Ben Bryant Jacob's Creek Double Barrel Interview

Ben Bryant Jacob's Creek Double Barrel Interview

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Jacob's Creek Double Barrel has it's own unique story as it is one of the few blends in the world that is finished in aged whisk(e)y barrels, that make the trip across the world to the Barossa from Ireland and Scotland.

But, did we mention that the 2018 vintage was blessed by Thor himself?

As a known lover of Aussie wine, Chris Hemsworth recently visited the Barossa Valley as a guest of Jacob's Creek to spend time with Chief Winemaker, Ben Bryant and immerse himself in the full Double Barrel experience.

Interview with Ben Bryant, Jacob's Creek Chief Winemaker

Question: Can you tell us about how Jacob's Creek Double Barrel is finished in aged whisk(e)y barrels?

Ben Bryant: Double Barrel is a wine, comprising premium reds, which go through two types of barrel treatment (hence the name Double Barrel). The wine is first aged in traditional wine barrels, before being finished in aged whisk(e)y barrels.

We select high quality fruit from premium Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon growing regions, which is fermented and then matured in traditional French or American Oak wine barrels. We then create a blend intended for Double Barrel, and finish 100% of that blend in aged whisk(e)y barrels.

Question: What inspired this innovative concept?

Ben Bryant: At Jacob's Creek, we are proud of our culture of fostering innovation. Some whiskies are aged in old wine barrels, such as sherry casks, so when the idea to do the opposite for wine came from one of our team, myself and the other winemakers jumped at the opportunity to bring this to life.

Question: What happened when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) visited Jacob's Creek?

Ben Bryant: In his first visit ever to the Barossa Valley, South Australia, Chris spent a few days getting to know our Jacob's Creek winemaking team and our celebrated wine region that's been home to the winery since 1847.

We gave Chris a firsthand insight into what it takes to create our unique wine, Double Barrel, which is finished in aged whisk(e)y barrels. We began our tour in the Double Barrel Shiraz vineyards, where Chris tasted grapes straight from the vine. We then headed into our barrel room and played with red wine blending to demonstrate how we craft Double Barrel.

Later in the day we brought together a team of local people who are behind Jacob's Creek, the growers, winemakers and barrel makers, at our historic Jacob's Creek Estate.

Question: What was it like spending time with Chris Hemsworth?

Ben Bryant: Chris really has a passion for Aussie wine and was keen to meet the team behind creating Jacob's Creek. He was easygoing and laid back when he spent time with the team and I learning about our Double Barrel range and the unique process with it being finished in aged whisk(e)y barrels.

Question: Which of the Jacob's Creek Double Barrel range was Chris Hemsworth's favourite?

Ben Bryant: The Double Barrel Shiraz was his favourite. He liked the rich taste and how smooth it was.

Question: Can you tell us about the 2018 vintage?

Ben Bryant: The three reds in the Double Barrel range are the:
• 2015 Jacob's Creek Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon
• 2015 Jacob's Creek Double Barrel Shiraz
• 2014 Jacob's Creek Double Barrel Shiraz Cabernet

The Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon is finished in aged Irish whiskey barrels which adds power and complexity, while showcasing the fruit flavours. It's a refined and structural wine, with lovely dark fruit flavours, smoky oak and notes of vanilla and spice. This is one to enjoy with a roast rack of lamb.

The Double Barrel Shiraz is full and generous, with the aged Scotch whisky barrels used for finishing enhancing these characteristics. Think plum, blackberry and vanilla flavours with a beautiful soft finish. Match this with rich wagyu beef or aged beef rib eye.

The Double Barrel Shiraz Cabernet is full-bodied with a balance of blackberry, dark chocolate and vanilla flavours. The aged Scotch whisky barrels we use for the Double Barrel finishing process help to enrich these flavours while maintaining the integrity of the fruit and providing a long finish. Slow-roasted barbecue meats are a perfect match for this wine.

Question: How did the weather affect this range?

Ben Bryant: Our Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Coonawarra in the south-east of South Australia. In 2015 we had ideal conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon in the Coonawarra, which was aided by a long-ripening period for the grapes due to cool summer conditions. This helped with the development of the flavours of the Cabernet fruit.

In the Barossa, just north of Adelaide, we had ideal conditions for our 2015 Double Barrel Shiraz because it was a warm spring that promoted good early flowering and then the transition from flower to grape berries. These warm conditions continued, seeing us harvest the grapes earlier in vintage than usual but they were at their optimum, and have produced Shiraz with great colour, flavour and tannins.

Our 2014 Double Barrel Shiraz Cabernet is sourced from the Limestone Coast again in South Australia's south-east. During this vintage we saw good winter rains set up the vineyards for what proved to be a long 2014 vintage due to cool nights and moderate day temperatures slowing the ripening of the fruit. The result is very high-quality fruit that's had plenty of time to develop its flavour profile.

Question: What inspired your passion for wine?

Ben Bryant: I took a job as cellar hand at Poet's Corner Winery in my home town of Mudgee, NSW, where I was attracted more to the idea of agriculture rather than winemaking. However, after working closely with an array of ferments during my first vintage, I was immediately intrigued by what was happening in the process, from vine to wine. As I began to understand the fundamental elements of winemaking, my appreciation grew into a deeper passion.

Question: What's next for Jacob's Creek?

Ben Bryant: We're excited to be adding the first white wine to the Double Barrel range, the 2017 Double Barrel Chardonnay, which has just reached shelves. This is a modern Australian Chardonnay with a unique twist as it's crafted in aged Scotch whisky barrels, which add depth and intensity. The Chardonnay is made slightly differently to the reds, as 50 per cent of the wine is fermented in French oak wine barrels, and the other 50 per cent is aged in Scotch whisky barrels, and then its blended.

Interview by Brooke Hunter