Winemaker of the whites at Jacob’s Creek, Smith started out with a simple wine appreciation course to break up the drudgery of accounting.
"If I wasn’t a winemaker, I don’t know what else I’d do.” Trina Smith’s empathic statement says it all. As Group White Wine & Sparkling Winemaker at the iconic Jacob’s Creek winery since 2016, Smith’s role is huge – and she looks after the rosé too.
Size doesn’t seem to daunt Smith: she’s worked in large wineries for most of her 21-year career. That said, when she started putting together her first chardonnay blend at Jacob’s Creek in 2017 she was aware of her ‘custodian’ role and didn’t want to mess with the wine’s traditional full-flavoured style.
Consistency is the name of the game with the vast volumes of the Jacob’s Creek Classic range. However, Smith has been able to add her signature to wines in the top-end Heritage range. For the 2017 Lyndale Chardonnay, Smith moved the grape source to the Adelaide Hills to bring “more purity and finesse”.
Chardonnay is one of the key varieties at Jacob’s Creek – the other is riesling, with the historic Steingarten, Smith’s pristine example of Eden Valley riesling. But she’s not wedded to the Eden Valley, with Langhorne Creek her alternative source. “Although Langhorne Creek can be hot, the nights are cooled by gentle breezes off Lake Alexandrina helping both varieties maintain their vital natural acidity,” Smith says.
South Australia is the home state for Jacob’s Creek, while forays into New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria for small parcels of fruit give Smith an additional blending component to help maintain the continuity of the Jacob’s Creek Classic range.
“Trina Smith is one of Australia's most senior winemakers, presiding over a complex portfolio of quality white and sparkling wine that gets shipped to all corners of the globe.” Toni Paterson
Visits to Victoria’s Alpine Valleys take Smith back to Brown Brothers, where her winemaking voyage began. She had contemplated another career - accounting - before fate intervened when she undertook a wine appreciation course to lighten the drudgery of calculators and spreadsheets. Smith fell in love with wine and the rest is, well, wine.
She graduated with a degree in oenology from Adelaide University in 1998 and joined Brown Brothers the following year. Terry Barnett headed up the team at the time and took Smith under his wing, igniting her ongoing interest in Australian sparkling wine.
Smith’s love of sparklings remains a constant. After a short-stint contract in the Yarra Valley, in 2008 she joined Treasury Wine Estates in a similar role to her present position. Yellowglen sparklings fell under her auspices and Smith worked with legendary sparkling maker Charles (Chilly) Hargrave on the revitalisation of Yellowglen’s quality and image. It was at this time that I first met her over a series of interviews with Yellowglen’s pioneering founder, the late Ian Home.
In conversation with Smith, I was impressed with her clarity of vision and ability to articulate her goals, albeit in an understated and straightforward manner.
This no-nonsense approach typifies Smith’s outlook to new challenges like making rosé. The success of Jacob’s Creek Le Petit Rosé on the European market surprises her. “They have Provence on their doorstep,” she says. Smith claims blending is the most difficult thing she does as the volumes can be huge and a mistake can be catastrophic. Still she is used to dealing with big volumes and large companies. “I seem to have a skill in dealing with bureaucracy,” she quips.
Jacob’s Creek is Australia’s largest brand, its international success astounding. Trina Smith’s time there has been short and she’s still weaving her magic over the Jacob’s Creek sparklings. Watch this (bubbly) space.
REGIONS | Australia
YEARS IN INDUSTRY | 21
ANNUAL CRUSH | 75,000 tonnes
STAND-OUT WINES | 2017 Jacob’s Creek Heritage Lyndale Chardonnay