An indomitable duo of sisters, the Lake Doctor and the lucerne farm …..
The reputation of Bremerton Wines and the Willson family was sealed when just four years after deciding that the family’s future lay in making wines not growing lucerne, winemaker Rebecca Willson’s first ever wine won a trophy. That was 1997 and now, in 2018, she and sister, Lucy, make an indomitable pair. Not only as ambassadors for Bremerton, but for the Langhorne Creek region as well as passionate advocates for women in the wine industry around the world.
These days, Bremerton Wine’s range boasts up to 18 wines and now include some interesting varieties such as Graciano (more commonly found in Rioja and Navarra than the new world) and that beauty from Southern Tyrol, Lagrein. A wide range indeed, but having tasted through most of one, each one is a good expression of its variety and the Langhorne Creek.
Langhorne Creek is one of Australia’s older wine growing regions with a history dating back to when Frank Pott’s planted Shiraz and Verdelho in the 1850’s. It is a close knit region on the Fleurieu Peninsula, 35.2963oS – 139.0383oE to be precise. Some vineyards, such as Lake Breeze owned by the Follett family, are located on the Bremer River and utilise the winter flood waters of that river to replenish the water available for the vines over the summer and autumn. The silt in this flood water also tops up the soil’s nutrition.
At around 5,800 hectares, Langhorne Creek is about half the size of South Australia’s most famed wine region, the Barossa Valley. It is remarkable then, that it has very few wineries for its size compared to similar sized regions. There are less than 15 advertised cellar doors and around 24 wineries. This can be explained by the region long history of providing high quality parcels of fruit for producers not located in the region. Particularly the lush Cabernet Sauvignon. Producers large and small, whether it be Zonte’s Footstep or Wolf Blass, have sought Langhorne Creek wine for varietal wines to enhance their range or their blends.
While the Cabernet Sauvignon here takes on intensity and amiability in its dark brooding depths, I have found the region’s foray into varieties such as fragrant Fiano and irresistibly juicy and floral Malbec to have great appeal and an exciting potential. The Willson family are no strangers to innovation and have embraced both of these varieties under their Special Release wine selection – Bremerton Wines Special Release Fiano & Bremerton Wines Special Release Malbec. However, they have not forgotten their region’s roots and their Bremerton Wines Mollie & Merle Verdelho makes this, a historically significant, variety sing.
It is not all about wines for everyday enjoyment, their flagship wines, such as the recent trophy winner Bremerton Wines Old Adam Shiraz, and the Walter’s Reserve Cabernet are both plush and powerfully built wines that deserve your attention. These can be long lived and will rightfully earn a place in any cellar.
Perhaps one of the highlights of a trip to the Langhorne Creek, the Willson family’s cellar door can be found in a painstakingly restored stone barn, complete with its gorgeous mezzanine floor, where the recycled timber and bricks give an appealing warmth. So welcoming is this cellar door, that earlier this year Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine included Bremerton in the Best Cellar Door Awards list for 2018. If the wines weren’t enough to get you to drop in and stay around a while, then the pizzas and warm fireplace in winter and shady outdoor areas in summer will certainly provide suitable enticement.
Recently, I caught up with winemaker Rebecca Willson and got the chance to ask her a couple of questions about the latest happenings at Bremerton.
What varieties are planted in the vineyards that go into Bremerton wines?
Our family planted vineyards at Bremerton in the late 1980’s and now has 110ha of established vineyards. Bremerton Wines was born with their first release being a 1988 Cabernet Sauvignon.
We have Shiraz, Cabernet, Malbec and Verdelho as our predominant varieties. These are the varieties with the most historical significance for Langhorne Creek, being the first varieties planted in the region in 1850’s. Plus, there are smaller plantings of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot. We also have a series of non-traditional, an “unusual” varieties, including Graciano, Tempranillo and Fiano.
What varieties are your favourite grape varieties to work with?
This is a hard one to answer, however, I am getting a lot of joy from working with Malbec and we have been trialling several new viticultural initiatives, so seeing the result is great.
Cabernet is also a current highlight as we have planted 4 new clones. Historically, our plantings have been limited to three traditional Langhorne Creek clones. I have researched Cabernet and looked at other clones, both established in other regions as well as new to Australia, and been intrigued. I have spoken with other winemakers who specialise in Cabernet and whose wines I admire and have looked at what the viticultural backbone of these wine’s wine’s comprise of.
We have settled on one Italian clone, one WA clone (ex sth Africa), one coonawarra clone and one South Australian clone. In addition, I have another block planted 4 years ago with 2 more clones – one Reynella clone and one other South Australian clone.
I’m excited about the prospect of the diversity these will bring, and have already seen some interesting physiological differences in the 4 year old plantings.
What are the most challenging grape varieties to work with?
Probably currently Tempranillo and Graciano and both these vineyards are new and require a lot of attention as we establish them and get to know their rhythms. Like toddlers really!
What makes Bremerton so special?
The future is ever evolving. Ultimately, we strive for a successful family owned and run business, producing exceptional quality wines and provide a cellar door experience to showcase this and our amazing regional produce.
Things that make it so special are
“It’s our life” – is our motto and it is so true – we live and breathe it.
Our commitment to quality– can’t release a substandard wine when our name is plastered all over the bottle!!
Our team– it’s like one big family all sharing our family values and commitment.
Our location– Langhorne Creek is such a special region – climate, community etc
How is the 2018 vintage looking for Bremerton?
2018 vintage is shaping up to be a highlight in the last decade. Gorgeous concentration of flavours from small berries, lifted fruit aromatics and exceptional colour. Our highlights are Cab and Shiraz. The yields were the only down side as they were well below average.
In your view, what makes Langhorne Creek so special?
Langhorne Creek is so special due to its location and climate.
We are a historical grape growing region on gorgeous old alluvial soils located between the Adelaide Hills and Lake Alexandrina, a 600sq km body of fresh water. We have a cool maritime climate due to the “Lake Doctor” wind coming across the lake from the Southern Ocean providing a cooling effect. This influence moderates summer heat, provided diurnal temperature ranges and assists the vines in retaining natural acidity and finesse in flavours.
The region also has the oldest family owned cabernet vines in production in the WORLD!
What is your favourite ‘Bremerton’ memory of the past 12 months?
Hard to pick just one!!
We won the trophy for best Shiraz with the Old Adam Shiraz at the Langhorne Creek regional wine show in May.
We have established a distribution partnership with a national distributor in Australia called Oatley Fine Wines which has been a huge development for us.
We have achieved some major vineyard milestones with new plantings and redevelopments which ensures high quality grapes for the future.
If you had the opportunity to drink a wine with any person/group of people in history,
– who would it be?
My Grandparents, because I have not been able to share my winemaking career with them whilst they were still alive.
– which wine? Walters Cabernet, Coulthard Cabernet and Tamblyn Blend as they are all named after our grandparents.
– what would you talk about? Probably food, farming and family!!
Click here to read past reviews of Bremerton wines, fresh reviews coming soon!
If you live in Australia, Germany, France, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, UK, China and Brazil you should be able to find Bremerton wines.
Visit www.bremerton.com.au for more information on the family and their wines.
Visit langhornecreek.com for more information about Langhorne Creek wine region.