|The original Jacob homestakd|
The Jacobs Creek Files: The Barossa
As I outlined yesterday, I’ll be spending much of this week in the world Australian mega brand Jacobs Creek, touring vineyards, tasting wines and talking branding.
Today was focused around the home of Jacobs Creek, the Barossa Valley, kicking off at none other than the creek itself.
Whilst the eponymous watercourse creek is but a trickle at this time of year (it has been a dry, hot summer), it’s rather impressive to see the work that has gone on into managing and rejuvenating this iconic little stream with much focus upon encouraging the native vegetation and lessening the potential sources of pollutants. It’s working too, the call of native birds ringing in the air, the local flora rich and diverse, t
|Jacobs Creek has a number of these cork trees
that have been harvested for cork recently. Still
decades before right for wine cork.
The whole Jacobs Creek site is changing actually, with the somewhat recent acquisition of the old Grant Burge cellar door (located next door to the Jacobs Creek Visitors Centre) spurring the evolution of a rather famous label in what was once the Orlando portfolio – St Hugo.
From 2014 St Hugo will have a new, purpose built home in that converted Grant Burge building, with the name ‘Jacobs Creek’ to be soon after dropped off the label all together (which will be popular amongst the hordes who believe that putting Jacobs Creek on the St Hugo label devalued it considerably).
The whole concept of dragging the Orlando wines under the Jacobs Creek moniker was a constant point of discussion today, with many agreeing with me that it dragged down the reputation of wines like Steingarten, Jacaranda Ridge and St Hilary to see them under a Jacobs Creek label. The retort from Orlando Wyndham (Jacobs Creek brand owners) was that by making these a part of a globally recognised brand it was ‘doing a Penfolds’ and trying to lift the reputation of the whole JC brand.
I’m definitely not convinced, and I know a few of the Orlando staff aren’t either, even now. It’s not going to change in a hurry either, even if I could be right that wines like Steingarten can stand on their own two feet.
One change afoot at Jacobs Creek though is that regionality is finally being celebrated like it should, with the new vintage of Reserve wine now all regional representations as opposed to generic, mult-regional blends. A good move.
|Our intrepid touring party. I’m on the left.|
You can see such actions already paying off too, the Reserve range certainly presenting well already. Today we tasted just the Riesling and Shiraz, with the Chardonnay and Cabernet to follow tomorrow. The Riesling in particular looked superstar for the dollars, although the shape of the Shiraz left a bit to be desired, as this quick look showed.
(My extra notes in italics)
Jacobs Creek Reserve Riesling 2008 (South Australia) 12.1%A multi-regional blend
Toasty and quite generous, lemon juice nose. Mid-weight palate has hints of marmalade. Quite open style, looking very fresh and composed, yet open lime custard fullness. Quit firm, almost metallic acidity. Really rather smart for the price and age if broad and forward. Good. 16.5/20 88/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Riesling 2011 (Barossa, SA) 11.5%
70% Eden/Barossa Valley.
Limey and more juicy, carries an apple juice nose with an almost fruit concentrate sweetness through the middle. Bone dry apparently but tastes softer and sweeter than the previous wine, if capped off with a soft talc finish. Simple but genuine and gentle and mouthfilling. Expected a little more. 16/20 87/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Riesling 2012 (Eden Valley, SA) 12.5%
Bernie Hicken would love to have Eden Valley on the front label. It says Barossa but is all Eden fruit.
Much more composed and floral nose. Talc, Gardenia, lemon juice and sweet melon. Mouthfilling palate has more juicy fruit but with an extra line of clean natural acidity. Really well made, juicy yet clean and soft. All this for $11.95 on special? Bargain. 17.8/20 92/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz 2004
Mainly American oak.
|Amazing how vine densities and a slope
make a 2ha vineyard look huge
Menthol, black spice and dark fruit. Rich and full dark middle. Looks rich and really quite classy but finish has hard acidity and spirituous alcohol. Nice start and middle but not much of a fan of the finish. Others liked it much more… 15/20 84/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz 2008 (Barossa, SA) 14.5%
Open plum and black fruit nose. Looks oak sweet and generous to smell. Nice generosity indeed. Again the firm acid and hard alcohol burn to finish, though more integrated more here. Still harder going than it should be. 15.5/20 85/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2010 (Barossa, SA) 14.2%
Up to 20 months in new and used French and American oak.
Looks rather more berried and juicy on the nose. Chocolate newer oak. Much more in check here, the black fruit sweet but also dark, alcohol and acid notably tart and warm. Rather broad and condensed milk sweet to finish. Pleasant. 16/20 86/100
Speaking of Shiraz, Bernard Hicken (Orlando Chief Winemaker) mentioned that the base price for Barossa Shiraz this vintage is $2000, up from $1800 last year. Apparently low yields and strong demand is pushing up prices considerably…
Following on from the Jacobs Creek tasting, this afternoon saw a visit to one of the most impressive vineyard sites in South Australia, the quite amazing Steingarten vineyard in the Eden Valley.
What makes this vineyard amazing is as much about the nature of the vinyeard, and the location, than the wines produced from it.
Straddling the boundary between the Barossa and Eden Valley regions, this rocky, east facing site has a beautiful view that looks out over the Barossa Valley. It’s not the pretty vista that had me taking photos though, it was the vines.
|Rhone or the Barossa? Eucalypts a clue|
As you can see in the photos this is one closely spaced vineyard, with vines planted at a density almost double that of the average 50 year old Australian Riesling vineyard.
The ‘soil’ said vines are planted in is basically just rock too, with little topsoil to speak of, forcing roots deeper and vines to work harder.
So hard is this site that the vines are spindly looking things that look more like 5 year olds than 50, the lack of vigour making them work so hard that they have none of the typical gnarly girth we normally associate with old Barossan vineyards.
When you couple all of these factors together we end up with tough vines, in an amazingly tough spot producing amazingly concentrated grapes. It’s little wonder why the 2012 Steingarten is so very smart, even if it sourced from both this vineyard and another larger, east facing rocky vineyard in the Eden Valley.
Again, I’d prefer to see Steingarten be a single vineyard wine, even if they made a ‘Steingarten reserve’ or the like. Such a special site deserves highlighting dammit!
Tonight’s dinner focused on a few older wines, many of which I thought looked more forward and less cellar-worthy than expected. That Johann, however, is absolute top class.
Jacobs Creek Steingarten Riesling 2006 (Barossa, SA)
|Skinniest 50 year old vines I know|
Rather advanced really, toasted, limes on toast nose is surprisingly generous and full, the palate too big and chunky through the middle in its limey-melons-meet-secondary-toast-richness. The acidity is still prominent yet the line doesn’t scream classic, age-worthy Riesling to me. Too big I think, yet an impressive in its concentration. Drink nowish. 17/20 90/100
Jacobs Creek Reeves Point Chardonnay 2007 (Multi-regional)
A blend of Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills and Tasmanian fruit.
Also rather forward. Lots of oak character on the nose too. Cuddly and rich front and back. Palate has oak and fruit richness but is decaying too, with oak tannins to finish and a caramel bottle aged edge. A bit too oak driven and lacking in freshness really. Drink up. 15.5/20 85/100
|Great colours in the ’13 Barossan reds|
Jacobs Creek Steingarten Riesling 2012 (Eden Valley, SA)
A ‘perfect vintage’ according to Bernie Hicken
Super floral, limey slate nose. Wonderful brightness and florals on the nose, if still quite open. Limey, juicy mid palate and very firm acidity to finish. Steely but with generosity, this is great drinking now. I drank a glass without even blinking. 18/20 93/100
Jacobs Creek Centenary Hill Shiraz 2009 (Barossa Valley, SA)
Slightly raisined, rich black fruit nose. Super polished with oak. Rich mid palate with dark alcohol sweetness and a sinewy, old vine dark fruit. Excellent concentration and sweet choc cherry pie oak fruit sweetness. No tannins but long finish. Pleasing old vine red in a polished form, if a little fruit cakey. 17.7/20 92/100
Jacobs Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet 2009 (Barossa and Coonawarra, SA)
Dense and quite old school red. You can really notice the Cabernet fruit on the nose actually, the palate is a serious step up with dark chocolate, plum and coconut with very dark tannins. Hearty, utterly Australian red. Sophisticated and quite youthful. 18.5/20 94/100