Hentley Farm, Barossa Valley
Last week I spent nearly two hours on Zoom with Hentley Farm winemaker Andrew Quin. He is relaxed, focused and passionate about what he is doing – it made chatting very easy indeed. Now – we looked at 11 wines together, but I have just chosen to show my highlights below. I have included the 94pt Vixen Grenache because at $29 I think it represents real value for money. At the opposite end of the pricing spectrum the Clos Otto is $210, but at 97 points I feel that that’s not out of line.
I look to Barossa Valley shiraz for the heat and warmth of the sunshine there, expressed in the ripeness and intensity of the fruit. I feel that the Barossa shiraz fruit is typified by what I would describe as a ripe summer Heirloom tomato character; it is salty and rich, but also sweet (McLaren has a Blackberry pie character, and the Eden is meatier, finer, and redolent of blueberries). I am not afraid of the big traditional shiraz styles, I think that Australia must be grateful to them for propelling us into an international shiraz market on the back of the style, however I concede that a more modern, light-handed approach (with regards to oak impact, extraction and tannin management) is both more enjoyabe to my palate, and trending. The reds of Hentley Farm stray into both fields, there is balance and finesse, but the wines are also satisfying, sturdy and well built. So…
2018 Villain Vixen Grenache
The Villain/Vixen wines are regional blends, composed purchased fruit from around the Valley. These were described by Andrew as ‘modern Barossa, trying not to be super big and rich, picking earlier, using winemaking techniques that bring out fruit, soft tannins.’ Appromximately 15% whole bunch which brings out the high notes on fruit. 50 days on skins means that ‘you lose simple fruit but build spice and earth and the tannins fill and soften.’
Super pretty and juicy with great concentration – strawberries and raspberries, salted red licorice. Slurpy. There is more serious spice and texture on the mid-palate, Turkish Delight weaves its way across the finish.
Bottled December year of vintage. Still current. 2018 and 2020 are similar – brilliant. 19 is more serious, more tannin and density.
7 gold medals (‘one at every show we entered it in except the National Show’), 2 trophies in Sydney
2018 Villain Vixen Grenache Shiraz Mataro
Shiraz (35%), grenache (50%) and mataro (15%) are all from the same place.
Single vineyard wine (‘which was not necessarily the plan but it happened that way’).
It’s all about balance – the three varieties meld into each other, no one playing a more significant role than anothe. In oak for 18 months, all seasoned oak like the grenache. Smooth and delicious, the wine just delivers great pleasure – spiced raspberry, earthy mulberry, plenty of tomato leaf and dry spice. Love this. Good length of flavour.
2018 The Old Legend Grenache.
Extended maceration is a big part of this, but also 25% wholebunch. Super vibrant, textural, pretty, lifted. 60 days on skins. ‘You inevitably lose some colour during that process but you’re building spice and earth.’ “A good chunk of bunch – 25%”. Short term oak maturation – 8-9 months in barrel. Bottled December the same year of vintage. This is an estate wine – no purchased fruit. Spice driven, fennel flower. Other block is more classic – boiled lolly character. Predominantly comes off the top of the hill – that’s the spice and the lift.
TROPHY Wine of Show at Barossa Valley Wine Show 2019.
Salted heirloom tomato, raspberry, LOVE the core of fruit n the midpalate – it is surrounded by spice and tannins, and carries through to the finish is a really succulent way.. Delicious. Beautiful. Bordering on classical/traditional, but listening to the winemaking techniques and the material manipulation, this is no straight up and down grenache. The alcohol is there, but its not over the top. Beautiful wine. Big yes.
2017 The Beauty
97.5% Shiraz, 2.5% Viognier
‘2017 was a nice year in that we got lots of winter rainfall in spring. Solid crop levels. Had to drop a fair bit of fruit. Trying to find the balance. Fruit weight was there. It was, in the end, just about hanging in there. 3-4 weeks later on average than average harvest. Longer hang time means the 2017’s were quite big wines. Even VS odd years in the Barossa – odds are bigger more intense more tannic. Evens are softer finer more elegant, cooler.
Hentley Farm was founded by Keith Hentschke who was working for Orlando back in the 90’s. He asked around about setting up his new vineyard, and subsequently bought the property in ’97 and planted ’99 as he wanted. Greenock creek runs thorugh the middle of the property. The Beauty vineyard sits down on the banks of the creek. There’s cooler air and it’s on the eastern side of the creek, there’s gums down there which provide shade; it’s cooler in the mornings. Slower flavour development. Mid-low 14’s baume at harvest.’ -AQ
Shiraz aromatics. White florals, pretty red berries – this is a beast in terms of intensity and concentration, there’s so much going on here. The 2017 vintage conditions play a big role in the muscular expression of this wine. The length of flavour is prodigious. Delicious. Plenty of charm and life here. Blood/satsuma plum, raspberry, pomegranate molasses. Blue fruits and slately graphity earthy characteristic. Soft tannin. 35% new French oak (the coopers are selected based on their ability to provide tannin support without oak. aromas and flavours.)
2017 The Beast
Heavy glass bottle, heavier than the beauty, and sealed under both cork and wax.
‘Western sife of the Greenock creek, from the hill that leads up to the ridge. Red clay loam on top of limestone. Very little topsoil. Above the cooler air of the valley, Morning sun. Exposed vineyard. Low cropping. 1-1.5T to the acre. It’s all about intensity. 1654 clone.’
Classic Barossa style. This is traditional and brilliant. Vibrancy of fruit. Softness. Inherent softness. This is the style that made Australia famous. It’s a modern classic. Not overripe – yet distinctly Barossa. Spicy. “The most consistent wine that we produce”. 65% new French oak. Tannin architecture. Love the intensity here – it is very very good.
2017 Clos Otto
Packaged in a heavy bottle, with wax and cork seal. The label is velvet flocking. Impactful and showy.
Clonal variation: Planted by a German guy called Otto Kasper – he got cuttings from a friends place in Angaston. They’re not a selected clone. Hard clay soil. Winemaking is similar to the Beast. The Clos Otto vineyard and the Beast vineyards are basically next door to each other. 3ha block and we split it into 4 different ferments for blending options. We pick the top section of Clos Otto slightly earlier for acidity.’
This is elegant and kind of fine spicy and layered. It’s exciting. This is bigger, more muscular than the 16 – 18 will be released in February 2021. This is spicy and focused, concentrated and tannic.
Hentley Farm wines available here.