Cabernet Sauvignon, 1977. Hill-Smith Estate, Chairman’s Selection| Vintage Wine History and Information

by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | January 1985

In 1847, master brewer Samuel Smith, the founder of Hill-Smith Estate, left England for Adelaide, Australia. Samuel worked and saved hard. In 1849 he bought 30 acres, and with his son Sidney, planted his first vines. His knowledge of fermentation techniques was invaluable – and Samuel’s wines quickly became famous in the area.

But he needed to expand and, for that, he needed money. In 1852, fate took a hand. Only 270 miles to the east of where he had settled, in Angaston, gold was discovered. He joined the gold rush. After sinking 16 shafts in four months to no avail, he wrote back that he would try one more and then return. Fate again took a hand: he returned with the princely sum of 300 pounds.

It was enough to buy more land at Angaston, along with the horses and tools to clear and plough it. He called his vineyard Yalumba, an Aboriginal word meaning ‘all the land around’. The area is presently Australia’s most famous wine making region. It is in the Barossa Valley, which lies 33 miles north­east of Adelaide in South Australia.

One might say that Barossa Valley is the counterpart of Napa Valley in California. It is 8 miles wide and 15 miles long. The region contains a variety of micro climates and diverse soil types. Such an environment is a winemaker’s dream. For well over a century, winemakers from Germany, France and Australia have settled in this region. Today, their descendants are the winemakers of the Barossa Valley.

Fourth, fifth, and sixth generation descendants of Samuel Smith still own and actively operate the Hill-Smith Estate in Barossa Valley. They have not succumbed to conglomerate buyouts.

Cabernet Sauvignon, the noble red grape of Bordeaux, France, has done well in Australia. It has adapted itself to the soil and climate in a remarkable way. It is now considered Australia’s premium quality red grape. Nearly three quarters of Australia’s cabernet is grown in South Australia, where the climate of the cooler districts produces wines of good color and a pronounced varietal character. They possess a strong fruit flavor and aroma which has been likened by some as minty or similar to the smell of freshly crushed vine leaves. Being high in acid and tannin, these wines mature slowly, but retain their quality and freshness for many years. They develop complexities as they mature. (These complexities send some wine enthusiasts into orbit, when they think they have reached paradise!).

Our wine is deep garnet red in color. It has a full, peppery, fruity nose, with an exploding bouquet of its age and cooperage. Very varietal. Some traces of complexities have developed and show through the fruit. The taste is a mouthfull! Full body, bursting with flavor. Some tannin is apparent, but a robe of smoothness is behind it. Well balanced, showing a hint of acid. A trace of bitterness at the end, but not objectionable. Definitely a food wine. Serve with robust beef dishes, steaks, roasts. Sharp cheddar cheese and Jonathan apples at the end of the meal have sent me into orbit!

Cellaring Notes: Will mature and mellow for 5 to 8 more years. Maybe more. Worth laying down and tracking.

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