From Horticulture to Award Winning Winemaker at Hentley Farm
Last month, our Roaming Reporter Ruth chatted to winemaker Andrew Quin (known as “Quinny”) of Hentley Farm. The Hentley Farm Vintage 2018 Blanc de Noir (meaning “white wine from red grapes”) is recommended in the current Sparkling On the Vine Edition, out in stores until the end of January. Quinny has won many awards to date including Barons of the Barossa Wine Maker of the Year 2017; 2015 James Halliday Winery of the Year as well as Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year nominee for both 2013 and 2011.
In the beginning
You could say that Quinny has always had an interest in plants and enjoyed being outdoors since he was a child. He loved helping his grandma in her garden where she was always propagating plants and he really enjoyed pruning and being in the garden with her. Growing up in the bay side suburbs of Melbourne, there was no family history of making wine but rather consumption.
It was after Quinny finished school that he started studying a Bachelor of Applied Science Majoring in Horticulture via distance learning at Wagga Wagga through Charles Sturt University. However, at the time as a result of his dad and older brother “being obsessed with red wine” Quinny then developed an interest in wine too and soon realised he could transfer credits from Charles Sturt to a campus university. He then moved to La Trobe University studying Viticultural Science and Wine Production.
After graduating in 2005, Quinny travelled around Australia, to California and southern France where he worked at a number of wineries including Galli Estate Winery, just west of Melbourne and St. Francis Winery in Sonoma. He had the opportunity to work in a small family owned winery where the three of them crushed 300 tonnes during a vintage compared to 5000 tonnes at the American winery. Quinny spent two vintages in Europe working for Jacques Lurton and Francois Lurton at a number of cooperatives in Languedoc in particular the Minervois region in southern France before returning to Australia.
Story of Hentley Farm
It was Keith Hentschke who discovered Hentley Farm and bought the 150 acre property in the 1990s. His focus on establishing a vineyard was quality of dirt and micro climate. At the time Keith worked at Orlando Wines and was on the look-out for making big bold Barossa Shiraz. He searched extensively for the right red clay loam soils. He dug soil pits in order to understand the soils and the types of wines he could produce from these.
Although there were some vines on the property they were in disrepair so he planted new vines. Today with the purchase of the Clos Otto block back in 2004, Hentley Farm consists of 40 hectares and now produces between 25-30 different wines. Some additional fruit is bought in from neighbouring properties and growers when required.
Like many living in the Barossa, Keith Hentschke can trace his family back generations. The Hentschke family all came over from Europe at the same time, in 1841. Some set up new lives in the Barossa and some in the Eden Valley. Those that moved to Eden Valley removed the ‘t’ from Hentschke and now are the Henschkes.
Life in the Barossa
When asked what Andrew loves about the Barossa, he explains, “I love the diverse climate in many ways, it can be very hot and dry.” Growing up along the bayside suburbs of Melbourne where he was used to the cooling influence of the water, he admits he initially struggled with heat but now loves it. He also loves the geography of Barossa and the diversity of wines. With over 500 grape growing families, there certainly is a huge range.
Another aspect of life in the Barossa is the community feel. Quinny and his family have been living in one of the nearby towns for 10 years and love this sense of community and the friendliness. They own the vineyard next to Hentley Farm and one of the wines he makes for his own label, Quin Wines, comes from here.
Hentley Farm Vintage 2018 Blanc de Noir
When people think “Barossa”, they might be forgiven into thinking only of big and bold Shirazes grown in the hot climate. However, Barossa actually includes both the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley. As explained on barossa.com/wine, Barossa Valley is one of the only wine regions in Australia to have neighbouring warm and cool climate growing conditions.
The wine for the Sparkling Blanc de Noir comes from two regions. The Grenache, which adds the flesh and the roundness to the wine, is sourced from the Barossa Valley at about 250 metres to 270 metres above sea level. The Pinot Noir is from Eden Valley found on a slight hill at 430 metres where the cool nights help produce the necessary high acidity and slowly ripen the Pinot Noir.
Today the Blanc de Noir is 50/50 Grenache and Pinot Noir. It has proved widely popular producing 500 dozen initially and now at 3000 dozen annually.
What do you love about your job?
Speaking to Quinny you can understand why he enjoys his role as a winemaker. As he explains, “Making wine is a fun job. The best thing about being a winemaker is that it changes so much in the year. The role is different across the seasons. It is exciting with fruit coming in and then in winter we get on a plane and travel and get the brand out to the different markets. Then at this time of year, we are blending and getting ready for bottling.”
The diversity is indeed interesting and you cannot help but be motivated by his enthusiasm.
What is your favourite grape variety and why?
“It has to be Grenache. I will get in trouble for this but I am a Shiraz expert that loves Grenache.” Quinny continues, “I love the style we are seeing in the Barossa where Grenache provides richness of fruit but light in style with bright fruit and it is very food friendly; approachable when young but develops. It also shows diversity in our region which is important.”
“Also as a grape variety with climate change being a concern for us, Grenache stands well in the heat and need less water too. Plus with the pH being lower in Grenache, there is less need to interfere in winemaking and adjusting with acid. And at Hentley Farm, we do a lot with Grenache, from whole bunch and extended maceration. Plus with this grape variety, you can make it into a sparkling to a rosé to a red.”
Sustainable vineyard practices used
As with many other winemakers I’ve spoken to over the past year, at Hentley Farm, they use minimal intervention in the vineyard. They only spray under vine once a year and prefer to let nature grow over winter. For them, it is important to spray when required especially when they had downy mildew just under 10 years ago. In the Barossa, they are lucky that there are minimal disease pressures.
At the vineyard they want to ensure minimal footprint by composting all grape marc (solid remains after pressing grapes) which is then spread over the vineyard. They also catch rainwater from the sheds and their waste water is treated and then used for irrigation, only when necessary. If the weather is forecasted to be 40 degrees for 3 days in a row, they will irrigate to ensure the green leaf and necessary shade is maintained. They are also trialling straw and mulch under vine to keep moisture in the soil as well as trying to maintain the top soil through minimal cultivation.
The team is happy with is current production which has increased since they started. They will only expand if there is the opportunity to buy good fruit and quality land. They are also conscious of water usage as young vineyards need huge amounts of water when trying to become established and at the moment, this is not a priority for them.
With the big brands out there and the competitive industry, what keeps you going and your brand alive?
As I have come to learn, it is the site at Hentley Farm that is key. Quinny adds, “Where we are and our site is important to our story. Keith spent years finding the site and planting the vineyard and it is such a beautiful place with Mt Rufus on west at 350 metres and the Eden Valley nearby. We can even see into Adelaide Hills. There is also the diversity of wines and we have a restaurant on site.”
What do you like to do on your days off?
With three children and his wife who works in health care, Quinny enjoys having quality family time when he’s not at work. You’ll also find him and his wife on the weekends taking their children to various sporting events in between time spent for Quinny on the golf course. The couple also manage Cambourne Boutique Accommodation, a self-contained cottage nestled among their Shiraz vines.
In addition to this, Quinny makes wines for his own label, Quin Wines which he set up in 2014. He has made a Shiraz from 2014 consistently since then and has since expanded to now produce a Grenache, a cooler climate Shiraz, a Nebbiolo and a Riesling.
You will find the range of Hentley Farm wines mainly in restaurants (on premise) and a smaller proportion in retail (off premise). They also sell direct from their website.
Swanny Cellars is a big supporter of Hentley Farm Vintage 2018 Blanc de Noir which is currently recommended in the current On the Vine Sparkling Edition, out in store until the end of January.
Text written by Ruth Turnbull, Swanny Cellar’s Roaming Reporter.
About the Roaming Reporter:
Ruth Turnbull is the Roaming Reporter for Swanbourne Cellars. Having studied the WSET Advanced Certificate and WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits, Ruth has worked in the wine trade in both London and Perth for over 15 years. While living in WA, Ruth was a regular Panel member on the Liquor Barons Panel and managed the digital marketing for Swanbourne Cellars. Now based in Adelaide, Ruth focuses on meeting the winemakers and the people behind the brand in order to highlight and share their story on the Swanbourne Cellars blog and social media channels.