Spectacular Hahndorf vineyards don’t disappoint
When a good mate of mine emailed me to let me know that our 2020 boys wine appreciation trip was a visit to Hahndorf in South Australia, I smiled from ear to ear. I’ve visited the German hamlet in the Adelaide Hills a few times before and I’ve always thought that it’s up there with the most alluring and enchanting townships that I’ve ever had the privilege to visit.
The Hahndorf township was settled when in 1830, a shipload of 187 German immigrants on board the Zebra arrived in Port Adelaide. These 38 families had developed quite a friendship with the ship’s captain, Dirk Hahn, who assisted the passengers to find suitable farming land and negotiated a parcel of land in the Adelaide Hills. Fortuitously Captain Hahn was able to secure 100 acres of land for the new Australians who were allocated 19 acres for housing and the balance for primary production. And from that, the township of Hahndorf was born.
Perhaps what is most appealing about Hahndorf is the fact that it’s conveniently located only half an hour from the Adelaide airport, and that it’s surrounded by some of South Australia’s best vineyards and wineries. For tourists, it’s perfect as it doesn’t matter if accommodation in the village is booked out because it’s only a short commute from the South Australian capital. And there are ample great wineries in the district to fill a weekend; places like Bird in Hand out near Woodside or The Lane vineyard at Ravenswood Lane, Hahndorf. But right up there with the very best of the locals is Nepenthe at Balhannah.
The Nepenthe vineyards are dotted all over the Adelaide Hills but started with a 24 hectare property at Lenswood where the Tweddell family planted pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris. When in 1996 Nepenthe built their winery in the Hills, they were only the second in the region but pioneers of an industry that would prove itself to be worthy of international acclaim.
Like most producers, Nepenthe have a number of layers of their product which are priced according to quality. And for them, the ranges are given the monikers Altitude, Pinnacle and Apex – no doubt a reference to the elevation that their vineyards benefit from. The Altitude range includes whites like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris, alongside reds such as pinot noir, tempranillo and shiraz. They are all consistent products that offer value at the price point. At the top end of the spectrum, the Apex range is a chardonnay and shiraz which are said to be the “finest expressions of the Adelaide Hills”. But for wines that sell at an $80 price point, I’d have preferred something ripe and voluptuous, and not quite so lean, elegant and refined.
For the bargain hunters, I reckon that the Nepenthe Pinnacle range offers the holy grail; great wines, a true expression of the region and sold at only a very fair asking price. For those who prefer a white, the Ithaca Chardonnay is all about peach, nectarine and stone fruit characters and a clean and acidic finish. It’s good stuff, but if my schoolmate, Tim Hicks, who works for the company and raves about the product will forgive me, it’s not a patch on the exceptional Gate Block Shiraz.
The Pinnacle Gate Block is one of the most delicate cool-climate shiraz that has ever graced my favourite Riedel. I love the forward fruit and the restrained but brambly and plummy characters that persist across the palate. There’s a hint of game and saddlebag on the edges but the finish is undeniably clean and acidic. It’s a wine that is more about elegance than power and perhaps the layers of black currant and blueberry than unfurl across the palate.
At around $30 – $35 a bottle it’s good value and a perfect red for spring; especially if served with a nice rib fillet and vegies!