And so back to Langhorne Creek to see Greg Follet of Lake Breeze.
The transition from Adelaide Hills’ steep and winding lanes to Langhorne Creek’s one long flat arterial road takes me by surprise for the second time in as many days. It is difficult to keep your eyes on the road as they wander to each side of it to marvel at the lush emerald canopies stretching out in regimental rows towards the majestic red gum trees. .
This has always been an important grape-growing region but until recently most growers sold all of their fruit. But now, a handful of producers such as Lake Breeze are showing just what good wines – and what good-value wines – can be made, helped by the recent growth of the vineyard area from around 400 hectares to around 6,000 hectares.
Greg’s family have been grape growers since the 1880s and winemaking since 1987, he tells me, as he and his brother Roger, as down-to-earth and as friendly a pair as I have come across in the trade, sit down in the lovely but simple Cellar Door for a chat. Their modesty is especially striking when you consider the extraordinary level of success they have had in Australian Wine Shows, including 40 trophies and over 140 gold medals since 1994. Undeniably, Lake Breeze is one of Australia’s most awarded boutique wineries, including being named Australia’s Champion Small Winery at the Australian Small Winemakers Show, and twice winning the Best Red Wine of the Adelaide Wine Show – the Max Schubert Trophy.
“This is definitely Cabernet country,” says Greg. “We select only the best 30% of fruit from the older vines on the property, and sell off the rest. I am really lucky to have inherited a great selection of old vines.”
I am then introduced to their sprightly father, Ken, who has the same friendly demeanour as his sons. I feel oddly privileged and humbled, and tell him he must be proud of his family. I also get to meet Greg’s wife, Robyn, and the following day, when I phone with a query, I get put through to Dionne Follett, who is so apologetic that she missed me on my visit that I very nearly turn around to drive back and present myself.
The winery, designed by Greg, was built in 1998. It houses small open top fermenters which enables him to focus on a traditional style of winemaking. He takes me on a quick tour, but keeps glancing anxiously at his mobile press, on its tramlines at the door, ready and waiting to receive the grapes which he will harvest at around nine-thirty that evening.
Back in the tasting room, we run through the wines.
The Reserve Chardonnay 2015
A lovely rich toasty full nose. This goes straight into barrel and it is very evident.
2014 Old Vines Grenache (from vines planted in 1932)
Funky damson flavours and loads of open fruit. I like this a lot, but then I tend to like all old vine Grenache.
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
A gamey and meaty aroma, and masses of leafy fruit.
Arthur’s Reserve 2013
Excellent dark raspberry fruit, with a plushness on the palate and a lovely crisp finish. The 2012 vintage was named Australia’s Wine of the Year by Winestate.
The Bull Ant Shiraz 2014
10 to 12 months in seasoned oak, shows delicious soft sherberty fruits, is soft and supply, with luscious tannins. There was no wine made in 2015, but the 2016, about to be bottled in June, shows rasping good berry fruit with great mouthfeel.
The Bernoota Shiraz Cabernet 2014
Delicious black plums, stone fruits and smoke aromas – very very moreish
It has been a great tasting and these are salt of the earth people. As I drive back along that straight, straight, straight road, I think: Langhorne Creek – The Undiscovered Country.