John Hawkesby

John Hawkesby is a wine writer for Canvas Magazine.

Wine: Expressions of interest

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2009 Jacob's Creek Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, $21. Photo / Supplied
2009 Jacob's Creek Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, $21. Photo / Supplied

It's one of the largest selling brands in the world and New Zealanders have been enjoying it for 30-something years.

Initially a low-priced, cheerful red, the reserve and limited release versions of Jacob's Creek now constitute quality wines of outstanding value.

The reserve range was launched in 2000 and then, as now, fruit for these wines is identified by the winemaker while still in the vineyard. It is then set aside at harvest for its high quality and true varietal expression.

Reserve wines now have a new regional flavour, which means the same careful fruit selection applies but is restricted to the specific and named region best suited for growing each variety - for example, Jacob's Creek Reserve Barossa shiraz or Jacob's Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills chardonnay.

The brand is named after a creek that runs through the Barossa Valley in South Australia and was first launched in 1976, although the parent company, Orlando Wines, planted its first vines in 1847 to start a tradition of winemaking more than 160 years ago.

In the past, Australia has often blended wines from all over the place but now there is a concerted effort to be more "site specific". As Jacob's Creek chief winemaker Bernard Hickin says, "It's widely recognised that certain grape varieties are better suited to particular regions."

Barossa, with its warm, dry days and cool nights, is ideal for shiraz and, from its higher elevations, delicate riesling.

Coonawarra, on the other hand, with a maritime climate, is great for cabernet sauvignon. The cool climate of the Adelaide Hills works for contemporary styles of chardonnay.

All this subtle re-positioning and re-branding may be seen as an attempt to make Australian wines more accessible, relevant and consumer-friendly.

Good on the wine producers for realising that when there's a global surplus and significant choice for wine drinkers they need to be at the very top of their game. And good on those consumers who have developed a level of understanding and discernment when it comes to parting with their money and seeking wines with integrity and provenance.

Regional roots ought to be celebrated. Well done Jacob's Creek for recognising that.

Recommended

2009 Jacob's Creek Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, $21
Good with osso bucco, beef rib roast and mature cheeses right now but will mature over the next decade. This has generous, ripe cassis and tobacco leaf flavours with a subtle swish of oak. Big, rich and smooth.

2010 Jacob's Creek Reserve Riesling, $21
From the Barossa Valley, highlighting regional characters of apple, lemon blossom and fresh lime. Perfect with shellfish, oysters and spicy Thai dishes. Will also age nicely.

- NZ Herald

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