Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Jacob's Creek at 28-50

I wouldn't have chosen the name myself. Because, confusingly, 28-50 is located at 140 Fetter Lane – but who am I to give them business advice when, clearly, the place is doing just fine, thanks very much.

28-50, the latest venture of Xavier Rousset, of Texture fame, calls itself “Wine Workshop and Kitchen”. To the uninitiated this might suggest a bit too much hands-on involvement from the customers, as though you are supposed to concoct your own wine and get stuck in to food preparation before sitting down. But fear not, ye lazy gourmands, there is nothing more strenuous involved than negotiating the stairs down from street level.

Essentially this is a restaurant, with a focus on interesting wines, many by the glass, which you can pair with a simple plate of charcuterie, or with a regular restaurant menu. Anyone who has set foot in Terroirs, aka the wine trade canteen on William IV Street, will be familiar with the set-up – and this place looks set to be just as popular with the wine cognoscenti, if the Twitter buzz about the place is to be believed. Our starter of dorade with puy lentils in a lemongrass velouté and main course of onglet with fat chips were good examples of unfussy, restaurant-hearty fare.

I was there to taste through the newly-launched Regional Reserve range from Jacob's Creek. Jacob's Creek Semillon-Chardonnay and Shiraz-Cabernet were some of the first New World wines that I ever tasted – and I'm sure I'm not alone, as they continue to be one of the strongest global brands to come out of Australia.

However, like many an early infatuation, I moved on to pastures new and now rarely find myself reaching for a bottle of Jacob's Creek as I trawl the wine shelves. So it was high time I spent an evening in its familiar presence – even if it was only for old times' sake.

Bernard Hickin, recently promoted to head winemaker, but part of the operation at Jacob's Creek for the past 30 years, laid out his stall right from the word go, with a delicious glass of Steingarten Riesling 2005. The fruit for this wine is mostly from the famous Steingarten vineyard in the Barossa, planted in 1962 and is still incredibly fresh, with great lemon 'n' lime acidity and a deep vein of minerality.

My favourites from the Regional Reserve range were the Riesling 2010, which comes from the Eden Valley zone of the Barossa. The wine is still not a year old and has a youthful lime blossom and citrus aroma. Those of you who fear Riesling = sweet, calm down dear, this is bone dry and finishes with a lemon sherbet freshness. It bemuses me that UK wine drinkers can't learn to love Riesling, when it shares many of the same characters with our current white fave, Sauvignon Blanc: bright, almost pungent fruit and racy acidity. But Riesling ages so much better and is infinitely more interesting as a variety.....have I convinced you?

The best red, for me, was the Shiraz 2007, also from the Barossa. Barossa and Shiraz go together like bottle and screwcap and this is a great example of a wine that tastes of where it's from, but is also extremely easy to like. It has aromas of a deeply fruity cake, the palate is fleshy, with soft tannins. But it is not a simple fruit bomb and it has good balance and great freshness too.

The Regional Reserves range also includes, from Adelaide Hills, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. All retail for £9.99 at and Tesco Wine Club. Sainsbury's stock the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for the same price.

No matter how big a wine company they work for, all the winemakers I've met can't resist the opportunity to get their hands on high quality fruit and lavish attention on it in order to show off their skills – and things are no different at Jacob's Creek.

St Hugo is made from a selection of 30+ year old vines in Coonawarra and the 2004 vintage has just started developing some maturing coal tar and capsicum flavours in addition to the vibrant, leafy cassis fruit. It's a cabernet, so there are tannins, but they're fine-grained and just add a welcome texture.

Johann is a 60/40 blend of Shiraz and Cabernet and shows why these two varieties complement each other so well. The 2005 vintage will be winging its way to the UK this year, but I'd recommend tracking down a bottle of the 2001, which is drinking beautifully now, having developed those chestnutty, truffley and earthy flavours that take over once the initial, almost too-bright, fruit has begun to fade.

28-50, 140 Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1BT,
Jacob's Creek Regional Reserve wines are available at and Sainsbury's
St Hugo 2006 RRP: £26.20 from Waitrose and Sainsbury's
Johann 2001 RRP: £36.65 from specialst independents

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