ONE BLOCK 'YELLINGBO' YARRA VALLEY SYRAH
2017 ONE BLOCK 'Yellingbo' Yarra Valley Syrah
Definitely 'Syrah' rather than Shiraz in style terms and very Yarra, cool and taut with generous juicy dark fruit, lots of volume and a silky feel, all with an undercurrent of tension and energy from whole bunch fermentation. Gorgeously aromatic with pepper and Asian spice, lovely shape and balance. L&S (Nov 2018)
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Sage and black cherry are the dominant aromas here, but most of all there’s a sense of gentle togetherness, harmony and grace in this wine. Despite being light-bodied, it has a certain presence on the palate, it moves fast. The acidity is low, but it’s not noticeable; it's a wine of great poise and precision. One of those perfectly balanced wines that appears to have made itself. It's a Syrah akin to a marble statue, with great purity, grace and coolness. Not a terribly complex or concentrated wine, but it doesn't need to be; I love it for its calmness and serenity. Coming from just one block of 20-year-old vines which are at 240m and south-west facing, in the Yellingbo area of Yarra Valley. Partly whole bunch fermented and then matured in demi-muids, of which 20% were new. Only 2,800 bottles were made. Drinking range: 2021 - 2023 Rating: 95 Matt Walls, Decanter.com (Apr 2021)
Properly called Syrah rather than Shiraz by young gun winemaker Jayden Ong, because the Yarra Valley brings a cool climate element that corresponds to the Northern Rhône in character for a juicy, peppery and spicy black fruit succulence whose savoury finish brings beautiful balance. Rating: 92 The Wine Gang - www.thewinegang.com (Dec 2019)
How the olfactory bulb blossoms – leaping to attention, bloodhound style – to capture both essence, rasp and layer of this super-savoury (100%) Syrah.
Entrancing white pepper (great intensity) and exotic orange peel (more nuanced) add lift to its juicily persistent blackberry and earthier, meatier undertones. I loved its rasp of tannins, the stems present, but not sacrificing the fruit or fluidity of this agile wine. Most definitely the right side of feral!
The Syrah (clone PT23) is sourced from the Tibooburra vineyard in Yellingbo in the Upper Yarra Valley, from which Luke Lambert also takes fruit. At 240m above sea level, Tibooburra vineyard is quite high for the Yarra, but nothing like as high as the vineyard Ong has planted at 700m above Timo Mayer’s Bloody Hill vineyard – bloody, bloody hill?!? I can’t wait to see what he does there, but I’ll have to be patient…he only bought the land in 2015. The low yielding block which produced this Syrah was planted in 2001 on a southwest aspect and comes from an atypical band of deep black soil (most likely of volcanic origin) at the mid-top part of the vineyard.
The hand picked and hand sorted Syrah was naturally fermented in different batches. One with 55% whole bunches, which underwent carbonic maceration. For the balance, Ong retained as many whole berries as possible. After around 35 days on skins, the wine was pressed directly to 500l Francois Freres’ puncheons (20% new), where it aged (unsulphured) for 12 months in barrel.Sarah Ahmed, www.thewinedetective.co.uk (Sep 2018)
Winemaker Jayden and partner Morgan Ong set out their goals thus: "Our wines unashamedly reflect the year and the site that the fruit was grown and harvested. The highs, the lows and the guiding hand of our wine making philosophy. There is nothing for us to hide; our ambition is not to strive for a ‘perfect wine’, instead balance is the cornerstone of our offering. We believe our wines will express their own alluring character."
Jayden, who was not from a wine growing family, had to start somewhere, and did so by buying grapes from single blocks (hence the 'One Block' label) which he supervises though the year - "Single block, single vineyard wines. I have the same rows in those vineyards each year, and good control over spray regimes, but I do not own them. However, I am now in the position where some of these farmers are now selling the fruit from their ‘home’ blocks to me as they love the wines I make from their vineyards."
Jayden also makes wines from his own vineyards, under the 'Jayden Ong' label, and buys other fruit not strictly from 'one block' to make other wines under the 'La Maison de Ong' label - just as much worth looking for.
There is not much to add to this other than that Jayden is clearly already an astonishingly accomplished winemaker with experience all over the world, and it is a long time since we got this excited about a set of wines from Australia. A 'must try'.
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