Thu 09 Feb 2012

South Australia Series, Part Two: Bleasdale

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Just over an hour’s drive south-east from Adelaide – albeit in a non air-conditioned car and 38 degree heat! – saw us arrive at the Bleasdale Winery in Langhorne Creek on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Bleasdale was established in 1850 by Frank Potts, who was the pioneer of viticulture and winemaking in the district.

Covering a greater area than the Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek is now home to seven family-based cellar doors, 6,000 hectares of vines, a pub that does a great chicken burger…. and a horseradish farm, which sadly, we didn’t have time to visit!

We met with Peter Perrin (managing director) and Paul Hotker (senior winemaker) for a tasting in the cellar door (air-conditioned!) and a tour of the winery. Paul talked us through eleven wines with infectious passion and knowledge, ranging from sauvignon blanc – which they source from vineyards in the cooler Adelaide Hills – to estate-grown shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. The number of awards and accolades that Bleasdale has achieved is staggering considering its size, and in 2011 they did not show a wine that didn’t win a medal in its entry category.

The beautiful heritage-listed building was built in around 1880 from local limestone and red gum, and has over the years expanded around this original building. Whilst retaining mountains of character and a lever press built around a red gum tree in 1892, the winery merges from 100-year-old waxed red gum vats and 46,000-litre underground tanks to newer, stainless steel fermentation tanks and a cellar of 3,000 barrels.

Clearly Peter and Paul are proud of their achievements, in particular their success with malbec and verdelho – two grape varieties not widely associated with South Australia. Due to its close proximity to Lake Alexandrina and the coast, Langhorne Creek has a high diurnal temperature which allows grapes to retain great acidity. The Potts Catch Verdelho (2011) is the only Langhorne Creek estate-grown white, that Bleasdale produce and shows refreshing layers of stone fruits and citrus (limes) with a little grassiness and tangy acidity; a great summer wine and good alternative to sauvignon blanc.

Aside from some varietal reds – shiraz and cab sav – Bleasdale produces a number of stunning blends, using malbec in many to inject structure, richness, colour and black fruit character. Frank Potts is their flagship red and the 2009 I tasted is the 17th release. A cabernet-based blend with malbec, petit verdot, cabernet franc and merlot, the 2009 is fruit driven with hints of violet and spice. On the palate, good body, medium but noticeable tannin, black fruit character, brambly sweet spice and a good finish. The Society currently stocks the 2006 and 2008 vintages of Frank Potts, both at £14.95.

We were lucky enough to taste a number of malbecs straight from barrel and I was amazed at the individual character which each showed – different growers, different vineyards, even different pockets from the same vineyard. With a cool 2011 vintage, Peter and Paul were worried that perhaps malbec wouldn’t show as well as they’d hoped, but even they seemed pleasantly surprised by the development they have seen so far and believe it will be a promising vintage.

Oh, and did I mention the 20-year-old fortified we tasted straight from barrel? Amazing! But sadly it will never be released as this one is just ‘a bit of a hobby’ at Bleasdale!

Jo Mansell
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Categories : Australia

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