Jacob Carter’s Sholto wines are made to reflect the familiar in an unfamiliar light, taking classic varieties from the Canberra District and making them in decidedly non-classic ways to reveal surprising new dimensions. Whether employing skin contact with sauvignon blanc or carbonic maceration with cabernet sauvignon, Carter is constantly redefining the wines of his region, never making the same variety the same way twice.
Jacob Carter joined the wine industry fresh from school, starting when he was 18 in his native Canberra District. Working locally at Jeir Creek Winery in Murrumbateman and nearby Gallagher Wines in Jeir, Carter has also done stints at wineries in Victoria and South Australia, but it is at home where Carter’s heart lies. “I grew up in the Canberra Region and I have always loved the landscape and the climate for growing grapes. To me, it is exactly the right area for producing the wines I want to make and drink.”
While Carter has worked with some traditional-leaning makers in his decade in the game, his winemaking approach is somewhat more flexible. “I think I have taken a lot of knowledge of my mentors, but also from more experimental winemakers locally and interstate,” he says. “I try to push the boundaries with any variety I can get my hands on, as I believe that every wine has the potential to be interesting and complex to change traditional views.”
Working with the region’s most celebrated varieties – shiraz and riesling – as well as sauvignon blanc, semillon and the Bordeaux trio of cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot, Carter launched his Sholto label in 2016 – with a 2014 wine – with the aim of revealing uncommonly displayed facets of familiar varieties.
“I created my label purely because I wanted to show consumers that there was a lot of potential in some of the more mainstream varieties. Every year, I push the varieties I handle to the limits, to bring the best flavours out of the vineyard they’re grown in, with skin-contact whites to carbonic-macerated and barrel-fermented reds and everything in between. I also like to make a point of making my wines differently to other producers, to the point that I never make the same wine twice – every year is different, so I make the wines different.”
Sourcing grapes from several sites, Carter is intimately involved in the farming of one of them – Barton Estate. “I have worked on this vineyard for over 10 years, and it has become a site that I am very proud of. I have been working with the owner from the start and have recently started pushing towards a more organic approach to growing grapes to build a healthier soil and healthier vines. I even pruned almost all of the 20 acres under vines mostly by myself this past winter to hopefully give every vine independent attention to try get the best out of not only this year but future years.”
Sourced from Barton Estate, the Sholto ‘Rouge Clair’ is a wine that Carter points to as an example of his winemaking approach. “It was a wine I wanted to go all out on. A cabernet sauvignon but made like a light red. Partially fermented in old barrels after going through seven days of full carbonic maceration and left on skins for up to three weeks. Very low sulphur additions through the whole process and left to settle for two months before bottling with a small dash of petit verdot thrown to help out with structure. It’s a wine I am very proud of.”
On the white side, he is working with increasing levels of skin contact. “It might not be everyone’s opinion, but I love skin contact with sauvignon blanc. I left my 2016 Fumé Blanc on skins for just over an hour, and it completely changed the flavour profile, ever since I’ve been pushing it longer and longer and it just keeps getting better!”