TFP014 // Jauma
02.10.16

It was a near-spiritual experience when we first met James.

Our 14th expedition was to be a day of sheer juxtaposition. We'd just rolled on from a much larger operation; a vast and manicured estate that despite its immense prowess is renowned for its meticulousness. The script was flipped in a matter of minutes, landing us at the stable of Jauma after a short drive through the weaves and dips of Basket Range.

James is part minstrel, part wizard and perhaps quietly, a form of psychic. As a bastion and leader in Australia's natural wine movement, he took a hard line from his earlier career as a self-titled 'wine waiter', seeking out truth in all things that governed the industry and the craft that exacted his livelihood. Jauma certainly is the creation of James Danby Erskine, but it's really the perpetual reflections of a journey, represented through a place, a time and the people who've shared in this journey.

Upon arrival, we were met by a tall, eager chap, whose playful wit swept us up with warmth and frivolity. We were 'initiated' by a gong at the door of an old, ground-floor cellar, then immediately treated to lay-backs of one very crispy Chenin Blanc procured from an aged vessel with a long instrument.

Billy Dohnt had arrived earlier with mobile unit in tow, to issue bamboo plates piled with sumptuous paella that accompanied James' selection of delightful, bright and sometimes bubbly liquid treats. Truth be told, we didn't know much about the ethos that underpinned what we were drinking at the time. It didn't matter. It was fun. It tasted good. It was all good glugging. Good enough to go back for more glugging without being overwhelmed by much other than the moment we were sharing.

The chats that ensued were lighthearted, while James mused over possibilities and engaged us with hypotheses and mindful banter, rather than divulging the 'way it is' dogma that undoubtedly sculpts the attitudes of many upper echelon producers of his ilk. 

Grenache, of the bush-vine variety, and most notably sourced from the Woods' organic vineyard in the lower-risen hills of Clarendon, is James' main game. We'd been told by many that his style of expression was a great one. While the Chenin had broken the proverbial ice and realigned our senses from the conventional tunings just prior, it was dipping into seasoned barrel upon seasoned barrel of lively Grenache that brought our day to its peak.

A few d-floor throw-downs later and we were off again. We'd left but had taken something with us. One girl had a box of juicy treats sent up ahead of her to the tropics, to Port Douglas. For most of us though, our takings were subliminal. Seeds had been planted.

There's a mild sense that James is peering into your soul at first, when you engage him in conversation. On this occasion, we peered into James', just momentarily.