Wine Guy Dow Under: Tasting with Jacobs Creek Chief Winemaker for Australia


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by Brian Fry   | 196 entries


Here is part five of a ten part series on my incredible trip to the wine regions of Australia and New Zealand. This edition focuses on the tasting I did with Ben Bryant and James Keane at Jacob's Creek.

Bryant is the Chief Winemaker for Australia and Keane has over 20 years experience in Australian wine, and is currently a Public Relations Manager for Pernod Ricard. Both men provided an informative tasting that was full of fun moments.

I started of with Jimmy Keane who gave me a quick walkthrough of the impressive Cellar Door at Jacob's Creek Rowlands Flat facility. The beautiful tasting room and restaurant has room the thousands of tourists and locals who visit daily, but still had a homey feel.

We then met up with Bryant, who heads up all winemaking operations in Australia. He had prepared an extensive tasting of almost forty wines for review. Bryant was quick to explain he felt it was important to tasting everything from the entry level (Classic) to the super premium reserve and single vineyard wines.

I used to sell Jacobs Creek when I worked on the distribution side of the business, but I must admit it has been a few years since I tasted their entry level wines, now known the Classic series, which are most familiar to most Americans.

i was impressed by the quality that was presented at the $8-$11 price point we see at most local retailers. The 2016 Classic Chardonnay 2015 Shiraz - Cabernet far exceed expectations for wines at their price point.

We moved forward to the reserve wines, with which I have a personal history. i was new to the wine business in 2005 when the 2003 Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz took the US by storm, hitting the Wine Spectator Top 100 List and setting the bar for value from Australia.

I was again impressed by the 2016 Chardonnay, this one from Adelaide Hills, which sees 30-40% barrel fermentation with the remainder in stainless steel. For those in our Valley that are part of the ABC (anything but Chardonnay movement), i might suggest you take a look at this and other Adelaide Hills Chardonnay as an alternative to what you have experienced with the varietal in the past.

The Signature series of wines offers quality across the portfolio, but a standout for me was the 2015 Barossa Shiraz, with dense red - black fruits and subtle savory spice on the mid palate. This wine way over delivers on the price point.

The "Double Barrel" wines are a newer project for Bryant and his team. We are likely to see these wines in the US in the coming year. The winemakers utilize aged Irish whiskey barrels for for finishing which adds power and complexity to the wine, while showcasing the premium fruit flavors. I highly recommend both the Coonawarra Cabernet and Shiraz "4th Vintage" wines.

We completed our tasting with some premium reserve wines. All of these currently have limited or no distribution in the US, but I highly recommend purchasing any of them if you can luckily track them down:

2014 Steingarten Riesling 2016 Lyndale Chardonnay 2013 Bungalow Lane Cabernet 2012 Centennary Hill Shiraz 2012 Johann Shiraz Cabernet

The biggest thing I took away from my time with Ben and Jimmy was that there is so much more to the Jacobs Creek portfolio than the American wine consumer knows. Yes, the Classic series still offers great value at the low price point, and that is important.

I was struck more by the distinctive characteristics and careful crafting of the reserve tier and the wines above it. In fact, my guess is that there are Valley wine lovers who have likely not investigated these wines recently. I strongly advise that they are worth a look and purchase.

i would like to thank Ben and Jimmy for being such informative and gracious hosts. it was a comprehensive review of the portfolio, and we had a lot of laughs along the way too. I'm grateful to Pernod Ricard and Heidelberg Distributing for making this happen, especially Matt Frampton and Adam Farkas.

You will definitely see some Jacobs Creek wines at my events once I get home and I look for to helping you re-examine these wines.

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