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Henty GI – small but growing region

The Henty GI region is establishing a reputation for cool climate viticulture with its wines winning a number of awards. Henty is the south-west corner of Victoria roughly centred on the regional centre of Hamilton and extending to the coast at Warrnambool and stretching to the South Australian Border next to the adjacent Coonawarra.

The Henty family who landed at Portland in 1834 carried a barrel of vine cuttings creating the first record of vines in Victoria’s history. According to Jennifer Lacey, president of the Henty Wine Region Association, the GI probably has about 150 hectares planted to vines, while her group currently has 22 members of which 12 have wineries.

Association members are working on some promotional projects to lift their profile with a region website currently being developed. The largest and longest established and best known district vineyard is the Seppelt Drumborg vineyard near Portland of about 60 hectares planted in 1964.

Another well recognised name of the GI is the Crawford River Vineyard of John Thomson, with 11.5ha planted and in its 30th year and the source of some highly acclaimed Rieslings in particular, together with the small Tarrington Vineyard adjacent to the township of that name. Tarrington is the source of some highly regarded Pinot Noirs made by Tamara Irish.

The remaining vineyards especially those offering labelled wines are mostly all boutique in scale and often have been small diversifications by larger family grazing ventures.

The area is recognised as having an essentially cooler Burgundian style climate and some distinctive soil types, most notably red basaltic buckshot style soils which seem to be a preferred type by a number of growers.

Notwithstanding the scale a number of smaller growers have traditionally produced grapes under contract for sparkling base material for the Southcorp group.

It is the ending or uncertainty of these contracts which have in recent vintages caused some growers to become winemakers and to release their own label wines.

Another interesting trend is that there are at least four vineyards growing Pinot Gris with most of the fruit contracted to Casella Wines.

John Kennedy reported.

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