Langhorne Creek GI region (Fleurieu Zone, SA)
Langhorne Creek is a region not only steeped in history but full of surprises. Unlike many wine regions in South Australia, this region only has 11 brands, seven cellar doors, approximately 80 growers, and around 6,000 hectares under vine. Black grapes dominate the region (around 85%) and the majority of grapes grown in the region end up in blends under the South Eastern Australian classification, produced by companies such as Treasury, Pernod Ricard and Constellation Brands.
The region is flat, low in altitude and has significant southerly wind influence from Lake Alexandria, reducing daytime temperature and increasing humidity. The soil profile is deep alluvial red brown to black. Flooding from the Bremer River is not un-common and irrigation is standard practice. Vineyard size historically has been large; hence most of the region was made up of growers until recent times when a number of growers started producing under their own labels.
The Potts family are the second oldest wine producing family in Australian history. Frank Potts, the family patriarch established their Bleasdale business in 1850, and today there remains evidence of their pioneering efforts in the winery, some of which is heritage listed. Several families in the area have been making wine in the region for six generations and their connection to the land and passion for what they produce is clearly evident.
We arrived at The Winehouse Cellar Door in the afternoon on Thursday 15th May to be greeted by Ben Potts, Chairman of Langhorne Creek Winemakers Association and winemakers / vignerons from Bleasdale Vineyards, Cleggetts Wines, Lake Breeze, Bremerton Wines and Kimbolton Wines. The Winehouse is a venue to know about as it features five labels from the region (Ben Potts, Gipsie Jack, Kimbolton, John’s Blend and Heartland), along with a selection of food over the lunch time period.
Our first master class was Cabernet Sauvignon and blends, a bracket of wines that reflected bronze medal through to trophy winning wines from the Langhorne Creek Wine Show. Two wines were from the 2010 vintage and the rest from the superb 2012 vintage. We were all very impressed with the quality, varietal expression and approachability of the wines we tried. Standouts for me included the following:
Lake Breeze Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $24rrp
Kimbolton Wines Rifleman Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $50rrp
Karrawatta Christo’s Paddock Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $54rrp
We were all fascinated with the Cleggett Wines Men of Kent Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($25rrp) as this was made up of a blend of Cabernets, the others being white and bronze! This led to a discussion of their merits and a promise by the owners of a bottle of straight white Cabernet Sauvignon for us to ponder over at dinner. Jumping ahead we were shown a 2003 White Cabernet Sauvignon - fascinating, intriguing and frustrating all at the same time (a wine I could not define)!
We dined at Peechabella Vineyards (Strathalbyn), a charming 110 year old stone Bed & Breakfast accommodation, run by Heather Osborne. During the course of the evening we were thoroughly spoilt with some aged reds including a Bleasdale 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake Breeze 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon and Wolf Blass Grey Label 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite their age, the wines were still varietal, drinking well with a lovely developed fruit profile on the palate.
The following morning we were up early for breakfast under the gum trees at Lake Breeze Cellar Door. This consisted of a traditional Aussie breakfast of bacon and egg rolls with a glass of Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz (a classic sweet / savoury wine with a dry finish). For some of us this was the Dutch courage required to embark on a helicopter ride over the region. This was a highlight for me, being my first time in a helicopter. The opportunity to see the topography and features that define the vineyards of Langhorne Creek provided great clarity for the region.
Post fun it was down to business with a master class for whites and alternative varieties. For a region known for its red production this was a great opportunity to see what is being made and whether a regional style was evident.
Highlights for me included the following wines:
Bremerton Wines Mollie & Merle Verdelho 2013 $17rrp
Lake Breeze Vermentino 2013 $18rrp
This was followed with an alternative red master class, including Sangiovese, Barbera, Malbec and Dolcetto. My perception was a very solid line up of fresh, vibrant and affordable wines with my top picks including:
Bleasdale Vineyards Riparian Malbec $44rrp
Adelaide Winemakers Blackbilly Sangiovese 2013 $20rrp
An historical stop over was made on the way to lunch, with a walk through the Metala Vineyard, owned by the Adams family (sixth generation, and behind the label Brothers in Arms). We met Guy and Liz on the roadside and were promptly poured a glass of Shiraz before we headed on foot to look at the world’s oldest family owned Cabernet Sauvignon vines, planted in 1891! The Shiraz sample was replaced with a Cabernet Sauvignon (both wines yet to be released in the market) and showed a maturity and intensity with poise, gravitas and elegance - harmony in the glass.
We then headed to the Bremerton cellar door for a spot of lunch outdoors, followed by a master class of Shiraz and Shiraz blends. Eight straight Shiraz, covering 2010 and 2012 vintages were followed by three blends all from the 2012 vintage. What struck me with these wines were the power yet balance achieved, with equal weight of fruit and supportive structure. Top picks for me included:
Angas Plains Wines PJ’s Shiraz 2012 $25rrp
Brothers in Arms Side by Side Shiraz 2012 $27rrp
Bleasdale Vineyards The Power Monkey Shiraz 2012 $65rrp
Lake Breeze Bernoota Shiraz Cabernet $20rrp
Our last stop before heading to the airport was at Bleasdale Winery where we stood under the 120 year old red gum lever press and sampled some incredible fortifieds. Both the ‘The Wise One’ NV Grand Verdelho and Old Tawny (average age 10 years) showed true characters on the nose and palate and excellent value for money. The Bleasdale 16 Year Old Rare Verdelho however stood out as a stunning example of aged vines, winemaking practice and ageing and at $45rrp a great purchase.
Despite such a short amount of time in the region, the sense of community, support and genuine friendship was easy to see. Collectively the wine producers are working hard to promote Langhorne Creek first and their respective brands second. Hospitality was both genuine and generous and for those of you living in Melbourne you will be able to experience this first hand on the 22nd June 2014, see below:
The Event – Discover Langhorne Creek
On Sunday 22 June, Langhorne Creek Grape and Wine will be coming to Melbourne for the first time to celebrate their recent promotion to official wine show status.
To celebrate they are hosting a ticketed consumer event that will aim to showcase the top 100 award winning wines from the region.
Using the theme of ‘discovery’, the event is going to be held at the Arteveneta workshop in Prahran. Guests will first collect their stemless ‘glass’, then meander on a journey of discovery through the workshop where they will find representatives of the region and their wines perched on work benches, tables, etc. all eager to tell their story and remove the shroud of mystery surrounding the region.
Guests will have the opportunity to mingle, explore the wines, enjoy some beautiful food from Italian restaurant The Way San Jose, relax with DJ beats and wile away the afternoon surrounded by like-minded, wine curious individuals. The ticket price will be $35 and available for sale via a dedicated and customized ticketing site.
Tickets are available at www.discoverlanghornecreek.com