Wine lovers young and old have been pleading with us to know when the next Jack’s Block Shiraz will be released. If we had a dollar for every time someone asked us this, well…we wouldn’t need to be winemakers to say the least. Not since 2008 have we bottled this iconic drop, made using fruit from fourth generation Jack Stanton’s vineyard planted in 1921.
Old vineyards require a great deal of care and it’s been a long journey for us nursing Jack’s Block back to top health. The long, scorching Millennium drought left it a little worse for wear with salinity and soil ecology two of our main challenges. We finally started to see a marked improvement with the 2015 fruit and then a further quality progression in 2016.
SPECIAL RELEASE OF A 2015 JC SHIRAZ
We’re very excited to release a ‘one-off’ wine - the 2015 JC Shiraz - named after John Charles ‘Jack’ Stanton. It’s not quite a ‘Jack’s Block’, but shows us that this vineyard is well on the way to delivering remarkable fruit quality once again. We only ever want to release a standout Shiraz under the Jack’s Block label, so consider the JC Shiraz as a ‘little Jack’. Click here to purchase online.
WILL THERE BE A 2016 JACK'S BLOCK?
We hope so but great wine takes time. One has to be patient in the wine drinking business! Things are looking positive as this year, we tried a range of different vineyard and winemaking techniques to maximise the quality and complexity of the finished wine parcels. In the vineyard we did various trials of fruit thinning and techniques to open up the canopy, which allowed more airflow around the grapes. By harvesting the rows separately, we were able to see how the various treatments influenced the different batches. It has been really rewarding to watch this vineyard improve over time and you can read how Vineyard Manager, Ruston Prescott, has increased the biodiversity and health to this vineyard here.
While most of the fruit was fermented in our open-top fermenters, with daily hand plunging and foot treading to extract tannin and flavour, we also did four smaller batches that were fermented in harvest bins. Two bins contained fruit that had been through the crusher/destemmer. ‘Bin A’ was solely hand plunged and ‘Bin B’ only received foot treading. The other two bins were almost entirely whole bunches (that is, not put through the crusher/destemmer). ‘Bin C’ was only foot trod and ‘Bin D’ was only hand-plunged which was very hard work indeed! These bins were kept in an air conditioned barrel room so it was a nice place to retreat to during the hot days of vintage.
Winemaker Andrew Drumm noted that "all the trials were tasted just before pressing, and there were some interesting differences – the whole bunches were very spicy, though a little less tannic than the others, while the foot trod wine showed more tannin extraction than the plunged wines". It's been a great process to treat the fruit in different ways to bring out different characteristics and Andrew thinks that "all of the batches were sufficiently interesting that we’ll be repeating the exercise next year, and may scale some of them up".
Above: Andrew Drumm checking the beaume (alcohol) level
THE FINAL STAGE: THE INFLUENCE OF OAK MATURATION
After pressing, we moved the wines to a mixture of new and old French and American oak for maturation. We choose oak from a range of different areas in France and America, each region giving different characters to the wine to increase the complexity of the finished blend. Andrew noted that the oak treatment was an important factor in making the best wine possible and that "oak maturation has multiple effects on the wine. The most obvious is the flavour, however of equal importance is the contribution of tannin from the wood, and the (very slow!) permeation of oxygen through the wood into the wine. This last process is probably the least understood of all, however wine researchers have shown that it is a vital part of the maturation process, softening the tannins and increasing their complexity".
We will leave the wine in the barrels until we judge how these three oak processes - tannin, oxygen and flavour- have combined with the wine to make the best expression of the block. So far, we have been extremely pleased with the 2016 vintage and the fruit development and we hope to be bottling a really rich, complex and balanced 2016 Jack's Block sometime next year.
If 2017 is another brilliant vintage, we're confident that the fruit will be even better, with the vines and soils benefiting from another year of vineyard rejuvenation. The only way from here is up, with continuous improvement. If you have a Jack's Block from the 1990s or 2000s hidden away in your cellar, we encourage you to pull it out, prepare a roast lamb and enjoy it with your friends for there is never a better time than the present to enjoy wine.
Above: Assistant Winemaker, Joe Warren
DON'T WANT TO MISS OUT ON THE 2016 RELEASE?
Our Quinta Club and VP Club members will be the first to hear about the release, followed by the Friends of S&K. Sign up to be a member of S&K or join our database to receive these notifications. In the meantime, we don't expect the 2015 JC Shiraz to last very long as even though it's not a Jack's Block, it's still a great representation of a full-bodied red from Rutherglen. Enjoy.