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Jauma

Jauma

Fun Wine or Fine Wine?

Leaving behind his career as one of the country’s most decorated somms, James Erskine then forged his own path crafting pithy, natural-leaning McLaren Vale grenache in 2010.
Producing under his label, Jauma (Yow-ma), Erskine has set the benchmark for natural wines done well, and his team now sits high up in their green oasis in Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills, led by Fiona Wood, an expert in natural viticulture, who helps drive their commitment to producing all-organic wines. The meaning behind the name? Well, when James Erskine was travelling through Spain, he met a winemaker called Jauma (Catalan for James), who was making wine with grenache, or rather garnacha. Unlike the beastly boozers from his home in Adelaide, these wines were light, lithe, and had a delicacy about them that James had not seen before.

 

Natural Vanguardist

This expression led Erskine and Wood to strive to produce wines in a unique, expressive, creative style from their Seaview, Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale, Lenswood and Clarendon vineyard sites. These vineyards are sandy, elevated sites either over red clay, schist or quartz. All their wines are harvested by hand, all ferments are wild, and the wines are never added to or taken from – since 2015, Jauma wine is made with no additions, subtractions, divisions, or multiplications. It is simply fermented grape juice, using wild yeasts, with no fining or filtration, no new oak, and only a minimal amount of sulphur before bottling to make the sure wine arrives at its final destination intact and as intended.

It’s difficult to pigeon-hole James’ winemaking style but he always manages to blur the line between ‘fun wine’ and ‘fine wine’ with wines full of character, fruit expression and texture, yet with plenty of elegance, detail and structure. These are the sulphur-free wines everyone is trying to make these days but so often coming up short - stable, well-made and age-worthy, but still with plenty of character and pizzazz. Erskine’s philosophy is very much down a natural line, with manipulation and additions shunned, except the occasional dusting of sulphur. Having met a like-minded grower in Fiona Wood in 2011, Erskine contracted her to look after the sites he leases, managing the McLaren Vale vineyards with strict organic practices (though not certified).

In 2018, Erskine purchased an old cherry orchard in the Adelaide Hills, which has been certified organic for over a decade, picked his first crop of cherries (and did some fun projects like cherry vinegar) but then got to work on planting his first, own vineyard. His team have planted Chenin Blanc, Savagnin, Cabernet Franc and Gewürztraminer grapes and continued to be inspired by new vineyards, new varieties and new techniques. That being said, Grenache is most certainly his jam and he makes everything from pet nat, to full carbonic, to blended with shiraz, to multiple single vineyards of it. His background as a high end sommelier and wine judge shines through on occasions and in particular in his single vineyard Grenache bottles. They are as natural as wine can get, but have a more serious tone to them (even if the labels are playful). James sees wine as a conduit that allows the idea of ‘the self’ to connect with the real world. He thinks that wines which have not been manipulated within the winery, and that are made with no preconceived ideas on how they will finally present themselves, reveal a more honest sense of place, and are wines that help us connect with the world around us, by tapping into our emotions and our senses. James is one of the winegrowers who is at the vanguard of new Australian wine and is contributing to the reasons why it’s such an exciting place to be growing wine. Not just natural wine, but good wine. Wine that expresses an honest sense of place, without extraction, manipulation, or heavy handedness in the winery. Wine that attempts to capture our unique Australian culture in a glass.
These are the sulphur-free wines everyone is trying to make these days but so often coming up short - stable, well-made and age-worthy, but still with plenty of character and pizzazz.

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