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Inland from the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula, and only 70kms from Adelaide, you’ll find the Langhorne Creek wine region. It sits between the Adelaide Hills to the west, and Lake Alexandrina to the east – a large body of water that has a major influence on the climatic conditions of the region.
The Langhorne Creek region sits atop an ancient natural floodplain, between the Bremer and Angas rivers, and it was the fertile alluvial soils that first attracted settlers to the region. Early pioneers such as Frank Potts saw the potential for viticulture, and planted the first vineyards in the region in the early 1850s.
From those early years, the region has flourished. Today, Langhorne Creek is home to some of the oldest winemaking families (such as the 6th generation Potts Family), and boasts 18 wineries, across a multitude of vineyards. Anchored in history, the growers and producers of Langhorne Creek aren’t afraid to break with tradition, making it one of the most exciting and vibrant regions in Australia’s modern viticultural landscape.
Langhorne Creek enjoys a cool maritime climate, thanks to its proximity to the Southern Ocean. It is significantly cooler than nearby regions such as McLaren Vale, or the Barossa, with average temperatures also affected by a breeze known as the ‘Lake Doctor.’ This wind comes from the Southern Ocean, but carries its cooling effects directly across Lake Alexandrina – a body of water three times the size of Sydney Harbour. This Lake Doctor moderates daytime temperatures, and keeps the nights nice and cool during the growing season, resulting in a long and even ripening period, with low disease pressure.
Being on the shores of a large lake, Langhorne Creek is a relatively low region in terms of altitude. Although flat, the alluvial plains of the region have several distinct soil types which create a regional diversity. Along the Bremer and Angas rivers, soils are alluvial in origin, deep and friable, and dark brown to black in colour. Wines produced from these soils are usually full-bodied, but softer and rounder on the palate. Away from the rivers, the soils tend to be more sandy loams over clay, which offer excellent moisture retention without promoting excess vigour. These soils produce wines that are more structured and intense.
While not specifically a natural occurrence, a major part of the terroir of Langhorne Creek is the irrigation system established by Frank Potts. When he settled in the region in the 1850s, he developed a system of levees and floodgates through which he could divert water from the rivers to deposit nutrient rich silt over his vineyards. Today, modern vineyard systems now harness the water through drip-irrigation, but the flooding remains a major factor in Langhorne Creek’s terroir and subsequent viticulture.
Langhorne Creek is known predominantly for two major red grapes – Shiraz and Cabernet. These are both planted equally, and together make up over two thirds of the total annual crush for the region. It is thought that Langhorne Creek is home to the oldest, continuously-producing Cabernet vines in the world – planted in 1891 at the Metala Vineyard. Langhorne Creek Cabernet tends to be full-flavoured, with plush tannins, and excellent structure. Shiraz wines from Langhorne Creek show classic dark fruit characters, with spice and pepper. They can sometimes be blended with Malbec – a style that is quite common to the region.
Naturally, Malbec is next on the list. Not grown widely in Australia, in Langhorne Creek it really shines. It’s well suited to the climate, and produces medium to full-bodied wines with fruit-driven flavours and light spice. They can be highly perfumed and often age-worthy.
With a growing emphasis on minimal intervention and boutique production, winemakers in Langhorne Creek are more focused on quality and regional expression than ever before. The region’s rich history together with its obvious potential make for exciting times ahead.
Bleasdale Vineyards, Bremerton Wines, John Glaetzer, Ben Potts Wines