Heavenly Heathcote

A blog entry can't be expected to do justice to a visit to world-renowned Jasper Hill, but I'll try and distil the flavour.

Based an hour and a half north of Melbourne on an iron-rich, 100m wide, 2m deep strip of Cambrian soil, the Jasper Hill estate and its creators Ron and Elva Laughton, have been producing outstanding wines for thirty years.  The wines are biodynamically-farmed (but not even certified organic), not racked, filtered nor fined; only natural yeasts are used to initiate fermentation, the vineyards are un-irrigated and yields are between 10-20 hectolitres / hectare.  Ron modestly describes his non-interventionist methods as 'lazy', but his passion and expertise are plain to see.  In the course of our two-day visit we walked the 3 hectare Emily's Paddock vineyard, 15 hectare Georgia's Paddock and La Pleaide (a successful joint venture with Michel Chapoutier), Cornella vineyard (20 minutes north by car), as well as dining splendidly with Ron, Elva, their daughters Emily & Georgia and Emily's husband & chef extraordinaire, Nick (all of whom are involved in this family affair).

In the cellar and at the dining table (in the house that they built themselves beside Emily's Paddock), we tasted, drank and enjoyed a succession of fabulous wines as the family regaled us with tales of bush fires and vineyard encounters with red back spiders and lethal brown snakes (which made for a restless night at our remote digs, 'The Hut on the Hill').

So how good are the wines?  Like many in the wine trade, I've been asked countless times what my favourite wines are and I can sincerely say that Jasper Hill Emily's Paddock is right up there with the best from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône and elsewhere that I have had the privilege to enjoy.  To try and express this rather more objectively, I looked at the average Wine Advocate score for Emily's Paddock over the past five vintages 2003-2007.  OK, perhaps not the basis for an MW thesis but, as you'll see, it sits firmly amongst those Second Growths that aspire to First Growth status. Bearing in mind that only 400 cases are made every year (so the UK gets maybe 15-20!), at under £70 per bottle, its definitely a wine to try before you die (and, indeed, features in Neil Beckett's "1001 wines you must try before you die").


Wine Average WA score 2003-07 vintages
Lafite-Rothschild 95.9
Latour 95.5
Margaux 95.4
Haut Brion 94.7
Cos d'Estournel 94.7
Mouton-Rothschild 94.6
Leoville Las Cases 94.5
Jasper Hill Emily's Paddock 94.2
Ducru Beaucaillou 94.2
Palmer 92.8
Pichon Lalande 91.40

For the record, we tasted:

  • Georgia's Paddock Shiraz 2007, 2008 & 2009 (latter in barrel)
  • Emily's Paddock Shiraz 2007, 2008 & 2009 (latter in barrel)
  • La Pleaide Shiraz 2007, 2008 & 2009 (latter in barrel)
  • Occam's Razor Shiraz 2007, 2008 & 2009 (latter in barrel)
  • Georgia's Paddock Viognier 2009 (first vintage, soon to be shipped to UK)
  • Georgia's Paddock Riesling 2009 (still not available commercially due to 'drought' volumes, but should be available in 2010 vintage)
  • Georgia's Paddock Riesling 1989
  • Georgia's Paddock Shiraz 1996
  • Emily's Paddock Shiraz 1996
  • Georgia's & Friends Shiraz 1988 (which combined GP fruit with that provided again by friends of the family following the bush fire devastation in 1987)
  • Emily's Paddock Shiraz 1988

As you will note, our dedication to QC was exemplary and we can report that the 2007 and 2009 vintages are magnificent, with the 2008 a little lighter but still very good. In tandem with the wines, the Laughtons' generosity and unfailing good humour rounded off a truly memorable couple of days in the Victorian countryside.