Langhorne Creek holds a very special place in our hearts here at Wolf Blass. In fact Wolfgang Blass himself says he made Langhorne Creek what it is today. He will also be the first to tell you that Langhorne Creek made him. The very first wines Wolf created back in 1967 were sourced from Langhorne Creek and our love affair with the region continues to this day. So what is it about Langhorne Creek that’s so special, and what was it that first attracted Wolf Blass to the area?
Langhorne Creek is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions, much of which sits atop an ancient natural floodplain flanked by the Bremer and Angas Rivers on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. It was originally dubbed Langhorne’s Crossing at the spot where local cattle drover Alfred Langhorne would drive his cattle across the Bremer during the 1840’s. Vines were first planted in the area by the visionary Frank Potts at Bleasdale Winery in the 1860’s, foreseeing the region’s enormous potential.
One of the first things you notice in Langhorne Creek is the abundance of magnificent old eucalypts, or gum trees, that line the vineyards. Some say these are responsible for the distinctive regional character of intense eucalypt-mint for which the reds of the area are so well known. But there is more to the story than just the vineyard gums. Both the terroir and vineyard practices of Langhorne Creek are unique in Australian viticulture.
Over the past 150 years, the original vineyards located on the floodplain have traditionally been flood irrigated with waters diverted from the Bremer River through a series of floodgates. When there is enough rainfall flowing down from the Adelaide Hills, the Bremer and Angas Rivers will break their banks as the waters pour into them, and natural winter flooding will occur. The floodwaters provide a rich source of nutrients for the grapevines and carry debris from the many gum trees encountered along their journey, depositing silts rich in eucalyptus oil into the ancient, deep alluvial soil structure.
A Unique Australian Wine Style
It was this contribution from the soil structure, silts, eucalyptus trees and the annual flooding of the Bremer, coupled with the resultant rich, soft and distinctive wines that first drew Wolf Blass to the area. Wolf knew he was onto a unique Australian wine style. Back in the sixties Australian red wines tended to be loaded with very heavy tannins, but Wolf pursued a style that was softer and more approachable. “Drinkability” for Wolf Blass then, as it is today, was key. So Wolf approached red winemaking with a “white-wine-thinking brain” and in 1967 Grey Label Cabernet Shiraz was born.
Grey Label Cabernet Shiraz has sourced fruit exclusively from Langhorne Creek since that first Grey Label vintage, carrying all the hallmarks of this outstanding regional fruit – softness, drinkability and concentrated flavours of chocolate and eucalypt. Langhorne Creek fruit so impressed Wolf Blass that it was not only fundamental to Grey Label, it has also featured strongly in Black Label and has become a major player in the soft, approachable Yellow Label reds, a trend that continues today.
There is much to be celebrated about this legendary wine region and much to which we owe our success and gratitude.