New winemaker and new wine range for Jacob’s Creek
There’s something about Ben Bryant (pictured) that reminds me of his predecessor at Jacob’s Creek, the great Philip Laffer. The new chief winemaker has something of Laffer’s demeanour, a no-nonsense, let’s-get-on-with-it kind of approach. Serious but calm; precise in his language; thoughtful but quick in his responses. Bryant recently took over from Bernard Hickin as chief winemaker, Hickin having inherited the mantle from Laffer.
Bryant, who grew up on the land not far from Mudgee, began his career 15 years ago as a cellar-hand at Poet’s Corner in Mudgee, became winemaker/manager there and then chief winemaker at Wyndham Estate, before a two-year stint in Hong Kong working in brand development in Asia for the Pernod Ricard wine group. He became Jacob’s Creek (tastings) chief winemaker in August.
And there’s another whiff of change in their air with the company’s launch of a new Barossa Valley regional range: Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Signature. An extension of the long-running Jacob’s Creek Reserve range, this consists of just three reds, all Barossa Valley fruit and proudly proclaiming same on the label. Orlando/Jacob’s Creek has been justifiably criticized in the past for not disclosing source regions on many of its wines and for failing to promote regionality, which was clearly a trend that was increasingly preoccupying consumers and the rest of the wine industry.
The wines are a straight shiraz (tasting), straight cabernet sauvignon (tasting), and a shiraz cabernet (tasting), all from the excellent 2014 harvest and priced at $20. They were released on September 21 and will be in the major retail liquor chains by now.
Not surprisingly – as it’s the Barossa’s hero variety – the pure shiraz is the star, and the shiraz cabernet is also very smart. The shiraz is full-bodied, rich and round, with some of that earthy, charcoal, sooty character that is very Barossa floor. Terrific value at the price.
One could argue about the use of the term ‘Reserve’: is it an abuse of the word to use it on lower-priced bottles (the regular Jacob’s Creek Reserve is even cheaper at $15), which are hardly limited production? I believe it is. However, the Barossa wines are worthy additions to the Jacob’s Creek portfolio.