Chateau Yaldara, one of the Barossa’s most beautiful properties, has been brought back to life over the past four years. Built by German migrant Hermann Thumm on the banks of the North Para River in 1947, Chateau Yaldara offers a collection of delicious hand-crafted wines, a popular restaurant and a Baroque-style chateau, which is home to the cellar door.
Yaldara founder Hermann Thumm had a passion for sparkling wine. He made his first sparkling wines under his bed in an internment camp in the Riverland during World War II and, when the war ended, settled in the Southern Barossa and established a winery in an old flax mill. “Hermann built this magnificent Chateau around him over the next 20 years,” says General Manager Anthony Grundel.
Hermann’s passion for sparkling was irresistible, and sparkling wine production soon began. In fact, in local Aboriginal dialect, the word ‘Yaldara’ means ‘sparkling’.
But the wine trend at the time was for fortifieds and Hermann worked with nearby grapegrowers to secure high-quality fruit for his fortified wines. “Thanks to Hermann’s foresight, we now have an enormous holding of fortified wine, which means we can release a 40-year-old quite comfortably, through to a 30-year-old, 20-year-old and 10-year-old. We have fortified wine from 1960 on site, which visitors can taste from the barrel. It’s an incredibly rich heritage – and one of the largest holdings of fortified wine in Australia,” Anthony says.
Hermann was also innovator in wine sales. Chateau Yaldara was one of the first public cellar doors in the Barossa, and was the first to run a wine club, including a rewards program.
According to David “Chappy” Chapman, maintenance manager at the winery for almost 50 years, and the unofficial company historian, Chateau Yaldara was one of the busiest cellar doors in the Barossa but was neglected for many years after a change in ownership from the founder.
In 2014, Chateau Yaldara was purchased by Barossa winery 1847 Wines, owned by Arthur Wang, and a complete refurbishment plan began to return the Chateau to its former glory. This included the development of Hermann’s Restaurant overlooking the North Para River which is open seven days for lunch under the direction of head chef Dean Zammit, formerly of Pike and Joyce in the Adelaide Hills.
The Chateau’s cellar door has also received a facelift, while retaining Hermann Thumm’s European aesthetic – even down to the original paint colour, which is known as ‘Yaldara Champagne’. Five-star accommodation in the Manor will be the next project at the Chateau.
Chateau Yaldara is now home to both the Chateau Yaldara and 1847 Wines brands. “We’ve celebrated the joining of forces of two great wine brands, as well as the revival of Chateau Yaldara’s home, in this special place that Hermann Thumm built more than 70 years ago,” Anthony says.
“Visitors to the cellar door fall in love with the buildings, the gardens and the history of the winery, whether they are visiting for the first time, or returning after a long absence. It’s an honour to bring this winery back to life – back to a must-see destination in the Southern Barossa.”
And thanks to Chappy, many of Hermann’s original tools have been saved, restored and are now on display around the cellar door and winery, including Hermann’s original calculator, cellar notebooks, wood carvings and even Hermann’s ‘thinking chair’, which has pride of place in Chappy’s Chapel, the intimate tasting room at the estate, built on top of the original underground wine tanks.
The modern Chateau Yaldara brand encompasses six tiers ranging in price from $20 to $600, including a 40-year-old fortified available at cellar door only. A recent innovation has been the release of two 500ml bottles of Grenache, one made from vines planted in 1947 and the other made from vines planted in 1928, each priced at $45.
“This is an ideal way for wine lovers to compare the same variety made in exactly the same way, but from two different old vineyards planted 20 years apart. The nuances in the wines are fascinating,” says winemaker Alex Peel.
“We have access to incredible Barossa fruit, some of it coming from vineyards more than 100 years old.”
Alex works with Chris Coulter across the Chateau Yaldara and 1847 Wines ranges. Chris oversees fortified wine production and will star in Chateau Yaldara’s Barossa Wine Auction offering.
Lot 10W is Chateau Yaldara’s ‘The Art of Fortifieds’ masterclass, which includes a complete fortified wine collection and a ‘behind the scenes’ guided experience for four people.
The winning bidder can gather three friends for a private tour of the estate with Chateau Yaldara winemaker Chris Coulter, then head to the lab to learn the art of fortified blending. They will enjoy lunch in Chappy’s Chapel and finish with a fortified and chocolate flight that will challenge the taste buds.
Included in Lot 10W is a rare fortified collection consisting of 40-year-old Tawny, 30-year-old Tawny, 20-year-old Tawny, 20-year-old Muscat, 10-year-old Tawny and a NV Fortified Semillon.
With innovation at the core of the Chateau Yaldara story, the question is, what’s next? “Along with our plans for accommodation, we will focus on continuing to improve the wines, the food and the visitor experience here at Chateau Yaldara. Hermann’s vision was for a world class fine wine chateau in the Barossa, and it’s a pleasure to bring that vision to life,” says Anthony.