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Thursday 29 November 2018

Wine tourism boom in tiny Langhorne Creek

New cellar doors and a swag of major trophies is helping to put the Langhorne Creek wine region on the map for a growing number of tourists.

Langhorne Creek, less than an hour’s drive south-east of Adelaide, is the fourth-largest wine-producing region in Australia behind the Riverland, Riverina and Barossa Valley. 

But only a handful of cellar doors and its location in the shadow of the more populated regions of McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills have contributed to Langhorne Creek comparative lack of patronage among tasters.

This is beginning to change, The Lead South Australia reports.

This month’s fifth annual Handpicked Festival (above) in Langhorne Creek attracted a record 5000 visitors. Kimbolton Wines will also open the region’s eighth cellar door this weekend.

Langhorne Creek Grape and Wine Marketing Manager Marina Goldsworthy said cellar door statistics across the region had shown growth in visitor numbers of 10 to 15% year on year since 2016.

She said wine and music events such as Handpicked and the growing populations of nearby Mount Barker and Strathalbyn were helping to attract many first-time visitors to the region.

“We’re definitely getting a lot more traction in the marketplace and it’s being seen as a destination that’s different and authentic with an old-fashioned country feel,” Goldsworthy said.

“We don’t have a Seppeltsfield or a [d'Arenberg] Cube but the experiences we have are good wholesome country food, great wine that’s really good value and we’re not far from the city.”

Ironically, there is no waterway called Langhorne Creek. The small township is near the Bremer River and Lake Alexandrina, which provides irrigation water and cooling summer breezes. It is named after rogue drover Alfred “The Liar” Langhorne who drove his stock across the Bremer at what became known as Langhorne’s Crossing.

Since then, Langhorne Creek has become home to some of the world’s oldest cabernet sauvignon vines and produced the fruit for the inaugural Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1962 – Australia’s most famous wine prize – when Stoneyfell’s 1961 Metala Cabernet Shiraz beat all-comers.

Wolf Blass also won three successive Jimmy Watsons in the 1970s using Langhorne Creek fruit.

And the success has continued.

Grape growers in the Langhorne Creek region since the 1880s, the Follett family has won more than 50 trophies at major Australian wine shows since it started making its Lake Breeze wines in 1987.

This year, Bleasdale Vineyards, the oldest winery in the region, has won seven trophies at major shows including the Max Schubert Trophy for best red wine at the Royal Adelaide Show. 

“The industry has always thought highly of the region and we’re starting to get traction with the punters and we’ve been working a lot on product awareness and educating people about the region,” Goldsworthy said.

This Sunday, Kimbolton Wines will join Bleasdale, Lake Breeze, Bremerton, Vineyard Road, Angas Plains, The Winehouse and Rusticana to become the region’s eighth cellar door.

It follows the opening of the Vineyard Road cellar door in 2016.

Run by brother and sister vignerons Nicole Clark and Brad Case, Kimbolton began making wine commercially in the early 2000s with a presence in the shared cellar door now known as The Winehouse, which is home to several local brands including Heartland, Ben Potts, Gipsie Jack and Meechi Brewing.

Great, great grandchildren of Bleasdale founder and Langhorne Creek pioneer Frank Potts, Case and Clark run a 57-hectare vineyard, which includes a small part of the original Potts land and produces between 500-600 tonnes a year. 

Most of the cabernet and shiraz they grow goes to Treasury Wine Estates for its Pepperjack and Wolf Blass brands while alternate varieties such as montepulciano are sent to smaller producers including Alpha Box & Dice and SC Pannell.

Small parcels of premium fruit are kept to produce Kimbolton Wines. Production is currently about 1500 cases a year but Clark said it was hoped the new cellar door would create demand for 3000-4000 cases a year within a couple of years.

She said the cellar door would specialise in cheese and wine flights.

“Really it’s been the last three years that the label has really grown and we’ve got 12 different products under that label now and that’s really what made us decide to spread our wings and have a cellar door in our own right,” Clark said.

“We’ve spent a fair bit of time pairing our wines with cheeses – if you get the right wine and cheese matches it’s an amazing experience.”

Set among the gum trees and overlooking the vineyard, the new cellar door is gearing up for a busy summer season.

“People are starting to understand that we are only 50 minutes from Adelaide and it is a beautiful drive,” Clark said.

“We’ll have our rooftop deck open by Christmas and that will be another feature that will give people the feeling they are almost sitting among the vines.”