Jacob's Creek, 35 years on
An in depth tasting of one of Australia's top wine brands

The 2011 vintage was the 35th birthday of popular wine brand Jacobís Creek. The first Jacobís Creek wine, a 1973 blend of Shiraz, Cabernet and Malbec (labelled as ĎClaretí), was released by wine company Orlando in 1976.

Now part of the Pernod Ricard portfolio, the brand has been extended in recent years. First, two new tiers were added: the Reserve range (in 2000) and the Three Vines series (in 2007). The Three Vines didnít really work, but the Reserve Range, with its regional focus, has continued. Second, the Orlando high-end winesóSt Hugo, Steingarten and Johannóhave been brought under the Jacobís Creek banner as the Heritage range. Third, the last year has seen some innovative new additions to the portfolio.

The first of these innovations hit UK supermarkets last year, and consists of a pair of Jacobís Creek Moscatos. These are white and pink Moscatos at 8% alcohol, aiming to capitalize on the growing demand for this sort of easy to drink, lighter style of wine. A corresponding pair of sparkling Moscatos has also been added.

The newest innovation is the Cool Harvest range, which is just going into the supermarkets now. These are fresher, lighter wines with slightly lower alcohol levels, and they are very smart indeed.

But the heart of this tasting was the core range, including a look at how the wines have developed over time. This was interesting: one of the wines of the evening was the fabulous Jacobís Creek Classic Shiraz Cabernet 1996, which has aged beautifully. This is remarkable considering that this was just a £5 wine at the time, made in large quantities. However, it was just 12.5% alcohol; the current version is a bit riper.

In terms of winemaking, Jacobs Creek do things the right way. They donít rely on sweetness from grape juice concentrate for their reds, unlike some of the other big Australian brands: these wines are pretty much dry. And with oak use, staves (or planks) are used for the cheaper wines, which they treat themselves, and not oak chips or powder.

The wines were presented by Rebekah Richardson, who is group winemaker for whites and sparkling wines.

Interestingly, in the classic range the biggest selling wine has always been the Shiraz Cabernet. However, this has just been overtaken by the Chardonnay, which might seem surprising to some people. ĎPeople are going back to Chardonnay,í says Richardson. ĎThey miss the generosity.í

THE WINES

Jacobís Creek Classic Riesling 2002
This is the largest-selling Riesling in Australia, known for its value for money. The grapes come from Barossa, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale. Fruity, bright and focused with some limey notes and a bit of structure. Fine and fresh with life ahead of it. 89/100

Jacobís Creek Classic Riesling 2006
A warm vintage. Very bright and fresh with taut, precise lemony fruit. Expressive with some grapefruit notes. 88/100

Jacobís Creek Classic Riesling 2011
11.5% alcohol. 60% Langhorne Creek this vintage. Fine, floral, aromatic nose is crisp and bright. Taut, linear palate with bright fruit. Very impressive. 89/100   

Jacobís Creek Classic Shiraz Cabernet 1996
Cork sealed, 12.5% alcohol. Slightly leafy nose is elegant with a hint of tar. Attractive berry fruits here with nice evolution. A lovely drink. 90/100

Jacobís Creek Classic Shiraz Cabernet 2004
Cork sealed. 50% Shiraz. Nice sweet berry fruits. Quite open, rich and bold with pure fruit. Warming, dense and vibrant with some menthol notes. Impressive. 89/100

Jacobís Creek Classic Shiraz Cabernet 2009
58% Shiraz. Sweet open berry fruits. Lively with a slightly green edge to the sweet berry fruit. Direct with nice fruit purity. 88/100 (£7.50 Tesco, Sainsburyís, Waitrose, Morrisons, Booths)

Jacobís Creek Reserve Barossa Riesling 2011
51% Eden valley, 49% Barossa Valley floor. Fine, fresh, aromatic and lemony. Very crisp and pure with lovely vivid high-acid lemony fruit and some chalky minerality. 90/100 (£9.99 Tesco, Ocado)

Jacobís Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Quite sweet on the nose. Ripe, sweet grassy fruit on the palate. Fresh, fruity and correct. Some pithiness. 86/100 (£9.99 Tesco, Ocado)

Jacobís Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2010
Very fresh and citrussy with lovely toasty richness. A bit sweet on the palate with pear and peach fruit, plus a bit of oak influence. Attractive. 89/100 (£9.99 Sainsburyís, Asda, Ocado)

Jacobís Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2010
Sweet, supple and berryish with nice fruit, and a savoury twist. Itís accessible and sweet but also tastes like Pinot Noir. Stylish effort for the price. 90/100 (£9.99 Sainsburyís, Asda, Ocado, Tesco)

Jacobís Creek Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Spends 15 days on its skins. 13.9% alcohol. Ripe, sweet, open and seductive with berry fruits and a bit of grippy structure. Thereís some mintiness here, too. Sweet fruit profile. 88/100 (£9.99 Tesco, Ocado)

Jacobís Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2008
A third French oak, two-thirds American oak. Sweet, rich, ripe and a bit creamy with some vanilla notes. Structured and spicy with nice fruit. Very ripe, but structured. 87/100 (£9.99 Tesco, Ocado)

Jacobís Creek Steingarten Riesling 2002 Barossa
Rich and intense with a citrussy nose showing some wax and lanolin notes. The palate is rich and bold with good structure, some toast and high acidity. Bold and dense with good structure and some savouriness. 92/100

Jacobís Creek Steingarten Riesling 2005 Barossa
Rich and bold yet still quite fine. Dense citrus fruit here with subtle toast and spice notes. Grippy structure and good acidity. 91/100

Jacobís Creek Reeves Point Chardonnay 2005 South Australia
Padthaway and Langhorne Creek fruit. Rich and bold, with notes of fig and toast, as well as spicy oak. Fresh, intense, nutty and deep: quite delicious. 92/100

Orlando St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 Coonawarra
100% French oak. Really elegant although itís very ripe on the nose with sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Rich, bold, spicy and vivid with good tannins. Square and angular still, but this has lovely focus. 92/100

Jacobís Creek St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Coonawarra
Fine, slightly minty blackcurrant fruit nose. Bold, rich, vivid palate with powerful blackcurrant fruit. Pure, structured and intense but with some softness alongside the structure. 93/100

Jacobís Creek St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Coonawarra
Dense, intense and vivid with lovely focused blackcurrant fruit. Good structure with some sweetness and nice definition. Fine and expressive. 94/100

Jacobís Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet 2005 South Australia
60% Langhorne Creek Shiraz and 40% Coonawarra Cabernet. Dense, robust, rich and spicy with some minty notes alongside the rich blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Really intense and powerful with firm tannins and some spiciness. This needs time. 94/100

New wines

Jacobís Creek Cool Harvest Vermentino 2011
9.5% alcohol. Laser-sharp, fresh and bright with fine acidity. A bit pithy, but with real precision and fine citrus notes. Thereís a bit of carbon dioxide left here for freshness, and the 8 g/litre sugar doesnít show (juice added back). 87/100 (£8.49 Sainsburyís, Tesco, Ocado)

Jacobís Creek Cool Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2011
10.5% alcohol. Very precise, bright and fresh with real precision. A lively, crisp Sauvignon with real purity. Fresh with nice intensity. 88/100 (£8.49 Sainsburyís, Tesco, Ocado)

Jacobís Creek Cool Harvest Shiraz Rosť 2011
Nice pink colour. Fruity and rounded with some sweetness. Grapey with some cherry fruit. Hint of Turkish delight. Fresh. 84/100 (£8.49 Sainsburyís, Tesco, Ocado)

Jacobís Creek White Moscato 2011
65 g/l residual sugar, pH 3, 8% alcohol. Pithy, citrussy, grapey nose is sweet and aromatic with crisp grapey fruit on the palate. Precise, fresh and intense. Joyful. 85/100 (£7.49 Tesco)

Jacobís Creek Sparling White Moscato NV
9% alcohol, 80 g/litre residual sugar. Sweet, grapey and fizzy with nice freshness. Maybe too sweet? 80/100

Jacobís Creek Moscato Rosť 2011
A hint of strawberry and cherry fruit here. Sweet, grapey, fruity and quite delicious. 83/100 (£7.49 Tesco)

Jacobís Creek Sparkling Moscato Rosť NV
Fruity and a bit herby with some cherry fruit, as well as ripe grapes. Nice sweetness here. 82/100

See also:

Interview with Bernard Hickin, chief winemaker, Jacob's Creek
Jacob's Creek Steingarten vertical

Wines tasted 01/12  
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