April 05, 2008

Recommending Jacob's Creek

I didn't really foresee the day I'd recommend not one, but two Jacob's Creek wines. Yet here we are.

I don't mean to seem snobbish. It's just that there's plenty written about mass market wine brands. And, usually, I find you can get better wines for less that $10 from smaller producers than the giants. Think of it this way. With $5 for lunch, would you choose McDonald's or one of a selection of lunch carts? I go with the best lunch cart I can find. You can simply do better with individuals making their own food, perhaps with some love and attention, versus the consistent mediocrity of the industrial giant.

With that in mind, we consider Jacob's Creek, a brand from the Australian wine giant Orlando. First, if you need a good, cheap sparking wine that mimics something in the neighborhood of Champagne, the current crop of NV Jacob's Creek Brut Chardonnay/Pinot Noir is pretty swell. I heard about it from Matt Kramer in the Oregonian newspaper, and he's correct that it's more than decent stuff. Two caveats: batches change without notice, and freshness in a wine like this counts. Don't buy dusty old bottles of most sparkling wine.

But the real interest here is the 2002 Jacob's Creek Riesling Steingarten Barossa Valley. I came upon it the other day in the Hollywood Fred Meyer store here in Portland for just $6.99. The display suggested it was a huge markdown, and despite the Jacob's Creek name I grabbed one. Then I looked it up on the internet, as I like to do with wines that I find.

The first thing I found was that this is a limited release wine usually marketed under the Orlando name for $20 or more. It's been around for decades and it seems to be a highly regarded bottling in its home country. The 2002 vintage is apparently infamous for being the year Orlando thought they'd change things up and brand it with the Jacob's Creek name, much to the chagrin of longtime fans who thought it cheapened the wine. Perhaps that led to the local close out.

The most useful notes I found on the wine are at the Auswine forum, which I've read for years without participating much (not at all in the past five or so years). Read here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for more, including some very positive comments and even some evidence of clamor for the wine before release, at a notably higher price. It's always interesting how something so hot in one country or city can languish on the shelves in another. Another proof that prices does not equate to quality.

So how is it? Terrific, actually. This is really one of the most interesting non-European rieslings I've ever tried, no matter the price. For $7, it's a ridiculous bargain. It's indeed lightly honeyed smelling as others have reported, with light petrol aromas and grapefruit, sometimes mint and other interesting things that come and go with time in the glass. In the mouth, the wine is auslese rich with bright acidity but little if any residual sugar, meaning that it's rich and full tasting but also dry and lively with a long finish. The flavors are fruity, mineral, and earthy, really integrated and complex tasting with great intensity and terrific balance. I know, vague winespeak, but this wine is really good and simply the kind of wine you try and immediately know it's serious stuff that will last and probably only get better. As Robert Parker might say, run, don't walk.


Eugenia said...

Thanks so much for continuing to recommend wines cheapskates like me (and in the PNW, no less) sprint behind you to go buy. I appreciate a wine guy who has the guts to buy at Fred Meyer AND admit it. :)

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Glad to help. But is Fred's really so bad? I know it's the corporate giant now, but the wine selection in some of the stores is incredible. Far better than it has any right being, in that there's almost nothing handmade in Fred Meyer in any quantity aside from the wine selection. In any Everyday Living world, there's Vilmart Champagne, Grunhauser Riesling, Roilette Fleurie, and Edmunds St. John Syrah, jsut for starters. It really makes no sense when you think about it.

Eugenia said...

I'm going to check it out, that's for sure!