Viticulture was pioneered in Henty in 1964 by Karl Seppelt, who accurately conceived it as an ideal cool region for the production of sparkling and delicate, aromatic wines. This is undulating terrain and prime grazing country, long famous – like much of western Victoria – for the quality of its wool.
A gentle autumn ripening period with low but high-quality yields produces elegant crafted wine. The region is situated to the east of South Australia's Coonawarra. Riesling is the stand-out variety, with each of the wineries producing its own unique style. In this far south-west corner of Victoria, local produce – lamb, beef, seafood, cheese and more – marries magically with wines from this region, which was named after the first family to settle in Victoria in the early 1800s. The Henty wine region covers a large area of Victoria and extends from the Hopkins River across to the South Australian border. Wine production is concentrated in two parts of the region, Hamilton and Tarrington in the north east and Heywood, Condah and Drumborg in the south west.
Viticulture was pioneered in 1964 by Karl Seppelt.
The region is currently home to more than 11 wineries.
Riesling is the stand-out variety, with each of the wineries producing its own unique style.
Cool climate region. Longer ripening period (harvest March/April); gentle autumn ripening.
This is one of the coolest of the wine growing regions on the Australian mainland, producing quality wines from grapes grown in quite cold temperatures. The ample number of sunshine hours results in a growing regime not unlike that of the Canterbury Plains of the south island of New Zealand or European climates such as Burgundy. In common with those areas, Henty is beginning to make a distinct impression with varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Shiraz.
The vineyards are most widely planted on older Basalt soils: weathered basalt with gravelly loam topsoil overlying red clay. More recent plantings have variously utilised rich black volcanic clays, maritime sandy loam over limestone, and patches of terra rossa over limestone.
Riesling: Arguably the best suited grape for the making of table wine (although there has been a handful of extraordinary Gewürztraminers made by Seppelt), Riesling is made by many of the wineries in the region. Fine, intense and gently lime-accented wines gradually assume toastier characteristics as they develop in bottle over a decade or more, but they do not lose their hallmark elegance.
Cabernet Sauvignon: The vintage conditions have to be favourable due to the cool climate, but when they are Cabernet is produced with striking similarities to the wines from the Haut Medoc in Bordeaux. The prominent characters of the wines are cassis, cedar and cigar box.
Sparkling Wines: The three classic grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – account for more than half the total plantings and are largely directed to Seppelt sparkling wine-making.
Map Coordinates: 38°21' S
Altitude: 15-250 metres (49-820 feet)
Heat degree days, October - April: 1204 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall: 300 millimetres (11.8 inches)
Mean January temperature: 17.7°C (64.5°F)
Relative humidity, October - April, 9 am: Average 76%
Harvest: Mid March - mid May
John Thomson, Proprietor & Winemaker, Crawford River Wines, Henty, Victoria
Purity of site expression has long been a driving force behind John and Catherine Thomson’s single estate, dry grown vineyard at Crawford River, in Victoria’s far south-west. Underpinned by the philosophy that high-quality wines are born of high-quality grapes, the 33-year-old estate has been meticulously tended by hand throughout its life, including picking and pruning. A fourth-generation woolgrower, John chose the 11.5 hectare sloping site in 1975 on the sheep station his great-grandfather had settled in 1884.
“The mineral-rich soil in which the vines find their roots comprises friable basalt loam, overlaying permeable clay, above limestone created by an ancient risen sea bed. With temperatures moderated by the cool southerly latitude (38° S) and maritime influence, and an unusually complex soil structure and favourable micro-climate, Crawford River creates wines of distinction which reflect the unique terroir,” John says.
“Quality, consistency and sustainability are of vital importance to our company. Attention to detail is crucial in both vineyard and winery operations, with a minimal intervention approach adopted in the winery. Canopy and yield management is paramount, with an unusual arched-cane, vertical canopy system allowing maximum light and air filtration throughout the long, even ripening period.
“Organic principles are practised where possible and practical, although with the homecoming in 2005 of our daughter Belinda, whose passion lies with biodynamic principles, the vineyard is heading towards an even more natural, sustainable future.”