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Friday 28 August 2015

Is this Australia's most under-rated wine region?

Wine lovers heading to South Australia would probably opt to first visit the Barossa and McLaren Vale, then perhaps the Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley or Coonawarra. 

One wine region that is often unfairly overlooked is Langhorne Creek, which is less than an hour from Adelaide with a lovely country ambience.

The tiny hamlet of Langhorne Creek, population 668 at the last census, is where Wolf Blass 
sourced the fruit for some of his early trophy winners and the region still produces grapes for leading labels including Jacob's Creek, George Wyndham, Rosemount Estate and Wolf Blass. Over 85 per cent of the fruit grown in over 6,000 hectares of vines is onsold.  

“The problem we have in gaining recognition is that so much of the fruit produced here is used by the big companies, or in blends that often don't even mention Langhorne Creek on the label,” said Greg Follett from Lake Breeze, one of the outstanding local producers, at a recent media event. 

“When people visit us they learn about out region, characters and places – and that's why we are putting lots of energy into increasing the awareness of Langhorne Creek and its consistently great wines.” 

Langhorne Creek has a wine history dating back to 1850. It is best-known for cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, which account for 70 per cent of production but over recent years, considerable experimentation has occurred and a large range of grape varieties are grown, including malbec.

“We fill the gap in the market place between cool-climate wines and full-on warmer regions,” says Follett, alluding to the cooling lake and ocean breezes that characterise the district. 

Langhorne Creek is on the banks of the Bremer River, which flows into Lake Alexandrina. In winter, the river frequently floods across the vineyards, providing natural irrigation to the rich, deep soils. 

Among the labels to look out for are historic family-owned Bleasdale (above), Bremerton, Lake Breeze, Brothers in Arms (where the Metala vines are some of the oldest in the country), and Temple Brueur, one of the country's leading organic producers. At Cleggett you can try the unusual mutant white cabernet known as shalistan. 

You won't find many places to stay in Langhorne Creek other than a couple of vineyard cottages, but the hamlet is just 10 minutes from Strathalbyn and a short drive from Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills. 

The Bridge Hotel serves fine pub grub (beware, the portions are enormous) and you can also get a fine meal at The Winehouse (the attractive shared cellar door of Heartland Wines, Gipsie Jack, Kimbolton, Johns's Blend by John Glaetzer and Ben Potts and also home to the Meechi micro brewery - middle pic), and at rustic Angas Plains Winery.

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