Australian wine ‘in healthiest place for years’, winemaker claims

Australian wine is in the “healthiest place for years”, but needs to continue to challenge perceptions about its quality through single vineyard and site specific wines, Jacob’s Creek’s new winemaker Ben Bryant has said.

UntitledSpeaking to the drinks business during a recent visit to London, Bryant, who took over from Bernard Hickin when he retired in June, said there was a lot of innovation coming out of Australia, and winemakers were beginning to “turn the dial” in building the perception of Australian wine quality.

“Australian Wine has never been in a healthier place than it is now – the great thing is that as a collective of winemakers, we are really going back to our roots, which is expressing our wines from the vineyards they come from,” he said.

“It is great as we are starting to see wines that are single vineyard site wines that have amazing expression that we are able to tell our story through.”

He argued that this was starting to resonate with consumers and build the perception of more premium wines from Australia.

“To me, it is the purest and simplest way to turn the dial in terms of perception of premium and super premium, and I think it is critical to Australian wine not just in the UK but globally,” he told db.

Drinkers and wine lovers were increasingly looking for “fresher, brighter expressions” and Jacon’s Creek was working across its portfolio [to deliver that], he said,

“Looking at the top end of portfolio, we’re playing around with single vineyard and site expression of wine to fit into the heritage portfolio.

“There’s a lot happening now, but how do we entice or capture the younger millenials into what is a more traditional category in wine? We’re working on that in the UK and looking at ranges such as Suncraft, which is a different expression that is not following the traditional vintage, variety, region rules.”

Pernod Ricard announced the launch of Jacob’s Creek Sun craft in February, a new five-strong range of entry-level single varietal wines that aim to cut offer millenials an unfussy quality wine by having simple messaging that highlights only its taste profile such as Bold Red, Soft Rose, and Crisp White, supported by a marketing campaign that will explain more about the grape used.

Innovation 

Talking about the UK launch of Jacob’s Creek’s Double-Barrel matured Shiraz, which goes into Sainsbury’s this week, Bryant said it was one of the most exciting projects the brand had worked on for some time and an important innovation for Australia.

“There is lots of innovating that may or may not make it to fruition, but that is very exciting for me, as well as from an Australian point of view,” he said.

He also commented on the trend for lower alcohol wines and the changes picking fruit earlier is having an effect on vineyard management.

“More moderated alcohol is always a focus, so yes, picking things earlier [means] a focus on crop levels, so you get flavour ripeness. We always focus on the vineyard to get the best fruit and a lot of time is spent there looking at yield, canopy, the balance of wines, and irrigation to ultimately bring on the flavour and tannin in every berry at an earlier part in its life.”

This was becoming increasingly important as a result of climate change across the continent. “In Australia there is no hiding from the fact that seasons are getting hotter, more compressed and drier, so vintages are shorter than they’ve ever been because it’s hot and dry.”

Hot weather in the lead up to the 2016 vintage was offset by rain at the point of veraison, he noted, which brought everything back to life, and helped improve yields above average in some area. Overall the vintage was a good one, he added.

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