The wine goes through the usual maturation process of a top Jacob’s Creek red and then undergoes a secondary maturation in a Scotch whisky ask to add complexity.
Pernod Ricard has previously experimented with cross-category maturation techniques by ageing Jameson Irish whiskey in stout casks.
The resulting Jameson Caskmates has enjoyed positive reviews and was designed to recruit craft beer drinkers into whiskey.
But the firm was adamant that it is focused firmly on red wine drinkers with Jacob’s Creek and that any Scotch fans converting would just be an added bonus.
Chief winemaker Ben Bryant told OLN: “We have had lots of debates. There has been a lot of discussion in markets where it has launched [it launched in Australia in 2014, Canada in 2015 and the US earlier this year] about winning over whisky drinkers. We are very cognisant that with our winemaking philosophy we want to maintain it as a wine expression. It doesn’t look like a whisky. It’s a wine with additional complexity and layers. It is firmly anchored in wine.”
There is also a Cabernet Sauvignon aged in an Irish whiskey barrel in the Double Barrel range, but for now UK drinkers can only get their hands on the Shiraz.
“We are launching the Shiraz in the UK and we have a single minded focus on that right now,” said Bryant. “Australia is most well known for classic Shiraz, with its generosity, richness and underlying texture.”
The wine has already gained a listing at Sainsbury’s and the Pernod Ricard team has launched a social media drive targeting red wine drinkers on Facebook with a short film to boost sales as it rolls out.
It has an rrp of £12.99. Pernod Ricard defines the £9-£15 segment of the market as “super premium” – anything above this is considered fine wine – and it said this section of the UK off-trade Australia category is up 24%.
That compares to 4.4% total growth for Australia in the off-trade, according to Pernod Ricard far outstripping the category, albeit from a small base.
It said “consumer interest is super premium wines from Australia is increasing” and hopes Double Barrel “can further unlock value growth for the category”.
Jacob’s Creek first conceived the idea for Double Barrel five years ago, exploring the use of casks from a range of categories.
Bryant said: “We followed the traditional winemaking path. We took Shiraz from super premium vineyards from Barossa and other regions in South Australia and put them through the standard fermentation and put the components into French or American oak, then took the base wine blend and put it through a secondary maturation process.
“That process brings a whole new dimension in terms of complexity to the wine. It changes the shape and texture of the wine to give a richer, deeper and smoother experience.
“We looked at our key varieties we are able to grow across our key sourcing regions – Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot and blends – and in terms of other casks we tried bourbon, rum and whisky from around the world.”
Some ended in failure as the oak dominated the fruit character and created a tension with the wine. But the team decided the Scotch whisky cask marries very nicely with the richness and intensity of Shiraz, while the elegance of Cabernet goes nicely with an Irish whiskey cask.
“We very quickly isolated the casks that worked well, but we had to spend a lot of time fine tuning the ideal blend,” said Bryant. “We had to get the balance and texture and richness. We spent a lot of time balancing the maturation.”