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Jacobs Creek champions wine regions

“Jacobs Creek has almost got a responsibility, as one of the major brands out of Australia, to teach the consumer about some of the great regions within Australia” – Bernard Hickin

A refreshing point of view by Bernard Hickin, Chief Winemaker at Jacobs Creek. [apologies for the background noise, but it was busy]

I was invited to take part in a dinner at 28-50 recently, to mark the (re)launch of Jacobs Creek Reserve range as region-specific wines, which coincides well with Wine Australia‘s under-fire “A+ Australian Wine” campaign, to act as a step-up from the Jacobs Creek Classics that have been around since 1976.

The wines themselves were interesting, individual and fairly priced (at an RRP of £9.99 but presumably not immune from promotions). You can read the reports of the evening from some fellow diners such as Stuart George (Creek Mythology) and Heather Dougherty (Jacob’s Creek at 28-50) and some thoughts of mine below. Overall I thought they were good, well made wines that did show something quite different from the normal ranges we expect from bigger brands, but I also felt that they showed quite a young character and might benefit from rounding out with a little extra age as, being all under screwcap, they have obviously developed slowly.

The pricing is the issue. So many of the producers who might be used by a region to showcase the uniqueness of its style are expensive, limited production wines – as was reasonably obvious at the recent Wine Australia tasting. Great wines but hefty price tags (not helped by currency issues, of course). These may be the very best examples, but being unaffordable means that the message does not get through to consumers – who then cannot be blamed for a lack of interest or knowledge of “regionality” in a country.

This is why what Bernard Hickin said struck me. You might disagree with the marketing and promotion activities associated with big wine brands (and they don’t come much bigger than Jacobs Creek) in the supermarket channels, but if the message needs to reach a mass audience, this is an effective means of achieving it. Having a big brand strongly committed to the cause, assuming it is doing a reasonable job of presenting the regional character, benefits everyone.

I’ve always thought that regional ‘brands’ were more interesting marketing tools than varietal labelling, so I look forward to seeing how this “regional” message is received by consumers, and how winemakers across the world take advantage of this.

Tasting Notes:

Jacobs Creek Reserve Riesling 2010 (Barossa, Australia): very floral, lime, lemon and elderflower nose, and tight acidity (almost underripe fruit) but a hint of tropical fruit on the finish. Very young and crisp.

Jacobs Creek Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Adelaide Hills, Australia): strong passion fruit, not grassy, and mango skin aromas. The palate was tropical, but not overly ripe. Might need to round out a little

Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2010 (Adelaide Hills, Australia): very ripe apricot and citrus nose, but on the palate there is a lot of weight and texture from the lees ageing (but not heavy oak). Well rounded and drinkable, but will it convert Chardonnay-sceptics?

Jacobs Creek Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 (Adelaide Hills, Australia): baked strawberry nose, opening to black cherry. The palate has some more herbal, almost eucalyptus notes (not expected) and high acidity. Lighter and more delicate than I might have expected, maybe trying too hard to avoid “over-ripeness” tag?

Jacobs Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Coonawara, Australia): Black fruit, but also some (green) pepper and that eucalyptus, minty notes associated with the region. Big texture. You can almost feel as well as taste the thicker skins. Pepper spice on finish masking the fruit a touch. Young but very nice.

Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz 2007 (Barossa, Australia): A (pleasant) burnt match, fruitcake nose. Some spicy, candied fruit but also a hint of spirit despite not being too alcoholic. Tons of acidity to accompany the fruit, so it never strays towards jammyness. Pleasant finish, but young.

Update: 17/2/2011 – minor updates to correct factual errors in the tasting notes

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Are you a wine gamer?

I found out, through twitter, about a new wine related game in the style of Sim City called “Wine Tycoon

Wine Tycoon claims you can:

Create the vineyard of your dreams in 10 of the most important wine regions of France. Commanding operations from your very own French chateau, build your winery, plant and tend your vines through all four seasons of the year, and hire staff to harvest and process your grapes.

That part sounds like it could be interesting if it adds a business dimension (who knows, it might train a generation of French winemakers to think about the value of international marketing) and could teach lots of game fans about the wine making process.

There are a couple of hints, however, that this has been developed or marketed by people who know more about games than wine. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it would be good to make sure some of the key things people learn about wine are factually correct. Things like:

Produce 50 French wines such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Pinot Gris and Champagne from more than 40 different grape varietals

Why Pinot Gris? The others are regions, not grapes, so hopefully the makers will go some way towards educating gamers about what varieties, and blends, are used in the classic regions. Apparently there is a wine “encyclopedia” included in the game, so that should be interesting.

Anyway, for most of my readers this will be somewhat academic as it seems that the game will only be available in the US initially. I hope it does well and we get a chance to try it too. If the makers want to get me a copy for evaluation from a UK/European perspective, I’d be happy to test it!

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Biodynamic tasting with BB&R

Tonight we taste three biodynamic wines from the Berry Bros & Rudd stable:

2007 Mâcon, Les Héretieres du Comte Lafon, Burgundy
2006 Vacqueyras, Garrigues, Domaine Montirius, Rhône
2006 L’As, Coteaux du Languedoc, Mas Conscience

I will be tasting these wines, led by @winematters, with a group in BB&R’s cellars in London and groups around the country. Check below for all the twitter details I know, and leave yours if I’ve missed you out.

We are using the platform at tastelive.com (put together by Bin Ends Wine and still developing all the cool features we need for interactive online tastings) so check it out and register there.

For a bit more information, check this video (apologies it got cut off, but twitvid failed me)

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Participants:
BB&R Cellars
@thirstforwine
@winematters
@gastro1
@cowfish
@laissezfare
@oliverthring
@digitalmaverick

London
@wine90
@thewinesleuth

Edinburgh
@madamevin
@whiteandred
@thefinewineman
@lintably

Isle of Wight
@benjamindyer
@MattandCat
@mark32i5b
@wighthandman

Around the country
@loudmouthman
@bigbluemeanie

Interactive wine tasting

TwitCam Wine Tasting

TwitCam Wine Tasting

I was playing with a new service on twitter call TwitCam that allows you to create a video broadcast and then let people know, and chat, via Twitter.

It was fun broadcasting a wine tasting LIVE.

My first video was meant only as a response to a question, but it encouraged some feedback from others who tried to interact, so I thought I would do another and ask for interaction. I decided to run a wine tasting, not as a “presentation” (as most wine videos are), but as an interactive event, getting guesses on the wine from participants – a double blind tasting*.

The results can now be seen on the archived video here (or click on the image). I am not embedding it here as it starts playing automatically, which can get annoying.

We are only just starting to explore the possibilities of  bringing together different services such as twitter, blogging, video and audio. This is what can make communication and learning fun. Not just for wine, but in many fields. It is not a lecture, but a way to reach out to a lot more people around the globe and make friends.

If you participated or left comments later, thank you so much! I had great fun. So much so I’m planning on doing it again next week.

See you Thursday, 6th of August at 16:00 UK time (please check what that would be for you).

* a tasting where one person has to guess the wine based only from another person’s notes – who themselves doesn’t know what the wine is. Except I did. Hard to hide it from yourself really.

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Wine tasting, the professional way

I thought you might find this both interesting and amusing.

I took part in a tasting of 75 wines with Charles Metcalfe (aka @thewinesinger) last week. During the day I took some video on my new iPhone 3GS (yes, playing around). I’ll publish the serious interviews soon, but this is Charles tasting wine 60 (or more) of over 75.

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