Margaret River McHenry Hohnen

Australian wine made its name by being bold and brash – good quality but far from elegant. The last few years have, however, seen a complete volte face, seeing some wines that are so subtle you would be hard pushed to say that they came from the New World, let alone Australia. The bold style still exists, particularly in the more popular brands, but almost all of the smaller independent producers are moving towards precision and terroir-influenced wines, particularly those in the cooler regions rather than the hotter vineyards of south-eastern Australia.

2018 saw Private Cellar plunge back into the Australian pool, after several years’ absence, with wines from McHenry Hohnen, the partnership between Murray McHenry and his brother-in-law David Hohnen – who bears no little responsibility for the craze for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, as the founder of Cloudy Bay. They set up shop in prestigious Margaret River in 2004, and have since focused on single vineyard wines across their range.

Murray McHenry, alongside vineyard manager Mike Sleegers and head winemaker Jacopo Dalli Cani, believe that the best wines should be true expressions of their environment. For them, the better balanced and nurtured the environment, the better the grapes and the wines. All their vineyards are farmed biodynamically, organically and sustainably. In the winery this translates into minimal intervention wine making; fermenting with ambient yeasts, low levels of sulphur and no fining or filtration before bottling.

Their Rocky Road wines – that’s the name of the vineyard, not the tea-time treat – are a brilliant combination of punchy Australian fruit and restrained classicism.  Their Rocky Road Chardonnay is fermented in French oak barrels and left to do its own thing. Gorgeously fresh wine with big, bright Chardonnay flavours, sub-tropical fruits, clearly Australian in style yet with precise Francophile definition

The Rocky Road Shiraz winemaking notes sound more Northern Rhône than southern Australia – whole berries, 10% whole bunch fermentation, concrete tanks, basket pressed – and the result is similarly disarming. Deeply fruited with notes of leather and garrigue, a distant touch of eucalyptus gives the game away, whilst the wine retains superb balance.

Find both of these wines in our list and on our website.

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