Chief winemaker for Jacob’s Creek, Ben Bryant, talks about his journey into the business of wine
He would have been a sports physiotherapist, but a job at a local winery changed the course of his life. In this interview, Ben Bryant, who’s currently the chief winemaker at Jacob’s Creek confesses that the challenges behind making wine is what keeps his passion alive.
Take us through your journey as a winemaker.
I grew up on our family property in the small town of Mudgee, which is a four-hour drive from Sydney. Initially, I had wanted to pursue a career as a sports physiotherapist but then took up a position as a cellar hand at a local winery. While on the job, I developed a fascination for the intricacies of winemaking. So instead I started studying oenology at university while continuing to work at the winery. After five years, I got my degree and immediately became the winemaker and winery manager at the same winery. Since then I have worked in numerous different wine regions in Australia and a vintage in Ningxia, China, all of which have continued to build my interest and passion in wine.
As a wine maker, what are some of the challenges you enjoy?
The challenges are many — decisions about harvest, fermentation, which oak barrels to mature the wine in, are some of the few. In fact about 80 per cent of a winemaker’s work is done in those 90 days between mid-January and mid-April, and it feels like we are working 24/7. But it’s a time we winemakers love the most, despite the stress and lack of sleep. And it is all done with a great sense of excitement, with the expectation of making the best possible wine from each parcel of grapes under your care. There is a wonderful sense of camaraderie with your team, everyone working together to make great wines. I absolutely enjoy it!
This was your first visit to India. Did you get to try some of the other Indian wines?
It was a truly wonderful experience. India is a vibrant, buzzing hive of a country and I found the people incredibly warm and enthusiastic about wine, which delighted me. I admit I kept pretty busy hosting The Reserve Table events so of course I was enjoying our own Jacob’s Creek wine most days and didn’t get much chance to taste any local wines. But it is definitely on my to-do list for the next time!
What are some of the things you like about Jacob’s Creek wines?
We focus on making great tasting wines that reflect the true character of each grape variety. So tasting all of the wines in the Jacob’s Creek range is a really interesting way to learn about the unique flavour that each grape variety has. Sauvignon Blanc is as different from Chardonnay as Shiraz is different from Pinot Noir. You can then take that experience to another level with the Reserve and explore those varieties when grown in the best wine regions. It’s a fascinating
If someone were to start drinking wine for the first time, how do you suggest they begin?
I think it’s best to start with approachable styles such as a classic Chardonnay. After that I would suggest a Shiraz Cabernet for a red wine, with ripe plum and berry flavours and soft approachable tannins. It can also sometimes help to start with a wine that has more residual natural grape sweetness, such as the Moscato, which is a delightfully aromatic wine and generally
— Priyadarshini Nandy