The Jacobs Creek Files: Why the Reserve Chardonnay is so good
|Sam Virgara’s Piccadilly vineyard as seen from his verandah.
The whole green swathe through the middle goes to JC Reserve
I’ve often wondered why the Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay seems to win so many awards. Why it scores highly in my own blind tastings, and why it stands out for its price bracket.
And today I got the answer. It’s simply about great grapes. That’s it.
The Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay, you see, is sourced from one of the finest spots to grow Chardonnay in Australia – the Piccadilly Valley. It’s not all from this celebrated Adelaide Hills sub-region (fruit comes from all over ‘the Hills’ for this wine), but there is no hiding that an important component is all Piccadilly, a spot normally exclusively associated with premium Chardonnay double, triple, multiple times the price.
Of course I’m not suggesting that the humble JC Reserve Chardonnay is a Hills superstar to rival the likes of Tapanappa Tiers, but it’s plainly apparent that this is a seriously smart wine at a silly price ($12.95 in retail land for what I can see) and one that deserves more plaudits.
Sadly, I wish I could say the same for the other two current release (the ’12 Pinot is not out yet) Adelaide Hills wines in the Jacobs Reserve range also tried today, both of which lack the detail and intensity to be really rise above their reputation and price point.
Two steps forward, one step back…
Anyways, as you can tell today was another day of Jacobs Creek and an interesting one too. A visit to Sam Virgara’s Piccadilly Valley vineyard (as pictured) and a chat with Sam gave insight into the Chardonnay, whilst a drive from Adelaide to Coonawarra (via Padthaway) reminded both how bloody isolated the Limestone Coast is and just how many hectares of vines there are in Padthaway, even if it is perceived as less trendy region. A sleeping giant?
Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA) 13.3%
The secret here is as much about fruit as it is careful oak according to Chief Winemaker Bernie Hicken. ‘Those 2-3 yr old barrels give an especially creamy texture’ he said.
‘We eased back on the malo from 2010 to 2012 vintages too’
Bold and quite overt, grilled nuts and white peach nose. Acidity a little citrussy with a whipped butter texture. Very much a wine of fruit with well handled oak and rather smart length and freshness. Identifiably Adelaide Hills too. Clever. Simple perhaps, but clever. 17/20 90/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2012 (Adelaide Hillsa, SA) 13%
Only about 30% of this wine went through malolactic fermentation in a bid to retain acidity. Trophy Winner for Best 2012 White Sydney Royal Wine Show 2013
Tighter, leaner, almost briny acidity. Really clean and well formed acidity. Has that white peach fruit intensity stitched up. Breezy and clear, this combines fruit weight with structure. Besides being just a smidgen light on the fruit weight, this could easily be a $25 Chardonnay. Simple again but oh so well done. Yes! 17.5/20 91/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Adelaide Hills, SA) 13.4%
Clean, neutral and dry, this has raw acidity and nettle fruit. Find that acidity hard and citrussy actually, a twang that doesn’t need to be there (added acid?). Sure its regional and recognisably so, but could definitely do with more texture and less hard edges. 15.5/20 85/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 (Adelaide Hills, SA) 12.4%
Note the low alcohol.
Dour and quite serious anise edge. Anything but fruit-sweet. Bristling, brackish acidity. Feels a bit stunted in fruit flavours but impressed in its structure and seriousness. Needs more flesh if serious stuff. 15/20 84/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
‘Generous varietal flavours in the 2012 Pinots’ according to Bernie
Sweet caramel edge on the nose. Ripe and yet not sweet, with a varietal spice. Clean fruit straddles the animal Pinoty fruit with a more generic red fruit overtone, finishing light. Good start this and quite a step up on ’11. 16/20 87/100
St Hilary Chardonnay 2012 (Padthaway, SA)
More malo on this (40% goes through malolactic fermentation). Picked early too.
White peach, coconut nose. Oak sits on top of the fruit. A touch of the Midori splice to the nose is rather distracting. Quite citrussy and lean palate too, the creamy oak sits on top too. Looks like it was early picked but doesn’t quite have the mid palate. There’s an awkward fruit character really, has too much old school white peach broadness to be contemporary. Not my sort of Chardonnay ultimately. Structurally it’s clever but generic. I was disappointed. 15.5/20 86/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (South Australia)
65% Coonawarra, remainder Padthaway, Langhorne and Clare Valley
Dark colour. Very red. Concentrated nose too – compact and thick and ripe. Slightly raisined and less obviously a Cabernet, save for an edge of mint. Jammy palate something of a disappointment to follow, the fruit having faded, leaving a dry earthen shell of largely oak an alcohol. Doesn’t follow up on its promises. Where’s the fruit? 15/20 85/100
Jacobs Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Coonawarra, SA)
15-20 months in barrel typically (which is heaps considering the price point).
Huge step up. Immediately carries a little extra black leaf and dark fruit. The palate is cedary and varietal and I just wish it was more distinct and defined. Pretty tidy for the $ though no doubt about it. 16.5/20 88/100
St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Coonawarra, SA)
Sourced from 10-12 older vineyards in Coonawarra which give ‘much more intense cassis fruit’ according to Bernie. More new French oak used here, up to 70%. Sometimes, in warmer years, has up to 10% American oak for taming the fruit sweetness too.
Spearmint regional character. Fragrant choc cassis. Dark, minty palate looks quite elegant and reserved, even a fraction light on. Perhaps could do with a bit more power but certainly a mid weight and quite classic St Hugo. Acidity in better shape too. Cellar-worthy and should impress a fan. 17.7/20 92/100