Margaret River “must remain hungry”

10th October, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt

Western Australia’s Margaret River wine region needs to promote itself more actively in key export markets to prevent it becoming overlooked, believes David Hohnen from the area’s McHenry Hohnen Vintners.

McHenry Hohnen Vintners was founded by David Hohnen (foreground) and his brother-in-law Murray McHenry

Hohnen, who founded Margaret River’s pioneering Cape Mentelle winery – now owned by LVMH – told the drinks business during an interview yesterday that the Western Australian region, famous for its white and red Bordeaux blends along with Chardonnay, was not publicising its wines as strongly as it should be.

“We are a preeminent Assie region but Margaret River must remain hungry, and we are looking for leadership from the region in the next generation,” he said.

Looking back, he recorded that Cape Mentelle had built Margaret River’s reputation in the key UK market because it was the first winery in the region to base someone in Britain.

The winery’s pioneering approach to the UK was then strengthened by other early operators in Margaret River who had an export focus, such as Vasse Felix, Cullen and Leeuwin Estate.

Today, he said, Margaret River “is much more diverse, with many more producers, but the first producers are still creating excitement.”

In particular, Hohnen highlighted the evolution in Chardonnay styles from the region, describing a new approach focused on harnessing natural acidity, lowering alcohols, and using less new oak.

This, combined with other techniques employed in the last 3-4 years, such as the use of natural yeasts, is producing “more minerally wines and a better expression of Chardonnay,” said Hohnen.

2011_MR_SSB

David Hohnen said there was “no appetite at the moment” for Margaret River’s Sauvignon/Semillon blends in the UK.

However, he said that there was “no appetite at the moment” for Margaret River’s other flagship white: Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon “Bordeaux blends”.

“We pour it for potential buyers and they always love it, but there is a reluctance to buy it because Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is all powerful,” he said.

As an example of Margaret River’s lack of representation in the UK for its white blend, he noted that The Wine Society has just a single listing for Australian Sauvignon – a Margaret River Semillon/Sauvigon under the retailer’s exclusive Blind Spot range.

Describing the retailer as one for “65,000 Brits who enjoy wine” and a business that “is extremely supportive of Australian wine”, he noted that when he searched The Wine Society catalogue for Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon/Semillon blends he found 14 wines from the Loire, nine from Bordeaux, nine from New Zealand, six from Chile and only one from Australia.

“I think the British consumer is missing out,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hohnen stressed the quality of Shiraz from Margaret River and said that his “most successful” wine in the UK market was made from this grape.

“The UK consumer is discovering Margaret River Shiraz, and we do a good one, Cape Mentelle has always done a good one, and Voyager do a good one,” he said.

Stylistically, he said that Margaret River Shiraz “has never gone down the track of American oak and the varietal characters have always been to the fore.”

Continuing, he said, “It sits comfortably between the white pepper of the ripe Grampians Shiraz and the bigger jammier characters of McLaren Vale and the Barossa.”

He also noted that more Shiraz was being planted in Margaret River, which was historically reasonably widespread in the region, but pulled out and replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon over the course of the last two decades.

“Shiraz has come back big time,” he concluded.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Sales Executive (London – Craft Spirits)

Bimber Distillery
London, UK

2 x Buying Assistants

Berry Bros. & Rudd
Battersea and Basingstoke, UK

Temporary Christmas Sales Support - Wines & Spirits

Harrods
Knighsbridge, London, UK

Head of Wholesale

Hispamerchants Ltd
London, UK

Sales Manager

Hispamerchants Ltd
London, UK

National Sales Manager

Maverick Drinks
Field based, UK

Regional Sales Executive

EWGA
Gloucestershire, UK

Senior Content Writer

Rude Wines
Ledbury, UK

The World Bulk Wine Exhibition

Amsterdam,Netherlands
20th Nov 2017

The Drinks Business Green Awards 2017

London,United Kingdom
20th Nov 2017

The Global Spirits Masters Lunch

London,United Kingdom
1st Dec 2017
Click to view more

Green Awards 2017

Deadline : 25th October 2017

The Global Riesling Masters 2017

Deadline : 30th October 2017

Click to view more

Champagne Masters 2017

The only Champagne blind tasting in the UK, the competition will reward the best wines in the following categories:

The Global Rosé Masters 2017

With wines from the palest of pink to almost ruby red, bone dry to almost cloyingly sweet, reductively handled to barrel-aged, as well as gently spritzy to fully sparkling.

Click to view more