In celebration of the Yalumba Galway Vintage Malbec 2012 being the Wine Selectors Wine of the Month for May, we chatted with Robert Hill-Smith, Yalumba’s Chairman of the Board and 5th generation owner.
Malbec is really stepping out from its role as a blending partner and looks set to become a mainstream favourite – what makes your Galway Vintage Malbec 2012 so special?
We know the vineyard and I see Malbec as a forgotten part of heritage. I loved many of the Mildara Cabernet Shiraz Malbec from Coonawarra and only Bleasdale seem to be having a serious dip. The time was right and given its juiciness and accommodating mid-palate we thought it was time to partner our Galway Vintage Shiraz with another Barossa beauty at an accessible price.
Yalumba is in Angaston, a village at the entrance to the Eden Valley, and you also have vineyards in other parts of the Barossa Valley– why are these regions so great for making wine?
We know both regions backwards, so that’s a start! Far from being a one trick pony the Barossa and Eden Valley have many sub-districts that favour various styles. Not many regions can make world-class fortifieds yet 15kms away grow classy dry Riesling and Viognier of greatness.
Established over 160 years ago, Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery – it must be such an honour to be a part of its history and its future?
It is if you don’t think about it too much! With it comes a variety of positives and issues, but we respect our vineyards, our people and our community whilst we seek to craft interesting quality, fine wines.
As a 5th generation of the Hill-Smith family, did you ever consider a career in a field outside the wine industry?
Of course! Every long-haired 18-year-old rebel in the 1970s wanted to do anything other than join the family. They were great years, and whilst I studied, sport was a huge part of my life as was the penchant for beer, wine and song. However, the smell of the ferment cellar reeled me in and I haven’t looked back.
You have three daughters, are they planning to join the family business?
There is no pressure and no rush. If they do then that is a bonus for me. They show some talent, they like wine and are keen to soak up a lot of information, so you never know.
Yalumba is a member of Australia’s First Families of Wine – why is this association of families so important?
We need to share our wine history with the world to put Australia and its styles and aspirations into context – we do it with our family stories and characters.
What can you see as the future of Australia’s wine industry?
Ultimately very positive, but not without much, much more hard work. We make great wines across many varietals and regions, however, Australia needs to work harder to get our fine wine story across and make the world take us even more seriously.
Making a success in the wine industry takes a lot of hard work and dedication – what advice would you give someone looking to start a career in wine?
As a winemaker, have a theme, be a specialist and be very good at it. It takes more money and more time to do than anyone wishes, but the end game justifies the patience.
What’s your ‘go to wine’ when you’re a home relaxing with your family?
We have many – Pewsey Vale Riesling, Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache, Dalrymple Pinot and many, many more!
May is Aussie Wine Month – is Yalumba holding any special events to celebrate?
We are be conducting a few events but May is also time for the London Wine Fair and Vinexpo in Hong Kong, plus we are planning the launch of some new vintages of special wines and mature releases. Every month is busy, busy, busy!