The competition, which was launched in 2006 by UK wine writer Matthew Jukes and Australian wine writer Tyson Stelzer, is a unique wine show because it focuses exclusively on Australian blends of cabernet and shiraz. It has a very rigorous format – the scores of all 13 judges are counted against every wine in the show, and the judges include some of best winemakers in the country. Winemaker judges for the 2010 show were Brian Walsh (Yalumba; Chair of Judges), Jeffrey Grosset (Grosset Wines), Toby Barlow (St Hallett), Michael Fragos (Chapel Hill), Tash Mooney (Fox Gordon), Kym Teusner (Teusner Wines), Joch Bosworth (Battle of Bosworth) and Katie MacAulay (Lion Nathan).
From a commercial perspective, Jacob’s Creek put the shiraz cabernet blend on the map when it introduced the budget priced Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet to UK consumers in the mid 1980s. As a young Aussie expat living in London on a very limited budget in 1985, this great value (ie. cheap) and very drinkable Aussie blend was welcome news to my friends and I. We snapped it up along with thousands of others, making the brand the UK’s top seller.
The Jacob’s Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet is, of course, at the other end of the spectrum to the budget blend. The most recent 2008 vintage retails for around $75 versus $11.50 for the Jacob’s Creek Classic Shiraz Cabernet. But by all accounts the extra dollars for the Johann are well worth it.
Named after Johann Gramp, the pioneer of Orlando Wines, the Johann is Orlando’s flagship wine. It’s produced only from the highest quality shiraz and cabernet vineyards in South Australia, with grapes that display powerful and well structured flavours. According to Jacob’s Creek Chief Winemaker Bernard Hickin, “The rich round fruit flavours and soft ripe tannins of Shiraz are balanced by the classic tannin structure and length of Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz fills the middle palate which can sometimes be lacking in Cabernet Sauvignon. The result is a wine that is excellent with food due to its complexity, flavor and mouth feel.”
Gary Walsh of The Wine Front scored the 2005 vintage 95 points, giving the wine a very ‘sexy’ review:
Topical wine then.. Choc-licorice, dark cherry, vanilla, mint and toasty oak. Picture thick purple sheets of satin tannin rippling in the breeze, billowing smooth and long. Sexy, a little obvious and tawdry, but so damn enjoyable. The synergy of Cabernet and Shiraz on full display. Full bodied but balanced and harmonious. Loved drinking it. (The Wine Front, 25 January 2011)
Judging from readers’ comments to this review, some people have a hard time associating the Jacob’s Creek name with high priced premium wine. But I think most wine critics would argue that the Johann, along with Jacob’s Creek St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon and Jacob’s Creek Centenary Hill Shiraz, are absolutely must picks for a top wine cellar.