Laughing Jack

Family Values: Outstanding Moppa and Greenock from a Historic Address

For 15 years, we’ve proudly represented the wines of Shawn Kalleske’s small historical family winery throughout Australia. The first thing to know about this winegrower is that he lives in the vineyard. Getting a hold of Shawn outside vineyard hours is nigh on impossible, perhaps because vineyard hours at this address are roughly the same as sunlight hours. Kalleske has completed over 20 vintages at the estate and not only do his gnarled, crevassed hands tell the tale of each tour of duty, but the quality of his wines is also a testament to his rare work ethic.

One imagines it helps when you have such an impressive office to work from. Laughing Jack’s enviable vineyard holdings were planted by his forebears and span three sub-regions—Moppa, Greenock and Marananga—with vines dating back to 1962. All sites are on the slopes, ensuring a cooler run through vintage for the Laughing Jack fruit, as compared to those on the hot and dry valley floor. The Laughing Jack website is an invaluable resource for those wishing to delve deeper into these special sites.

Underpinned by a deep respect for traditional Barossa values, through a process of constant fine-tuning in the vineyards and cellar, Kalleske’s wines have become ever more refined and pure expressions of what are indisputably some of his region’s best-kept vineyards.

Looking back to the early days, Shawn readily concedes that in the Parker-era (like others in the Barossa at the time) the grapes were being picked on sugar ripeness. But, as Shawn told us recently, this “doesn’t come into it at all now”. Today the focus is placed squarely on picking grapes that are flavour-ripe, with great tannin and acid balance. Hard pruning keeps the already naturally low yields in check, and Kalleske has planted cover crops and manages weeds by cultivation without the use of chemicals.

In the winery, méthode Barossa holds sway. The reds are all fermented in open-top fermenters, basket pressed and bottled without any fining or filtration. The use of wood these days is well-judged, with a mix of older and new French hogsheads and puncheons.

Great sites, top-notch fruit and a most thoughtful and conscientious vigneron result in a range of authentic and characterful wines. The much-loved Jack’s Shiraz is the great value gateway to this producer. At the other end of the scale are the premium powerhouses of the range, the Limited Two and the Carl Albert Shiraz. These wines showcase not only the powerful and perfumed fruit, but Kalleske’s skilled winemaking hand, balance is key, and he strikes it time after time. There are riches in between, from a perfumed Old Vine Moppa Grenache to a textural, yet crisp Greenock Semillon. Those on the hunt for true Barossa soul need look no further.

The Range

Laughing Jack Jack's GSM 2021
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Laughing Jack Jack's GSM 2021

A slice of great-value Barossa soul from the quiet achiever. The first thing to know about this winegrower is that he lives in the vineyard. Shawn Kalleske has completed his 25th vintage at the estate. His gnarled, crevassed hands tell the tale of each tour of duty, and his rare work ethic shows in the quality of his wines. Laughing Jack’s GSM is drawn from the estate’s manicured Moppa Hill and Greenock vineyards. Planted in 1962, the Moppa Hill site has ancient, sandy soils with old vines deeply anchored in the reddish-orange clays far beneath. The Greenock property has deep red soils. Both sites are own-rooted, low-yielding and managed sustainably according to organic principles. The 2021 blend chimes in at 62% Grenache, 22% Shiraz and 16% dry-grown Moppa Mourvèdre. All components are handpicked, destemmed and fermented separately as whole berries, while the free-run juice and the skins from the press age separately. The blending takes place after 16 months in seasoned French puncheons. There’s a newfound purity to Kalleske’s wine these days, and the 2021 is vibrantly scented and full-throated yet balanced on the palate with a seductive texture and delicious spice-driven generosity. Kalleske should probably be asking a little more for this wine, but let’s keep that to ourselves for now. It will make many drinkers happy on many levels.

Laughing Jack Jack's GSM 2021
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Laughing Jack Moppa Hill Block 6 Shiraz 2020
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Laughing Jack Moppa Hill Block 6 Shiraz 2020

This superb single-vineyard Shiraz is sourced from a six-acre plot replanted in 2001. Sadly, the original 1912 vineyard was ripped out in the mid-1980s thanks to the SA government’s now-notorious vine-pull scheme. Here in the Moppa sub-region, the grapes grow on sandier soils than in Greenock (a mere 2km away as the crow flies), producing more perfumed wines with finer tannins. This release is no exception.

“Shiraz (clone 1654) from a single vineyard in Moppa Hill in the northwestern Barossa Valley; matured in French oak (18% new) for 20 months. Calm and composed, this savoury-leaning shiraz shows deep, ripe blackberry and dark plum fruits on a bed of baking spices, dark chocolate, olive tapenade, licorice and earth. It sports a powdery tannin grip and a sense that all the individual components are on the same page, finishing with impressive sustain.”
95 points, Dave Brookes, The Wine Companion
Laughing Jack Moppa Hill Block 6 Shiraz 2020
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Laughing Jack Greenock Shiraz 2019
Laughing Jack Greenock Shiraz 2019
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Laughing Jack Greenock Shiraz 2019

The Kalleskes’ Greenock Shiraz was planted in 1999 on land that had been in the family for nearly 150 years but used only for crops and grazing sheep. Shawn Kalleske was convinced that Greenock's ironstone soils would be perfect for Shiraz, and from day one the family have been excited by the results. The 2019 was grown on a single parcel known as East Block, an own-rooted plot planted to a mix of clones including the original 1890 Greenock property Shiraz clone. The fruit was destemmed and the berries crushed before going to small 3-tonne open-top fermenters where it was hand plunged twice a day over 20 days. The wine then rested for 20 months in a mixture of new and seasoned French and American oak. It’s another class act from Shawn Kalleske, built for the cellar but approachable now with a decant and a great steak.

"Sourced from a single block of shiraz on the Kalleske estate in the western Barossa known as East Block, aged for 20 months in 40% new French oak, 40% seasoned French oak, 10% new American oak and 10% seasoned American oak hogsheads. A great example of classic Western Ridge latent power here. Dense blackberry, black cherry and plum characters build in intensity, gather both spice and pace before compressing and accelerating to the exit, framed by superfine tannin before coast slowly into the distance. Lovely stuff."
95 points, Dave Brookes, Halliday Wine Companion Magazine
Laughing Jack Greenock Shiraz 2019
Laughing Jack Greenock Shiraz 2019
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Laughing Jack Jack's Shiraz 2020
Laughing Jack Jack's Shiraz 2020
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Laughing Jack Jack's Shiraz 2020

This perennial overachiever is sourced mostly from the Kalleske family’s Greenock, Moppa Hill and Marananga vineyards (the 2020 blend is 75% Greenock, 15% Marananga and 10% Moppa). The grapes were 100% de-stemmed and transferred to a mix of open-top fermenters, where they were hand-plunged twice per day. Following fermentation, the wine was then fed to oak barrels for 20 months - 6% new French and 2% new American with the balance being seasoned French and American. This really is excellent. It seriously over-delivers for the money and offers far more than we once expected for Barossa in this style and price. It’s a no-brainer if you’re looking for something ‘classic’ from this region for a good price.

Laughing Jack Jack's Shiraz 2020
Laughing Jack Jack's Shiraz 2020
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Laughing Jack Old Vine Moppa Grenache 2019
Laughing Jack Old Vine Moppa Grenache 2019
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Laughing Jack Old Vine Moppa Grenache 2019

Sourced from a low-yielding vineyard planted in 1962 by Albert and Ian Kalleske, this old-vine Barossa is a model in its class. The three-acre plot is located on the fabled southern slope of Moppa Hill, where Laughing Jack is one of only three growers. The contoured site is at 350m elevation, and the deep-rooted, old vines sit on ancient, sandy soils with orange clay and quartz stone underneath. The fruit is always hand-picked and the 2019 was partially destemmed (76%) to whole berries with the balance remaining as whole bunches. After 14 days on skins in a three-tonne open fermenter (with twice-daily hand plunging), the wine was basket-pressed to barrel. It spent 19 months in seasoned French oak (60%) and seasoned American puncheons (40%). Liquorice, spice and all things nice, there’s a lot of stuffing to the 2019. Blue-floral perfume, red fruits and brooding power work alongside an impressive tannin profile and mouth-watering acidity. It’s powerful and impeccably balanced with a dense fruity core and plenty of savoury tones. Complex, layered, mouthcoating and delicious—an excellent release. Liquorice, spice and all things nice, there’s a lot of stuffing to the 2019. Blue-floral perfume, red fruits and brooding power work alongside an impressive tannin profile and mouth-watering acidity. It’s powerful and impeccably balanced with a dense fruity core and plenty of savoury tones. Complex, layered, mouthcoating and delicious—an excellent release.

Liquorice, spice and all things nice, there’s a lot of stuffing to the 2019. Blue-floral perfume, red fruits and brooding power work alongside an impressive tannin profile and mouth-watering acidity. It’s powerful and impeccably balanced with a dense fruity core and plenty of savoury tones. Complex, layered, mouthcoating and delicious—an excellent release.

Laughing Jack Old Vine Moppa Grenache 2019
Laughing Jack Old Vine Moppa Grenache 2019
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Laughing Jack The Limited Two Shiraz 2018
Laughing Jack The Limited Two Shiraz 2018
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Laughing Jack The Limited Two Shiraz 2018

Made just four times across Kalleske’s 22 years at Laughing Jack, The Limited Two Shiraz is a selection of the finest two barrels (producing just 800 bottles) from a special dry-grown, three-acre parcel within the East Hill Block at Greenock. The vineyard was planted in 1999 and sits at an altitude of 335m on ironstone-rich calcareous soils over deep red clay. The fruit was hand-picked, 100% destemmed and crushed. The ferment was hand-plunged three times a day, and after 16 days on skins, drained and sent to the basket-press. The wine spent 20 months in 50% tight-grained, new French oak and the balance in second-use French oak. It’s a wine of reverberating depth, power and control, overflowing with perfectly ripe fruit, generous detail and fine, sinewy structure. This deeply impressive Barossan will age extremely well.

It’s a wine of reverberating depth, power and control, overflowing with perfectly ripe fruit, generous detail and fine, sinewy structure. This deeply impressive Barossan will age extremely well.

“Hand-picked fruit from a single 1.2ha estate vineyard in Greenock. Shawn Kalleske's flagship is a selection of his best 2 barrels. A quintessential and benchmark take on Greenock, built around a singular core of red/blackberry fruits. It's locked into a strong lattice of firm, fine, mineral fruit and oak tannins, illuminated by a bright beacon of natural acidity. Every nuance moves forward in unison, marking out a very long finish.”
96 points, Tyson Stelzer, Wine Companion
Laughing Jack The Limited Two Shiraz 2018
Laughing Jack The Limited Two Shiraz 2018
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“The Kalleske family has many branches in the Barossa Valley. Laughing Jack is owned by Shawn, Nathan, Ian and Carol Kalleske, and Linda Schroeter. The lion’s share of the vineyard is planted to shiraz, with lesser amounts of semillon and grenache. Vine age varies considerably, with old dry-grown shiraz the jewel in the crown. As any Australian knows, the kookaburra is also called the laughing jackass, and there is a resident flock of kookaburras in the stands of blue and red gums surrounding the vineyards.”  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion

Country

Australia

Primary Region

Barossa, South Australia

People

Winemaker: Shawn Kalleske

Availability

National

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