South Australia is known for its natural wonders, from its huge salty lake to its outback ranges. However, one of its most famous features is actually a tiny dribble of fresh water that rolls off the Barossa region’s eastern ranges down through the Rowland Flat district, where it joins the North Para River then later becomes the Gawler River before entering the Gulf of St Vincent. This trickle of water is Jacob’s Creek, and it’s all because of the humble wines that take its name and have become global phenomena.
Jacob’s Creek is a product of one of the original Barossa wine companies, Orlando, now owned by French beverage corporation Pernod Ricard. Orlando was established by Johann Gramp in 1847, after he settled on land beside that trickle of water and planted his first commercial vineyard and made his first Orlando wine in 1850. But the name of the creek celebrates another migrant before him, the lesser-known William Jacob, an assistant to Colonel William Light when he was first surveying the district.
William Jacob recognised the potential of the country around the rivulet and in the late 1830s into 1840 bought and settled on land there. Soon his sister Ann and brother John joined William, living in a thatched and reed hut as well as basic tents, tending cows, fowls and dogs, as well as planting crops. Ann’s diary reveals episodes of dealing with “troublesome natives” and bushrangers. After William died, she was well regarded as a pioneering female landholder. One of her successes was growing some of the earliest vines in the Rowland Flat district. She also was an active member of the Barossa Valley community and social scene, renowned for hosting guests for regular lunches and dinners. The original Jacob cottage remains on the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre site, and is now tourism accommodation.
Fast forward 120 years, during which the family winemaking business of Orlando was incorporated to be Gramp and Sons, remaining a successful producer into the 1960s and ’70s. This was followed by an era of corporate takeovers and a management buyout, before Pernod Ricard took ownership. In 1973, amid all that corporate noise, a new wine began its 50-year story out of the Orlando stable, and after being launched publicly in 1976 it went on to change the face of not only the business but also the status of South Australian wine in a much wider sense. That one wine was a Jacob’s Creek Claret, one of three new wines at the time bearing different brandings under the Orlando banner – a Riesling, a Moselle and a White Burgundy. The 1973 Jacob’s Creek Claret was the only red in the new team, a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet and Malbec from three SA regions, designed to be a soft, fruit-forward and drinkable wine released with two to three years’ maturation, relatively inexpensive yet delivering buy-again-and-again quality at the price.
It was an immediate success, growing from just 18,000 cases produced in the first season to 150,00 within a decade. It blew away the other Orlando contenders of the era and stayed on as the sole Jacob’s Creek iteration until a Classic Riesling came along in 1984; now, half a century after the brand began, it’s the second wine to the red blend in production numbers. By 1990, Jacob’s Creek wines were being sold in 20 countries. A Chardonnay was introduced to the range which was expanding with a Beaujolais Nouveau-style red, a Chablis (later renamed with its white varieties), and a case full of show medals, trophies and awards. By 1993, two million cases of JC were being exported to more than 40 countries, and at the turn of the century that had grown to 4.5 million, escalating it to the world’s most-traded wine brand.
Now there are more than 80 separate wines carrying the JC logo in styles that range from the classic level, to oakier variations, more reserve picks from premium SA sources, spritzes, half alcohol, no alcohol (less than .5 per cent), sparklings, chillable reds, a set specifically recognising Ann Jacobs’ contributions, three finished in whisky and rum barrels, and fine, luxury iterations. All of these have come to fruition under the creative and commercially conscious eye of senior winemakers during JC’s 50-year run of success, including Philip Laffer in the early days, Bernard Hickin, Rebekah Richardson, Trina Smith, and current chief winemaker Dan Swincer.
While the Jacob’s Creek brand is often associated with its basic offerings, the exploration of new styles that lead or slip into market trends, as well as allowing the winemaking team some blue-sky experimental space, has always been part of the Orlando company ethos, Swincer says. One of the focuses right now is on finding a next possible starring brand in the wider family, with wines like the “Greasy Fingers” Shiraz designed for burger bars, a “Wicked Wild” natural style and amber wine trial, an “Aces & Arrows” Wine Co alternative varietal offering, pet nats, chillable reds and more. One of them might go on to emulate the push of the original Jacob’s Creek Claret, or perhaps the more recent success of the Double Barrel range.
“The idea was to create a wine in the beginning that was more accessible than what was around at the time. It was good quality and everyone could have it,” Swincer says. “And you kind of think about how that rolls out for what we do with Jacob’s Creek right now. This is the discussion we’re always having: What is Jacobs Creek? What does it stand for? It’s about taking high-end wine concepts and regions, and democratising them for the masses, whether that’s entry-level Claret, or Riesling, Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, Prosecco Spritz half alcohol and chillable reds. They’re meant to be clear expressions of that varietal or style in a way that people can identify with.”
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News Source : InDaily
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