Wednesday, June 30, 2010


My first impression on my visit to Hahndorf Hill was one of disappointment. Disappointment that their superb, award winning restaurant has been closed down in favour of a chocolate tasting area (since September supposedly). Other than that however, the entire experience at Hahndorf Hill remains as enjoyable as ever.

On arrival at the tasting bench we were greeted by South African owner/winemaker Larry Jacobs, who charmed his way through their entire range with us, with the professionalism and striking personality of a seasoned veteran. Being South African we felt it natural to discuss World Cup soccer and enjoyed joking about the Kiwis with him (we drew the first game, then the second, and oh yes, we finally drew the third!), while the group I was with presented a round of applause to the charming Larry when he told us of his refusal to sell Hahndorf Hill wines through Woolworths owned outlets. Although I must mention, Larry's sample pours were decidedly skint!

As has become the norm at Hahndorf Hill, their present range of wines is highlighted by one of the Adelaide Hills' most delicious, distinctive chardonnays (defined by lovely, clear butterscotch characters for the second straight release) as well as delightfully spicy, fine and rich regional shiraz. In my opinion Hahndorf Hill remains one of the Adelaide Hills' most underrated makers of both shiraz and chardonnay. There's also a savoury, dry and unique rose made from trollinger and lemberger grapes (which gets released with a year's bottle age) plus one of the Hills' better sauvignon blancs in Hahndorf Hill's collection.

Wine snoffs out there with a liking for the Austrian grape gruner veltliner will be interested to hear Hahndorf Hill now has that grape under vine too. Larry informed us he'd just finished bottling his first vintage (2010), however, the wine has already sold out through pre-sales to his loyal customer base. Looks like I might have to wait till the 2011 release, for which, Hahndorf Hill's website is already taking expressions of interest. Larry's goal is to make a light-medium bodied style gruner veltliner (or groo-vy as he affectionately titles it - there's one for savvy drinkers to snap at!) which reflects a wine with spicy, gris-like character and riesling-like acidity.

I've written up a separate post on Hahndorf Hill's Vino-Choc chocolate and wine tasting below, because I feel it's quite an interesting, educational and unique experience, which is well worth the time for people with a serious interest in wine and food.

All up there's a lot to like about this enterprising, genuinely boutique little winery.

Hahndorf Hill tasting notes are posted below

Hahndorf Hill Rose 2009 ($22) Even though I'm a self confessed non-rose drinker, I always find time to taste Hahndorf Hill's, which is an unusual blend of the red grapes trollinger and lemberger. The 2009 is light, dry and savoury in a good food-pairing sense, but I still found that hint of dirty, candied acids which I so detest in rose. Personally I'd love to see the maker make more trollinger or lemberger as a single varietal red wine. Now that could be interesting! 85

Hahndorf Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($22) Usually one of the Hills' best yet least heralded savvys. The 2009 is no exception. Its nose doesn't jump out of the glass, but the palate thankfully delivers a smooth, luscious and smartly richer expression of gooseberry and lime flavours framed by the necessary refreshing acids. 90

Hahndorf Hill Pinot Grigio 2009 ($25) Another style I'm not particularly huge on (least of all from the Adelaide Hills), but this one's a pretty good, clean and fresh style with the typical pear characters delivered in water-clean fashion. Nick Stock rated this 93 points and Australia's best grigio. 89

Hahndorf Hill Chardonnay 2008 ($28) First varietal chardonnay from HHW since the excellent 2004 vintage (92pts). It's nicely refined yet character laden, rich and textured, and lives up to the 2004's standards. Shows the makers trademark butterscotch characters (which become more pronounced with age) with a creamy expression of peach, melon and creamy cedar oak marked by citric acids, ever present mineral qualities and a clean finish. It's classic Hahndorf Hill style and great value as always. (full review soon) 92

Hahndorf Hill Shiraz 2007 ($30) Shows the strong spice aromas which define the label, this time in more of a pepper sense. There's some red cherry and plush dark plum notes as well, plus carefully contained oak. The palate is beautifully elegant, with fine line and length driven by a sensitive rod of dry tannins. (full review soon) 91

Hahndorf Hill Shiraz 2006 ($32) Superlative fragrance. It's exotic, heady and floral, with distinct notes of cinnamon, clove and violets, in fact it's one of the most beautifully spicy Adelaide Hills shiraz I've ever encountered. Its rich and velvety dark plum and mulberry fruit flavours are considerately framed by light tannins and zippy acids, allowing its wonderful fruit to shine through. A delicious, generously flavoured and hedonistically spiced regional style. 92


  1. If your not a fan of the pinot grigio style, as you claim in your tasting note above, then why write anything down as you already have formed a judgemental opinion.

    This is the exact problem with the wine industry and the way wine shows are judged in Australia.

  2. Thanks for the comment Anon, because I feel it's a good one.

    It's true that grigios aren't my favourite style and I do approach them with certain 'preconceptions' in my mind, but I always attempt to approach any wine with a blank palate and an open nose.

    My concerns with grigio tend to relate to my experiences with the many Australian styles which are rather lifeless, or bound by dirty acids, or lacking freshness, but having said that, I thought the Hahndorf Hill Grigio wasn't bad at all, and there are some good styles out there. It's just that I feel Australian wineries have much to learn about the style yet.

    For your information, if it's grown and made correctly, I can like grigio, check out:-

    Also, if I don't like something (food or drink wise), it just encourages me to try more of it until I do. I'm very open-minded like that! Sometimes it infuriates me when close-minded people won't try something because they've had it once and didn't like it - what's it gonna do; kill ya? Get to know it first, you might end up loving it! That's why I'll continue drinking grigio, because one day, I'm (optimistically) sure it'll inspire me.

    I also agree there's a problem with the wine show system in Australia, but I'm not sure it's because of judge's preconceived ideas or tastes (which shouldn't really be a problem at all). In my opinion, it has more to do with judges tasting up to 150 wines a day, in a very neutral environment. Over the years these shows have generally shown that if you have 150 wines and want to find the best one; then don't try drinking them all at once.

    Chris P