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Sod The Vintages

Published in Man's World Magazine | July 2005

BUZZ FOR BUZZ, THE WORLD OVER, Australia is matching France. Don’t do a double flip, or a grand jete. Allow me to clarify that this strongly opinionated statement refers solely to that spirited product of the humble grape—wine. And no two countries could be so different in their methods of producing wine. One with an ancient tradition of winemaking and almost fanatical rules and controls. The other with a 200-year-old recent history of winemaking with a fanatical disregard for rules.

So what’s the quick sip on Australia? It’s as large as the USA with a landmass of three million square miles. It ranks eighth in wine-producing countries world-wide. Aussies drink an average of approximately five and a half gallons of wine per person per year. That’s about two and a half times as much wine per capita as Americans do. They are eighteenth in world wine consumption. Its wine industry is one of the most technologically advanced. There are no rules similar to the French Appellation d’ Origine Controlee, which govern varieties of grapes that can be planted in specific areas, or how long the wines are aged, etc.

So how did a Johnny comelately get the cutting edge? Why have Aussie wines completely taken over Great Britain’s market and looks like repeating the act in India? I give you three reasons. Passion. Irreverence. Taste. You have to have passion to be a boutique wine producer and there are hundreds of such Lilliputian-sized wineries in Oz; an irreverence for old established rules of winemaking that actually encourages one to be innovative, and a focus on making dry table wines that have strong fruity tastes—sod the vintages.

In the highly unpredictable wine drinking market in India, Jacob’s Creek is top-drop. Introduced here with no fanfare two years ago, its Chardonnay White and Shiraz Cabernet Red (called the core range) command top-of-the-mind awareness. The Chardonnay is crisp with peach melon fruit flavours with citrusy undertones. The Shiraz Cabernet blend is medium bodied with ripe plum and berry fruit flavours. Both wines are lightly oaked. And both wines have been runaway hits in the Indian market.

I’ll analyse why a bit later. For now, the news is that encouraged by its success here, the company has launched two more wines, a white and a red, under its Reserve Range. Rob Raffa, Regional Manager, Asia Pacific from Orlando Wyndham, makers of Jacob’s Creek, visited Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore recently to conduct wine tastings. When asked by aficionados why the range was being expanded, he said, “The success of the Jacob’s Creek core range, introduced earlier will be boosted by the introduction of Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay and Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz. In any market, once a brand has been accepted, it’s important to increase the consumer’s choices. This Reserve range will allow Indian consumers to upgrade their cellars and drinking attitudes.”

Let’s understand what entitles a wine to be called Reserve? Two factors are certain. Reserve wines world-wide should be of higher quality (theoretically) and higher price (realistically). The higher quality can come from one or both the following factors. One, the Reserve wine should be blended from the best lots of wine made from grapes grown in the best vineyards. Two, the Reserve wine has been allowed to age longer before release.

Phillip Laffer, Chief Wine Maker, Orlando Wyndham and Australia’s Wine Maker of the Year 2002 elaborates. “In the Reserve Shiraz, I’m looking for a wine with rich varietal character, depth of flavour and balanced tannins. So after 18 months in new American oak, we make a final selection. Only the wines with enough potential to go on and age further make it into our final blend.” To make Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay, Laffer and his team have specially selected premium grapes from South Australia’s finest regions. After 8-10 months in French Oak, this premium full bodied wine is an outstanding example of South Australian wine making.

What can you eat with these wines? Well, as long as the Chardonnay is chilled to 12° C and the Shiraz to 18° C, anything you fancy goes. With the white, lightly spiced vegetarian dishes, pasta or even chicken and fish will swim well. Heavily spiced meats, moghlai food, strong cheese will work well with the red.

Here’s some more gyaan. Since the 1960s, Australia’s wine industry has focused on dry table wines. There is now a recognisable Australian trend that has emerged. The whites are creamy, smooth, the reds soft, packed with fruit. Easily approachable wines and concentrated flavours have become its hallmarks. Sante.