won’t notice”. We’ve stuck to his advice and I believe it’s that consistent approach to quality that has attracted more and more people to this wine and why today, we are Australia’s number 1 selling Cabernet Sauvignon and have held that mantle for more than a decade. Our family cherishes this reputation and have celebrated every award and accolade this wine has achieved since it’s first vintage release – over 500 medals in all, including 7 trophies and 51 golds! In more recent years, it has twice been voted as ‘Best Premium Red Wine’ by the Australian Hotel Association – something we are also extremely proud of.

You might ask, ‘what is it about this noble grape that has captured our family’s heart and is the soul of our wine business?’ For me, it’s wrapped up in the nature and structure of the grape. The characteristics of our Clare Valley vineyard – the combination of terra rossa soils and perfect climatic conditions that allow a long ripening period – results in wines of incredibly intense flavour, well-balanced structure and long, fine tannins. My Dad had always been a big fan of Bordeaux wine but realised the potential to get the grape to a stage of natural ripeness in the Clare Valley, which is very important with Cabernet. And when it comes to wines of longevity, well-crafted Cabernet is definitely the King, delivering more intensity and flavour than any other. We are so proud of the range of Cabernet Sauvignons produced at our Clare Valley winery – from the luxury of The Visionary, the iconic single vineyard St Andrews, the Jaraman fusion of Clare and Coonawarra, our ‘heart and soul’ Taylors Estate to the everyday drinking pleasure of Promised Land.

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