Grapevine Archive for McHenry Hohnen

Mon 28 Nov 2011

Margaret River Bushfire

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McHenry Hohnen view of Margaret River bushfire, Western Australia

View from the winery at McHenry Hohnen

Last week a bushfire burnt through the coastal areas west of Margaret River. The fire is now contained but it destroyed 32 houses and nine holiday chalets with damage to a further 22 homes. Fortunately there was no human cost. The fire was a result of prescribed burns by government agencies which were reignited by very strong northerly winds. The agencies do this in order to reduce fuel loads and provide protection for summer months to local seaside communities.

I have been in touch with a number of The Wine Society’s key suppliers. Moss Wood’s Keith Mugford says “We have been very fortunate and so far we been spared by the weather.  The fires started about 10k south of us and the wind direction blew the flames and smoke away from us.  Most vineyards seem to have been missed.”

McHenry-Hohnen were less fortunate with some damage to 2 hectares of chardonnay in their Burnside vineyard. Winemaker Ryan Walsh explains: “All okay in lives and buildings here just a little chardonnay gone from this year…..There is no long term loss in vines, the loss will only be taken for this coming vintage 2012. The Sauvignon Blanc from Burnside is untouched and looking very good for the coming 2012 vintage. Freya and I live approximately 2km North East from the Burnside vineyard and were evacuated Wednesday to Friday as a precautionary measure. We have now returned. The house is fine.” And Vanya Cullen by text “We r ok, fires are in the south, we r in north, but it is sad.”

Pierre Mansour
Buyer for Australia

Categories : Australia
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Mon 21 Nov 2011

‘Tis the Season!

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Emma Howat

Ironically, Christmas is often seen as a period of intense stress: be it how to get the whole family round the Christmas table, or indeed even in the same house, who to invite over for your New Year’s Eve bash, or (as I found to my horror last year) the last-minute realisation that the turkey won’t fit into what you realise belatedly is an unfeasibly small oven. In amongst all this chaos it is very easy to forget one of the most important components of a successful festive season – the wine!

The ‘Tis the Season tastings were designed to take the stress and hassle out of this time of year. In a break from the usual formats of The Wine Society’s tastings, the events were divided not by style or region, but by festive event: aperitifs – Champagne, Cava and Sherry – were followed by the party wine section in which we suggested crowd-pleasing reds and whites on a more modest budget which can be drunk in any occasion.

The Christmas Day selection recongised that this day is always the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to something a bit special, whilst the Boxing Day and beyond section showcased wines to liven up those inevitable turkey leftovers. Finally we showed some fortified and sticky wines with which you can curl up on the sofa; perfect for when everyone has finally gone to bed, and you have a moment to sit and engage in the quiet contemplation of a box of chocolates.

The Bradford tasting was a relaxed and informal gathering, and with only 45 members there, all had ample opportunity to try all the wines and discuss their relative merits at length. There was a great atmosphere and everyone seemed to find at least one wine that they really liked. Following the tasting the three of us from The Society went in search of a good curry, never hard to find in Bradford, and I am pleased to announce that following some rigorous testing, the 2009 Bruno Sorg Gewurztraminer is indeed a good match.

It’s been a few years since we were last at King’s Lynn, and it was great to see such a good turnout of members, all of whom again seemed to be enjoying themselves. We held the tasting at the Town Hall’s Assembly Rooms, a beautiful venue which whilst being on the cosy side, made the tasting all the more friendly!

Bleasdale's 'The Wise One' Tawny once again showed its festive credentials

We try and get up to Scotland every six months and so on this occasion we chose Perth and Glasgow. The Perth tasting was a nice gentile affair for the most part; the venue was the Concert Hall, an amazing modern building right in the centre of town, with unsurprisingly fantastic acoustics. The wines showed well. The Champagne Marc Hébrart was a winner on both nights, albeit not the overall winner – that accolade went to the McHenry Hohnen Rocky Road Zinfandel. This lovely anomaly (it is Australian rather than Californian) has ranked amongst the members’ favourites in every tasting it’s been shown at so far and its impressive stuff.

Glasgow’s tasting took place in the Trades’ Hall in the Merchant City, in a beautiful old, wood-panelled hall. There were 150 of us in all and the evening was much more raucous than Perth (in a good way of course, being members of The Society!). Here the noisiest vote went to the Bleasdale’s ‘The Wise One’ Tawny. This fortified wine is another example of what fantastic wines are being produced in Australia, albeit with a slightly scary label (if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean!).

Thanks to all members who attended. We had a fantastic time and hope you found some great wines to enjoy this festive season.

Emma Howat
Tastings & Events Co-ordinator

Categories : Wine Tastings
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The Silvereye: though one of Australia's smallest birds, many a vintage has been lost to them.

Who would have thought that Chinese fishermen could have an impact on the style of wine produced thousands of miles away on the West Coast of Australia.

David Hohnen of McHenry Hohnen recently visited our offices in Stevenage to talk to us about the wines produced from their small family vineyards in Margaret River.

Hohnen, one of the pioneers of this region, who came here in the early seventies to plant vineyards for Cape Mentelle, revealed the mysterious reason for a change in style of wine from the 1995 vintage, particularly for the reds.

He explained that one of the big threats to grape growers in this region is the highly destructive tiny Silvereye bird (Zosterops lateralis) which can wreak havoc on a whole crop within hours. The birds usually feed on tree blossom; ‘but if the blossom fails, we’re in trouble’, says David. Though the birds are small they live in large flocks. They wait for when the grapes are perfectly ripe and then descend in their masses. Their high-pitched call attracts birds from far and wide and before you know it you have no more grapes. The birds’ tiny beaks are not designed for grape munching so they make lots of tiny puncture marks in the skins allowing rot and disease to sweep through the vineyard.

Winemakers in Australia are used to having to net their vineyards against birds, but the tiny Silvereye was able to make its way through the standard-sized netting. Luckily an Australian winemaker on business in China had a chance ‘eureka moment’ when watching local fisherman at work and thought the finer nets they used could be adapted for protecting vines.

The idea worked perfectly and since 1995 these have been used extensively in the vineyards of Margaret River much to the frustration of the local avian population. ‘It did have a noticeable effect on the quality of our wines’ David said, ‘it’s vital to harvest at the right time when the grapes are properly ripe, especially for the reds. Before 1995 we often had to harvest early or risk losing the whole crop.’

Wiltshire sheep over-wintering in the vineyards.

Now that the threat from the Silvereye is lessened, grapes can be safely left on the vine into autumn when the proper ripening takes place. David explained that it isn’t just a question of sweetness in the grapes, it’s essential that lignification has started in the vine. The roots sense the on-set of autumn and start to draw energy back into the vine from the fruit and vegetation. The leaves change colour, bark hardens and so do the seeds…‘they become crunchy, with no hint of bitterness. This is the sign of properly mature tannins which means that the wines don’t need tannic structure supplemented by oak barrels.’

If you’d like a taste of perfect ripeness the McHenry Hohnen Rocky Road Zinfandel from the 2009 vintage gives just that. David has had a long connection with zinfandel since his student days at Fresno, California. He and brother-in-law Murray McHenry are among the first to plant the grape in Margaret River. The result is extraordinary, lovely sweet-sour flavours of black cherry and chocolate with a lovely freshness about it too and super length.

Joanna Goodman
SocietyNews Editor

Categories : Australia
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