Up Jacob’s Creek with a Paddle
I love Australia. I love their accent, their sense of humour, their beautiful country, the lovely wines…in fact, the only thing I feel I am not too particularly fond of is that it is worlds away from where I stay. But, that apart, they are one of the most affable lot around. Sure they can get a bit naughty but hey, it’s only cricket…
Recently, I was there for a very interesting visit and will explore my experiences in various columns but the tasting notes, I have preserved for here. Jacob’s Creek is not just a manufacturer of more wines than there is water in the Southern Hemisphere. They do not even rival the amount of beer that the Australians chug back. Yet, they have a sort of a, you know, I-may-drink-it-but-I-wouldn’t-be-caught-dead-gifting-it kinda’ voodoo spell under which they dwell. So, my visit was one full of curiosity for I was truly interested to know what else did they make. The visit opened not just my eyes, it also left me with my mouth open in surprise, jaw-hanging et al.
Johann Grampss came to Kangaroo island, worked for 10 years, and finally moved to Barossa, where he bought land and planted the
first vines. This was mid 1800s when the first settlers, voluntarily by now, were making their way here. The little creek still runs near the original site. Later as the site was moved to Roland Flats, the name Orlando was adopted to keep things European (Germanic?) and the name carries even today, part history, part heritage.
I was a guest at the vineyards, including Steingarten, one of Australia’s most celebrated vineyards which is wholly owned by the group and dedicated to Riesling. I also had a fun meal at the Heritage House building where the original winery was located.
Imagine a company that today owns 100s of hectares of land and yet it only accounts for a minimal amount of their produce. Sure they source grapes from all over but control is strict. Different ranges of wines are produced in different regions, making best use of local Terroirs.
The visitor centre is a very relaxed space to have a nice meal or taste any of the wines. Branding is almost non-existent inside as they believe that a person who has made the effort of driving up all the way here already knows the brand well so no need to re-remind him. Logical that, really.
Wyndham Estate Tasting: This is a house up in Hunter valley also owned by the Orlando group.
1. 2008 Bin 555: fruit laden, red ripe berries, milky oak softness. Some spicy nuances.
2. Sparkling Bin 555: fresh berry and light chocolate; some supporting fizz. Very English toffee. Some RS too.
3., 4., 5., 6. George Wyndham
* Shiraz-Tempranillo 2009: edgy, yet smooth, good fruit, light n very cherry, oak is soft, integrated chalky tannins, good acidity.
* Shiraz-Grenache 2008: The fruitiness of a warm Grenache, tasty but lacks body. alcohol doesn’t show but neither does typicity.
* Shiraz-Cabernet 2009: a deep intense nose, oak n cigar box, patchouli, burnt lime zest, grippy tannins. Shows complexity but minus the depth behind it. Peppery. (*)
* Shiraz 2008: Woody, zesty, patchouli, some licorice and pecan. Good; safe.
7. 2007 Black Cluster Shiraz: Single Vineyard. Fruit-N-spice. Good wine even though tries to be bigger than itself. Great for Hunter. Approachable yet complex. Show some personality.
Now the following are wines that JC experiments with, showcasing the extent of their expertise. they are only sold at the cellar door in Barossa.
1. Riesling: a mineral limey Riesling, refreshing nose an crackling acidity. Bone dry. Bit steely though. Different from German.
2. Sangiovese: Robe of a Pinot, nose of a I-don’t-know! Explodes, big and fruity, very fruity, almost overwhelming. Soft zesty tannins. Simple and straight. Not one to be found in a blind tasting.
3. Shiraz-Mourvedre 2007: deep robe, a bit terse nose, fruity but with some concentration. Deep plum and dark fruit flavours. Very light tannins but provide good support.
4. Tannat 2008: light robe for a regular tannat. Very easy a wine in fact. Light, soft, hint of tannins.
5. Lagrein-Dolcetto 2007: a bit dirty-grapey, but shows much better and lasting character on the palate. Roses, light spice, a bit leafy,
good tannic grip. This is a well-made wine with some distinction.
NOTE: ****All these wines (save for the last) were drinkable but nothing too representative of their international, more popular and older avatars: it was like buying a Harley but being handed one with a 60cc engine!***
But then, there were more to taste and these followed…
1. 2011 Riesling: nice appealing nose. Comes in a shouldered bottle. Crisp. Clean. Very clean. Almost sterile. But not flavourless.
2. Reserve Barossa Riesling 2011: very crisp. Almost prickly. Some ripe fruit induced sweetness. Both this and the previous have a chalky finish.
3. 2011 Sauvignon Blanc: clean. Good varietal character. Ripe. Not aggressive.
4. 2011 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc: a very cris wine with some English toffee (candy) on nose and palate. Still good varietal character but with top concentration. Very fine length and fade.
5. Chardonnay 2011: oak-kissed, lactic milky, still crisp and balanced but a bit soft on the finish. Simple. Pleasing overall.
6. Reserve Chardonnay 2010: very subtle nose, great mouthfeel, matching length, soft but not milky anymore, oak well integrated. Almost gives some sweet fruit. Hint nutty bitter finish.
7. 2011 Pinot Noir: light red, faint robe, almost clarette, fruity, on nose and palate, soft tannins, short length. Too feeble for my liking but could be great a tad cooled.
8. Pinot Noir Reserve: light wine in spite of the colour, juicy, berry fruity, Some complexity. Decent.
9. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon: peppery even if a tad sweaty, good grip. Eucalyptus and spearmint. Tannins reside.
10. Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve: aromatic, almost incense-like, with deep tobacco leaf notes (almost cigar box), some ripe cassis too. Markedly Australian. Good.
11. : flinty and stoney, terse, dry tannins, some rose and spice too.
12. 2008 Reserve Shiraz: deep and big, even if a tad closed at the moment. Lasting tannins but not as chewy as CS. Chocolate and coffee-esque. Intense roses, more of a mulch though. But nothin offending. Xmas cake and plummy.
13. Centenary Shiraz: great underwood character. Lovely depth and complexity.
And then I rushed to the tasting counter and, in quick succession, quick-tasted a few more beauties. Obviously, the above wasn’t exhaustive for a man of my addictions, I mean, dedication…
Genius. Just pure genius. Great handling of fruit, superb selection, deft winemaking, and the result was these great bottles: never alcoholic, not in the least clawing: just great stickies and tawnies. Those are the bottles to the left. The three to the right are the top-of-the-range reds, including the ode to the founder, Johann, which is a blend of the best of their estate-owned Cabernet and Shiraz.
In other words, Jacob’s Creek is more than a monger of average wines. Just because we don’t know them, or get to see or taste them, we shouldn’t allow that to breed disdain or contempt. I now realise that if I had let myself be governed by such, I would have never come and in the process, I would have missed out on some fantastic wines. But thankfully I was humble and curious, dedicated and devoted, eager to learn, and anxious to acquire new knowledge.
Yes, I know, I am, indeed, great. No other word, in all modesty, or in absolute magnificence, could do me more justice.
So, what were we talking about again…?