Langhorne Creek: one of the Best-kept Secrets in Australian Wine
Langhorne Creek is a wine region that many people will have seen on Australian wine labels. Most known and unknown wineries of the Barossa and McLarenVale have a wine in their portfolio from Langhorne Creek, whether it be labelled as a single regional or in a blend.
However the unique terroir and actual grape-growing climate of Langhorne Creek region itself seems to be little talked about. Although it provides equally stunning fruit and wines it sits in the shadow of Barossa, McLaren Vale and Coonawara in South Australia.
Langhorne Creek has a history of viticulture dating back to 1860 yet up until the early 90s the hectares of vineyard planted was in the hundreds. Today there is almost 6000ha under vine!
The region is less than a two-hour drive from central Adelaide and only a 40 minute hop over the south-eastern Adelaide Hills from McLaren Vale on the Fleurieu Peninsula. The region can be clearly identified as you drop down from the Mount Lofty Range and the fertile deep alluvial soils of the low-lying plains spread out in front of you towards Lake Alexandria to the south.
The Langhorne Creek wine region extends southeast from the town of Strathalbyn along the Bremer and Angas rivers with the small town itself nestled among the red gum trees. The southerly weather patterns react with the Lake Alexandria creating the micro climate and cooler yet drier grape growing conditions.
I have been really impressed by the wines from the region but most of all with those of Lake Breeze. As I said earlier many producers make fine Langhorne wines and seek some of their most highly prized vineyard parcels from here. But only a handful of producers are actually situated in the Langhorne region itself, one of them being Greg Follet the winemaker and owner of Lake Breeze. I managed to get an introduction to Greg from our Australian buyer Dan Parrot and after a quick chat Greg invited me over to see what he was up to.
Greg is a great guy and another pioneering winemaker. Greg studied at winemaking at Roseworthy College and after graduating, like so many, he did a stint with Hardy’s Tintara followed by time in the Minervois France before heading home in the early 90’s to help turn the successful wine grape growing business established by Greg’s great, great, great grandfather William in the 1850’s into a serious winemaking property.
Today the whole family is involved and they crush around 450 tons of premium grapes, mainly Cabernet and Shiraz from Langhorne, but also from family vineyards out on Kangaroo Island. Greg gave us a tour round the winery and an extensive tasting of the range. It was obvious every wine had been meticulously hand crafted. Some of the stand outs were:
- 2014 Vermentino, superbly fresh, aromatic and textural
- 2014 Kangaroo Island Pinot Grigio is a steal at $18
- 2013 barrel fermented Lake breeze Chardonnay, made the good old way on lees with malo-lactic
- 2013Grenache from the 1932 vineyard was excellent with lovely black cherry, damsons and green herbs
- 2012 Bernoota Shiraz Cabernet, great wine great price.
But for me the 2012 Lake Breeze straight Cabernet is one of the best wines I have tasted so far in Australia and I cannot believe the $24 price tag. I will be taking a bottle home.
A must visit is Bleadsdale, the oldest winery in Langhorne Creek established in the early 1850’s by Frank Potts, the first person to see the areas potential and plant vines.
Fortified wines were the staple from 1870’s until early 60’s and the Classic Tawny is still made today. However, since 1961 dry table wine has been the focus with Malbec being the main grape.
The old red gum tree vat winery is still here and the spectacular double basket press utilising a 10 metre, 3 and a half tonne gum tree as a lever built and designed by Frank in 1892 is still in working order.
After a long day it was nice to head back to the small town of Strathalbyn. It’s a quaint little place and famous for its hub of antiques stores. We were staying in the old Victoria Hotel, a historic bluestone building constructed in 1865 and celebrating 150 years of service this year. It still does today what it did all those years ago, providing travellers with clean comfortable accommodation, a hot bath, and a warm welcome in their great country bar serving cold beer and Aussie pub style food with salad bar. Quoted from their own brochure: “extensive skylight and a leafy courtyard complete with a stunning waterfall provide a constantly moving backdrop which shimmers with every changing colour and light.” It certainly takes a few beers and a rather wild imagination before this can be fully appreciated, but nevertheless it’s just great and so friendly, I certainly recommend a stay!