Neil Jericho talks Tempranillo

Neil Jericho and family step outside the walls with their 2014 Tempranillo, earning a top 10 place in Hot 100 SA Wines.

After being steeped in the wine industry for 40 years, working for notables that include Campbells of Rutherglen, Victoria’s multifarious Brown Brothers and Clare Valley stalwart Taylors, Neil Jericho wouldn’t have been blamed for wanting a change of scene, or even substance. Thankfully though, he didn’t open a Wendys; he started up a new winery. Jericho Family Wines has had a dream start, with national wine critics queuing up to tug their forelocks to the quality of the smallish range, not to mention earning a top 10 place for their 2014 Tempranillo in the latest The Adelaide Review Hot 100 SA Wines. Jericho says the wine was conceived in response to a conviction that there was a gap to fill in the market between the hordes of varietal rosés and traditional dry red styles. Accordingly, the wine is made in the “joven” style, which translates as young or youthful, a winemaking approach similar to that used for the Beaujolais of Burgundy. Jericho did at one point give consideration to producing a Gamay, but the growing local enthusiasm for the Spanish grape (and its more ready availability) fitted the bill. “It has normal picking time at 13-and-a-half baumé, spends only a few days on skins, is pressed off to a small amount of oak to give it complexity and is bottled young at August/ September,” he says. Jericho confesses to being slightly taken aback by the immediate success of the wine, which was wolfed down by drinkers. The 2014 vintage is long sold out, but an increased quantity of the 2015 is on the way. The Tempranillo grapes are grown in a vineyard near Kuitpo at the southern extremity of the Adelaide Hills region. The locale is also the source for Jericho’s elegant cool-climate Syrah, which sits in the line-up alongside a more robust McLaren Vale version. With Shiraz filling the role of anchorman for tradition, the rest of the range is looking to be more innovative, Jericho says, o ffering a Fumé Blanc – a Sauvignon Blanc that is barrel-fermented in the style of a French Sancerre – as well as a fine example of the up-and-coming white Italian grape Fiano. And, playing to the strength of McLaren Vale’s specialty variety, a Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre has just been added to the list. Jericho explains that all the wines have the benefit of three winemaking objectives: “Varietal fruit and definition have to be at the forefront of the wines; the second part is that the acids, oak and tannins all have to be in balance, with nothing ‘sticking out’; and that all adds up to the third one – drinkability. And we like to think we have a bit of an understanding of what people like to drink.” Jericho is not using the royal plural pronoun, and neither is the mention of ‘family’ in the company name a piece of twee marketing – the involvement of three of Jericho’s children is integral to the operation. With older son Andrew driving the winemaking, daughter Sally looking after finance and business strategy, and younger son Kim in charge of the branding and graphic design, responsibility for local distribution and promotion falls to the “semi-retired” paterfamilias. The brand is selling briskly in Melbourne and Brisbane as well as making the wine lists of some groovy local traps.

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