Sunday, February 13, 2011

JACOB'S CREEK

Australia's most recognised wine brand globally?

Maybe.

South Australian winery where you're most likely to see busload after busload of Asian tourists arrive to circle the surrounds for about an hour or so, taste a single sample of shiraz and then leave?

Definitely.

I also noticed they have a play area in the corner of the tasting room for kiddies now. They do think of everything, don't they?

For all the hoopla, Jacob's Creek actually makes some pretty sound wines throughout their portfolio, whether you love 'em or hate 'em. From low-end to the high-end, you generally know what you're gonna get with Jacob's Creek. Consistent, cleanly made, ably balanced and flavoursome expressions of variety are what I've come to expect from Jacob's Creek, not to mention reliable value for money.

Like many large producers, Jacob's Creek are evolving and bolstering their range at present. In addition to their 'Sparkling/Moscato' range (9 wines), 'Classic' range (15 wines), 'Three Vines' range (3 wines), 'Reserve' range (6 wines) and 'Heritage' range (5 wines), Jacob's Creek has introduced a 'Limited Release' range of 7 wines, which is basically where the brand's toying around with new varieties that haven't surfaced under their previous labels. Langhorne Creek tannat, Adelaide Hills sangiovese, lagrein/dolcetto, Langhorne Creek graciano and vermentino are some of the new varieties available in this range. The 'Limited Release' wines sit slightly above the 'Reserve' wines in price, with a retail tag of $20 for the whites and $25 for reds.

Additionally, Jacob's Creek are looking to better the reputation of their 'Reserve' wines, by moving them in a more (single) regional direction. Due to time constraints I bypassed tasting the Reserve wines on this day, but in hindsight I wish I hadn't. The thought of Jacob's Creek made Barossa shiraz, Coonawarra cabernet or Adelaide Hills chardonnay stirs up optimistic ideals in my mind, especially within the $12-$16 price range.

On the subject of regionality, there is a bone I wish to pick with Jacob's Creek; Reeve's Point Chardonnay. On my last visit to the cellar door in 2008 I was told Reeves Point would be moving away from Padthaway towards the Adelaide Hills. Now, with the current 2005 vintage available, the Reeves Point bares no region of origin on its label, although I'm told it's still predominantly Padthaway based, with a smaller portion of Adelaide Hills fruit in the mix.

I understand Padthaway chardonnay isn't as fashionable as Adelaide Hills chardonnay (which is becoming a competitive little market in its own right), but the Reeves Point, just like St Hilary, has shown itself to be a good wine over the years, with a unique, pungent regional character. These two wines have been regional benchmarks of Padthaway whites for many years. By jumping on board the Adelaide Hills bandwagon the brand is essentially abandoning Padthaway (which has been championed by Orlando for years). I only hope someone else picks up the fruit source and makes some pretty smart chardonnay out of it as well, because losing these Padthaway chardonnays would put a kink in the armor of one of Australian wine's greatest strengths; diversity.

Anyway, enough of that.

The tidy little Gramp's wines are also available for tasting and purchase at the cellar door, but I thought I'd focus my attention solely on Jacob's Creek.

Jacob's Creek tasting notes are posted below

Jacob's Creek Reserve Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2008 ($18) Yep. 100% Adelaide Hills now. Its lemony/bready fragrance is quite atypical, but there's also a charming note of spice that really appeals to me. The palate is cleanly flavoured, with its grapefruit/white apple notes finished off in the classically tingly, effervescent Jacob's Creek style, which is given a lift by the same spice note I picked on the nose. Not quite as good as the 2007 wine though. 88

Jacob's Creek Limited Release Vermentino 2010 ($20) Like Yalumba's tasty little vermentino, this is predominantly sourced from Langhorne Creek. It shows a big, tropical fruit punch nose that immediately has me thinking; 'savvy drinker special', but its palate is much zestier and livelier than most savvy, with clean and clear guava fruit flavours driven to a limey finish loaded with plenty of zing. I'm liking what I've had of this variety so far, but this one might be a fraction dear; better on discount. 88

Jacob's Creek Steingarten Riesling 2010 ($35) The Eden Valley classic. At the youthful and tight end of the Eden's 2010s, with a mineral, slatey fragrance of lime juice. Its very fresh palate is juicy on entry but lively to progress, announcing an almost zesty citric sherbet like accent to what is otherwise a steely climax. It's good, but I don't think it's quite as good as some of the label's recent efforts, which could be a combination of it being very young, or just served too cold on the day.....93

Jacob's Creek Reeves Point Chardonnay 2005 ($35) Mostly Padthaway with some Adelaide Hills now. Pungent, open Padthaway style nose with juicy melon fruits, butterscotch and tightly wound clean oak. It seems well poised within its context. Its medium-bodied palate has pungent fruit flavours inside, but ample framework outside. It's driven and formed. Not a shy man's chardonnay, but it just might be peaking now. 91

Jacob's Creek Three Vines Shiraz Grenache Tempranillo 2009 ($14) I've always enjoyed this wine in its short existence, and with the 2009, the streak continues. Musky, exotic spice driven fragrance with sweet, small red fruits and little if any oak evident. It's light-medium in weight, with a good line of refreshing structure that holds its red fruits nicely in place, until finishing in an agreeably spicy fashion. Certainly at the more 'modern' and 'cutting edge' of Jacob's Creek's reds. I like it. Smartly priced too. 89

Jacob's Creek Limited Release Lagrein Dolcetto 2007 ($25) Pongy nose. It's muddy, with plummy ripe fruit, chocolate raisins and smooth oak. Its palate is quite flat and tarry, lacking brightness and vitality throughout. Unconvincing. 84

Jacob's Creek Limited Release Tannat 2008 ($25) Langhorne Creek. Good nose. Black, typically sinister tannat nose with ripe, tarry dark fruit quality, but it is considerably even and deep. The palate has good length, with drying yet well contained tannat tannins, but it just seems to be a touch riper than what was promised on the nose, with a profoundly meaty mid-back section that also reveals dates/prunes. It's not without potential though, and I'll be watching the label in the future. 88

Jacob's Creek St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($45) The Coonawarra classic, of course. Big, typically minty St Hugo nose, with cassis, red plums and vanilla oak, expressed in a style which is relatively soft, bright and even for the season. Concentrated and smooth, its dark palate holds its ripe fruit in check, although there is a suggestion of ripeness evident in what seems to be some fairly polished tannins. Although not too bad really, it clearly lacks the finesse of the better years. 91

Jacob's Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet 2005 ($75) Classic Johann mint on the nose. It's deeply fruited and beautifully ripe for the season, with red fruits and plums met by an equally strong, if not more prominent note of fresh vanilla/cedar oak. It's smooth and rich, with a touch of meaty ripeness that is actually quite agreeable, but it really comes through on the back palate, which grows with great intensity. It's a very well made wine, with cellaring potential aplenty. Much like Penfolds did with their 2005 Bin 389, Jacob's Creek has delivered a real winner here. 94


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