15/10/2009 - 00:00

Generation next

15/10/2009 - 00:00

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IF you spend more than a few moments with David Hohnen you'll soon hear the words 'second generation'.

Generation next

IF you spend more than a few moments with David Hohnen you'll soon hear the words 'second generation'.

Wine industry doyen, creator of well-known and well-respected Cape Mentelle and Cloudy Bay labels, and now the driving force behind Margaret River's McHenry Hohnen, he oozes passion about wine, winemaking and working the land.

This talk about 'second generation' means two things. Firstly, that the children of Margaret River's pioneers are taking over the winemaking responsibilities, and secondly, that this fleet of young guns is making the next generation of wine styles using the next generation of grape varieties - tempranillo, marsanne, malbec and roussanne are complementing the traditional varieties of cabernet, merlot, semillon sauvignon and chardonnay.

Mr Hohnen is very much a man of the land and of the greater Margaret River community. The vineyard is a completely non-artificial affair, and is integrated with his other commercial businesses - Wiltshire sheep live and graze among the rows of vines and complete the nitrogen reintroduction process, as well as other farming activities.

He also runs pigs on the property. I spoke to him recently and happened to catch him while he was in his little dinghy, rowing out to the small island in the middle of his dam where one of his pigs had just dropped a litter. Despite the context, he still had time to talk passionately about his work - not in marketing terms or winemaking terms but in farming terms. He is genuinely excited and emotionally invested in the area.

The wines coming out of his little piece of farming heaven are unique and expressive - they are all about texture and nuance. They only use old Burgundy barrels in the winery to age the wines, which gives structure and mouth-feel without dominating the wine with vanillan toasty characters. They don't subscribe to the 'more is more' ethos we see in so many over ripe, over oaked fruit bombs.

These wines are made to drink with food and friends, and for me the 2005 Tiger Country, a blend of tempranillo and cabernet, is the standout. It's a many layered, grippy little number, dried herbs and cassis on the nose, a lively red fruit whack initially that tightens into a long leathery, smokey finish. It still has the structure and 'eucalyptus' feel of a Margaret River cabernet but the tempranillo brings a whole other dimension of savoury, earthy, old world charm. Bloody good.

Keeping 'Brand Margaret River' fresh and interesting isn't happening in the offices of a slick PR company, it is rightly held in the hands of the people who work the land. It's not as easy to recognise as a catchy jingle, it's in the length of flavour, the meticulously handcrafted feel of the produce and wines that are coming out of the stables of producers like McHenry Hohnen.

These changes don't slap you in the face like an advertising billboard, they are quietly going about their business, honing their wares and are happy if you sit up and take notice of the good things they are doing - they wear the name Margaret River like a badge of honour, not a marketing tool.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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