Down Under doesn't have to mean Over the Top
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I like big, bold, and boisterous wines as much as the next guy, but they need to be well made and I need to be in the mood for them. It's the style that many people think of when Australian wines, particularly Shiraz, come to mind. Bargain priced Shiraz is the first thing that most wine drinkers in the US were aware of when it came to Australian wines. A lot of these were, and often still are, big up front, loaded with alcohol, and didn't offer much body or a substantial finish. Some folks love them; I find them kind of tiring to my palate. Thankfully, though, there are also a lot of terrific wines coming out of Australia. Some of them are big, but offer great body and a terrific finish as well. In addition to that, there are an increasing number of wines coming out of Australia showing more balance and restraint than ever before. And they're available at many different price points, including entry level and at a premium.
Several months ago I was out in California tasting wine, and at one of my stops ran into a couple of Aussie winemakers who were also out tasting. The fellows I met work for Jacob's Creek. This major Australian producer is one I admittedly hadn't tasted any wine from in quite a while. That chance meeting motivated me to sit down recently and taste a good portion of their lineup to see what they had going on. What follows are my notes on three selections that are both delicious and offer a ton of value.
First up is the Jacob's Creek 2008 Reserve Riesling. Fruit was sourced from parcels of their vineyards that were identified as having the best Riesling. These selections were further honed by using hand selected lots of the best juice after fermentation. The suggested retail price for this wine is $13.99.
Citrus and honeydew aromas fill the nose of this wine. Lemon zest is particularly prominent throughout the palate. It's joined by orchard fruit flavors such as apple and subtler hints of Anjou pear. This Riesling is crisp and dry with terrific acidity. The final impression left by the finish is one that beckons you back to the glass for another sip. This wine is tasty on its own but will perform at its best paired with lighter foods. An entrée salad topped with grilled chicken and goat cheese would be an inspired match.
What I like best about this Riesling is its balance. A large number of Rieslings that hit US shelves are way too sweet and are hard to consume with many foods. This wine is the polar opposite of that. It's very much a food wine and completely in proportion.
The second selection from Jacob's Creek that stood out is the 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit was sourced from various winery vineyard holdings in several regions to achieve the best Cabernet Sauvignon they could. After 18 to 20 months of barrel aging in French and American oak, the final blend was assembled using the best lots of wine from this group. The suggested retail price for this selection is $13.99.
Dark berry and plum fruit characteristics are followed with cedar and vanilla aromas in a tightly knit nose that becomes more expressive as this wine gets some air. Black mission fig, fleshy plum and baked blackberry flavors lead the palate and are also joined by subtler cherry, blueberry and raspberry. Nutmeg, sour cherry, espresso, black pepper and mineral notes are joined by a hint of chocolate in the solid finish of this Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has yielding tannins and excellent acidity.
The smooth finish that this Cabernet features is one of its two standout characteristics. The other is how much genuine varietal character is on display in a wine in its price category. You could pair this wine with a steak if you wanted, but it's not one of those big tannic Cabernets that need it. You'll do just as well pairing it with a dish of pasta. This is a really solid Cabernet for less than $15.
The third wine from Jacob's Creek that I was moved to share my findings on is the 2006 Reserve Shiraz. After the Shiraz grapes were harvested, numerous lots were identified and earmarked for this Reserve wine for their quality. Barrel aging was accomplished over an 18-month period in a combination of French and American oak; both new and older barrels were used. The suggested retail price for this wine is $13.99.
Dark fruit and underlying spice notes are both up front the moment you pour this Shiraz and take a whiff. Sweet berry fruit is prominent with lots of red and black raspberry at the forefront. These are joined by plum pudding spice notes that lead toward the finish, which also has an abundant helping of black pepper, along with cherry, vanilla and a hint of smoke. The finish has good length and it's marked by soft tannins and solid acidity.
For me, this wine stands out because it features the fruity qualities I expect with a Shiraz in this price point. But it features more balance and complexity than many others in the category. As with the other two wines, it'll pair well with a pretty wide array of foods.
Jacob's Creek is a ubiquitous name and some folks shy away from wines that are widely available simply because they're everywhere. But there is something to be said for consistent quality, not to mention over delivering in comparison to other wines in their categories. If you're looking for solid Australian wines that deliver flavor, balance and quality at a modest price point, these Reserve selections from Jacob's Creek are sure to hit the mark.