Tag Archives: regionality

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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Support your local winemaker

I read an interesting post on this topic over on vinoalvino.org (unfortunately it is in Italian so not all of you may be able to read it) written by the entertaining & knowledgeable Franco Ziliani. The gist was to pick up on a campaign in the US to “support your local winemaker“.

Although the initial campaign was probably intended to be about supporting local business by spending your money there, to promote ‘artisan’ production, and to minimise transport costs and its effects, Franco took it off into a new area – Local Collaboration.

His point, which I thought was very valid, is that winemakers should spend more time supporting each other within a region so as to establish local best practice and encourage the development (and preservation) of their own regional/local style. If everyone (and in this case he was pointing the finger at Italian winemakers, but could equally apply elsewhere) employs the same ‘consultants’ and ‘flying winemakers’ then rather than improving wine, this is just one step further towards the standardisation of styles across the regions, and the world. This is particularly important in a country like Italy with its hundreds of defined (and thousands of undefined) regions jostling for recognition, differentiation and survival, but is also common to all winemakers.

How might they do this? Well, by a strange coincidence (or not) I read a post on such a topic by the folks at La Gramiere in France. These are ‘flying winemakers’ only in the sense that they are Americans who have flown to France to start a new life as winemakers. Their blog is a very open and honest view of the trouble they are going through to get established (good luck, by the way!).

[While you are at it, click here to see the heartbreaking reason for the scored out name on this image]

They have just visited Chateau Rayas, a very well known producer in their general area, not just for fun but also to exchange ideas (or should I say, learn from those who have been doing it for a while longer). I’m not sure how much of this goes on on a daily basis in this or other regions, but it is the kind of activity that should be encouraged. Plus, of course, we too can learn from it through the wonderful world of blogging winemakers.

I’m sure there are plenty of winemakers willing to tell others how to run their wineries, but how many of them want to take that advice?

Thank goodness for people like Matt & Amy at la Gramiere, and also Josh at Pinotblogger who give us a glimpse of life as a winemaker, and for their willingness to share information as well as listen to others.

Support local winemakers!