Jackson Brooke is an affable bloke who successfully turned his love of drinking wine into making it. While studying a science degree at University of Melbourne, he lived with his uncle, who had a fine collection of wine – we all know what happens when you pair the words “uni student” and “wine”. His parents also happened to be partners in a winery in the western Victorian region of Henty, where the climate is cold but the people are warm.
I first tried Jackson’s wines back in 2020 in the depths of a Melbourne’s COVID lockdown, undertaking what I titled as a “small Vic winery exploration”. I recall being thoroughly impressed by his offerings, and this time around I took an even deeper dive into the wines, trying them all out by themselves and then with food, and I’m happy to report that Jackson is still making some absolute corkers (under screwcap, of course).
Jackson Brooke 2021 Henty ‘Cobboboonee Vineyard’ Meunier Rosé
91 points – $25.00
‘Harvest 25/03/21. Baumé 11.7, pH 3.49. Destemmed and pressed directly to tank for ferment. Wild ferment completed very quickly, but the wine remained on gross lees for a further 3.5 months. Racked in mid-July with an addition of SO2. Passed through a coarse filtration in early August to remove some cloudiness before bottling on 25/8/21.‘
Only a touch lighter in colour than the Pinot Meunier below, this is quite a different wine, with more of a savoury profile (earth, pepper), a touch of fruit leaning towards strawberry and rose, and some bell pepper. On the palate it’s silky, and it goes just swimmingly with spicy food like curry or noodles with chilli. Enjoy at any time of year, no matter the temp.
Jackson Brooke 2021 Henty Chardonnay
91 points – $30.00
‘Harvest 20/3/21 and 25/3/21. Baumé 12.6, pH 3.25. A blend of 4 separate vineyards. Doeven Vineyard in Drumborg, 55%; Cobboboonee Vineyard in Heywood, 35%; Green Hills Vineyard in Minhamite, 7%; and Blok 49 in Hamilton, 3%.
‘Destemmed and pressed directly to barrel (30% old puncheon) and tank (70% stainless steel) for wild ferment. Full malolactic fermentation through May and June before an SO2 addition in July. Racked off its lees in September before blending in December prior to bottling. Not fined or filtered.’
While Henty is mainly known for Riesling, it’s also a region making some lovely cool-climate Chardonnay. This one is a delightfully approachable drop, with lemon, almond and nectarine throughout topped up by a little hint of lanolin. I had it with cheese, which gave it some extra zippiness, although slightly chilled in summer would be a great option, too.
Jackson Brooke 2022 Henty ‘Cobboboonee Vineyard’ Pinot Meunier
92 points – $36.00
‘Harvest 29/03/22. Baumé 12.8, pH 3.5. 30% whole bunch, 70% destemmed. Wild ferment in 4 small open-top fermenters. Gently hand plunged daily with ferment temperatures peaking at 30 degrees. Pressed on 16/04/22 after 17 days on skins, into 4 old puncheons. Wild MLF in barrel with an SO2 addition in June after its completion. Racked late September. Racked again late December prior to bottling January 2023. Not fined or filtered.’
Pinot Meunier is often forgotten, overshadowed by its champagne blending partner Pinot Noir, and even by Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. So finding a varietal version of it can be a challenge. As soon as you open the bottle, you get hit in the face by Meunier’s calling card, ripe strawberries, which persist for the entirety of its life, accompanied by cherry, earth, musk and some slight stemminess. The strawberriness continue on the palate, which is fresh and vibrant, becoming more savoury as the wine breathes. With food, it’s even better.
Jackson Brooke 2022 Henty ‘Doeven Vineyard’ Riesling
93 points – $36.00
‘Harvest 5/4/22. Baumé 12.1, pH 3.09. Whole-bunch pressed, directly to stainless steel tank for wild ferment, completed by late April. Racked in May with an addition of SO2. Racked again late July to prepare for bottling. Not fined or filtered.’
Without a doubt, Riesling is the star of Henty, made popular by wineries such as Seppelt and Crawford River. The vineyard is named after Jack and Lois Doeven, and is located in the well-known area of Drumborg, a name known to many Rieslingophiles. This is a citrus bomb, full of heady lemon, lime and grapefruit aromas, and a pronounced flinty, minerally note, not to forget some tantalising peachiness. The palate is silky and full, with a mellifluous feel. When consumed with food (I recommend something spicy and/or salty), it’s positively vibrant and zippy to the max.
Jackson Brooke 2021 Grampians ‘Westgate Vineyard’ Shiraz
93 points – $30.00
‘Harvest 9/4/21. Baumé 14.2, pH 3.53. Transferred to stainless steel fermenters, Wild ferment took time to get going (natural cold soak if you will) but complete by the end of April. Pressed on 2/5/21 after 23 days on skins. Pressed directly into old oak, a mix of puncheons and barriques. Addition of SO2 post-MLF in barrel. Racked off gross lees late December before bottling in January.’
The Westgate vineyard in the Grampians is renowned for making some tip-top wines, and this is no exception. It’s ripe and juicy, coming across like strawberry topping after opening, with a burst of raspberry, blackberry, pepper, plum, spice and clove. Like the Meunier, it turns more savoury after some air time, but the fruit never leaves, instead singing at a higher pitch if drunk with some food (I had Hungarian goulash). Despite the 14.5% alcohol, there’s enough acidity and tannin to keep everything balanced.
Jackson Brooke 2022 Henty ‘Cobboboonee Vineyard’ Chardonnay
94 points – $50.00
‘Harvest 2/4/22 and 6/4/22. Baumé 12.7, pH 3.3. Whole-bunch pressed to old puncheons for ferment (2 puncheons total, 100% barrel ferment and aging). Wild ferment took place over the course of 10-12 days followed by full spontaneous MLF in barrel. SO2 addition at the beginning of June. No lees stirring and no wine movement until March 2023. Racked off gross lees prior to bottling with a small top up of SO2. Not fined or filtered. Bottled 15/4/23.’
While the moniker “single vineyard” doesn’t always equate to better quality, in this case, it’s definitely apt. Everything is dialed up a bit more in the Cobboboonee Chardonnay: flavour intensity, acid, complexity, silkiness, mouthfeel and creaminess. Jackson told me that he was really excited about this wine, and I can see why. This one isn’t as fruit-dominant as its sibling, but shows complexity from other realms: lemon, struck match, nectarine, cucumber, nougat, butter. It was only bottled in April 2023 but it’s already showing marvellously, so I imagine it will just keep getting better.