Behind every bottle of wine stands a winemaker with the enviable position of shepherding the wine from grapes to final taste. Ben Bryant holds that coveted role for Australia's leading winery, Jacob's Creek. Bryant shares his journey on the road to winemaker and the passions that influence how he crafts his wines.
How did you get started in winemaking?
Growing up in New South Wales, Australia, I first discovered the basics of winemaking while I was a student trying to earn a little extra cash pruning vines. After that I took my first official position in winemaking as a cellar hand, which allowed me to work closely with an array of ferments. 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. I decided to study oenology at Charles Sturt University and completed my degree over the next five years, while also working as a winemaker and winery manager.
When did you begin working with Jacob's Creek?
I was proud to be appointed Chief Winemaker for Jacob's Creek two years ago. Working with one of Australia's largest and most respected global brands is an incredible privilege and a humbling experience. Prior to Jacob's Creek, I worked in numerous wine regions across Australia, which gave me a deep understanding of the Australian wine industry. Then I had a chance to work in China and study the industry internationally. When I returned to Australia, I took up the role of Winemaking and Supply Manager–Australia for Pernod Ricard Winemakers. This position allowed me to manage the winemaking process for all of the company's Australian wine brands.
I am thrilled to be a part of Jacob's Creek's next stage. Not only did I inherit a world-class brand but a world-class team of individuals who together have worked tirelessly to make the brand what it is today.
What inspires your winemaking style?
I believe that every wine should tell a story. When I taste a wine, I want it to smack of where it's from. I want to be captivated by the experience of the region. Wine is an adventure for me—it transports you to unexpected corners of the earth, each grape has its own intricate growing pattern, producing stimulating and unique tasting notes that are reflected and celebrated in each glass.
But really my biggest inspiration comes from my family, especially my wife, Kate. I have been blessed with a partner who loves wine and its many complexities as much as I do. We spend weekends challenging each other with blind tastings; she keeps me continuously curious and learning about new winemaking methods. She is my biggest supporter and I know that we have created an exceptional wine when she loves the end result as much as I do. Her high regard pushes me to find innovative ways to work with wine, and really make something that we can enjoy together.
Are there any wines you are particularly excited about?
I am particularly proud of Jacob's Creek Double Barrel. These red wines are first matured in traditionally roasted wine barrels and then finished in aged whiskey barrels. After two years of trials, we discovered that the richness of the shiraz was best suited to the assertive style of the Scotch whiskey barrels while the elegance of the cabernet sauvignon befitted the smooth style of Irish whiskey. There's a real richness throughout the palate from the aging process and a very smooth finish. Since starting at Jacob's Creek, I've wanted to creatively produce a robust wine that you can share at family gatherings or barbecues. The Double Barrel wines really capture the spirit of togetherness and joy while complementing favorite barbecue staples like spare ribs and lamb chops.
Speaking of family barbecues, if there was anyone you could share a glass of wine with, who would it be?
My wife, of course! An amazing thing about creating wine is knowing that people all over the world are sharing it with their loved ones during happy occasions and celebrations. There is nothing better than time spent around the table enjoying great wine, food and conversation. And it's in this spirit that Jacob's Creek launched "Our Table" to encourage people to enjoy these simple but full moments with friends and family. The initiative started with sharing recipes that pair with our wines on the Jacob's Creek website and has led to us hosting dinners all over the world—from New York to New Delhi and from London to Sydney. The dinners really capture the spirit of togetherness just like a robust glass of Jacob's Creek Double Barrel. I'm humbled to be a part of Jacob's Creek and to create wine that shapes so many people's experiences around the table.