With grape plantings in 1849 and five generations of vignerons since then, Yalumba stands on its own as the oldest family owned winery in Australia. Besides a stately winery and cellar door which alone is well worth the visit, it also has the distinction of the only winery here that actually make their own barrels!
To this end, I understand it is in a select group which includes Chateau Margaux, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Petrus. The cooperage operates with four full-time coopers who produce about 400 barrels a year. (And Just some trivia, I was told that if your surname is “Cooper”, chances are somewhere in your family tree will be a barrel-maker!)
This quantity however only covers a third of Yalumba’s requirements so for the remainder, they still rely on outside cooperages. Nevertheless, they reserve the home-made barrels for the top end of their wines. Their philosophy in winemaking is to “control the controllable’ and hence the ability to control the seasoning of the raw oak as well extending the seasoning of the timber staves to 5-8 years (compared to 18 months to 2 years) for an oak barrel is extremely important to Yalumba.
Interestingly, I also learnt that the Octavius, a super-premium wine from Yalumba made from old Shiraz vines, gets its name from the barrel size. (And all this while I thought it was from some Roman Emperor!) But in fact, the wines are aged in octaves, a barrel size of 80-100 litres. And here’s more trivia. The Octavius is the ONLY table wine in the world to be aged in octaves. And of course at Yalumba, the oak will also have been seasoned for 8 years! So, if you ever get a chance to try this wine, don’t let it pass.