Paul Hotker (Bleasdale) talks to Curious Wines

Since Frank Potts was captivated by the potential of the fertile Langhorne Creek region with its ample sunshine to create ripe, full-bodied wine styles, the Potts family has been following a 160 year old tradition of innovative grapegrowing and winemaking.

Today, Paul Hotker is senior winemaker at Bleasdale. He’s been kind enough to answer a few questions I put to him last week. Good timing as we’ve 20% off the range until the end of August!

1. So, Paul, how did your career as a winemaker come about? Any big influences, be it through experiences or people?

A bit by accident really, I had planned to become a Viticulturalist and had plenty of vineyard experience prior to study.  I couldn’t make up my mind on which discipline to specialise in, but settled on winemaking. I still keep a finger on the viticultural pulse, visiting our vineyards all year on a regular basis, not just at harvest.

I’ve always worked for businesses and people with good connection and flow between vineyard and winery and I have a pretty good grasp of how one influences the other. The first winery I worked for was Olive Farm in the Swan Valley, a family business headed by Ian Yurisich. Ian worked like a machine and did everything from pruning and planting to bottling.  He got me started in the game and interested in wine and from there I’ve travelled and worked all over the place from McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Marlborough NZ, Burgundy and the Rhone, and met so many terrific people with great ideas about wine.

2. Is there a particular wine you get most excited about in the range before releasing to market?

There is quite a few, I always get excited about Double Take Malbec and The Powder Monkey Shiraz.  These wines are new to us and the world but have been really well accepted. We don’t have a recipe or any rules for these wines so it’s great to see how the wine evolves and new vintages are received, people are taking a fresh look Bleasdale. We are working on a couple of other new things at the moment, can’t say too much yet but watch this space…

3. What grape(s) do you believe thrive particularly well in the Langhorne, and are you tempted to start experimenting with any new varietals beyond the likes of Shiraz, Cabernet and Malbec?

Malbec grows particularly well here in the creek, we are bringing in new cuttings from other regions, the planting material here is very good but we want to see how Malbec from Argentina and the Clare will grow here for instance.

Verdelho was the first variety planted here and I think makes terrific white table wine.

We are having a go with Tempranillo which seems to going quite well and of course Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cab Franc has always been important to our Frank Potts blend. There are a few things that we might try for blending components such as Carmenere, Carignan, Montepulciano or Frappato. A constant source of fodder for debate around the winery and vineyard.

4. If you couldn’t make any more wine in Australia, where would you go to make it?

I spent nearly five years in New Zealand and that was pretty good, I reckon I could really enjoy Alsace for white or somewhere making Syrah or Grenache in the Rhone. I haven’t been to too many wine regions that I didn’t enjoy.

5. How does Langhorne Creek compete with other Australian regions? What would you view as the “x factor”, or the point of difference, that the region has to offer?

In terms of wine we are in a unique position. We have been growing grapes for 160 years and have some terrific old vineyards yet we are relatively unknown. Most of the fruit leaves the district and props up other regions blends. This is starting to change as growers take more control of their own destiny and label the wines Langhorne Creek.

The great thing about Langhorne Creek is the cool climate spice and elegance that we achieve in all our reds, and that we can ripen the fruit consistently. All the reliability of the warm climates to our north with the spice and elegance of cooler regions in a good year.

6. Finally, Paul, do you have a desert island wine? A wine that you would take to heaven with you if you could?

It’s too hard to choose.. Just one bottle? Give me a couple of cases at least!

Eden Valley Riesling or really, anything decent under screw cap, imagine being on a desert island, and not having a corkscrew, or worse still your one bottle of La Tache is corked!

Thanks to Paul Hotker and Nikki Hutchinson at Bleasdale. Click here to view the range, all with 20% off until the end of August.

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