Meet our senior winemaker, Paul Hampton.
Born in Wolverhampton, UK, I emigrated to Western Australia when I was six, to join my aunty who had moved to Australia three or four years earlier. I grew up in Fremantle and spent school holidays at the beach or lounging around friends’ pools. After leaving finance and earning my winemaking degree I worked in the Great Southern wine region of Western Australia at Plantagenet, before moving through the ranks at Leeuwin Estate in Margaret River under the tutelage of Bob Cartwright. I moved to the Barossa in 2005 and met my future wife a year or so later. I’m a Fremantle Dockers tragic (still have my 1995 foundation membership certificate in my CV), who is now landlocked in the Barossa both literally and physically by Adelaide Crows supporters.
What is the best thing about working in the wine industry?
The variety of the job, the people you meet, and the wines you get to taste that you could never afford!
What is your favourite part of the winemaking process?
Blending. You work all year bringing the individual wines to a stage where they are ready to put together to become the sum of their parts. This is the stage that the vintage and the wine style become blurred and from this emerges the result of your year’s efforts. Seeing the boys in the cellar then put what we have produced on the bench into a physical volume in tank is always a thrill.
What is the most difficult aspect of making wine?
Predicting the weather.
How do you determine when the fruit is ready for harvest?
It’s not as difficult as you might imagine. We use acid and sugar measures to bring us up to a stage where we begin to taste the individual parcels of fruit on a daily basis. Each variety has a different ‘picking window’ based on the flavours and textures you are trying to achieve. You get to know which varieties you can push from a harvest point of view and which varieties need to be harvested as soon as they display the characters you are looking for. For instance, gewürztraminer has a very small picking window while shiraz can be manipulated for weeks on end.
In your eyes, what do you think makes Henschke unique?
It is a family-run business with six generations of history and as the Australian wine industry increasingly succumbs to a combination of multinationals and supermarkets, that in itself is something to be proud of. The single-minded pursuit of quality isn’t unique in the wine industry, but Stephen and Prue bring to this a willingness to evolve and experiment, which means there’s never a dull moment and we’re never far away from our next surprise!
Henschke uses a lot of biodynamic and organic practices. Do you see this as a way of the future for the Australian wine industry?
I think the movement towards organic and biodynamic food production is an evolution in the marketplace in response to the increasing domination of our food supply chains by the supermarkets. People are sick of being told what to eat and are increasingly looking for alternatives. In the process, we are all rediscovering flavours and textures that we may have forgotten about. The movement to ‘real food’ is not limited to organics, but organics and biodynamics have been a central theme. The wine industry has suffered from a similar situation with more and more brands appearing on our shelves that really have no known provenance. Organics, biodynamics and sustainable wine production are all obvious industry responses to this.
What is your favourite Henschke wine, and why?
I love riesling, having worked in the Great Southern region, so I always get a thrill seeing our best Julius blocks coming through the press. I also love working with the Bordeaux varieties, so Eden Valley cabernet has been a fantastic challenge and Lenswood merlot even more so. Chardonnay and pinot from the Hills are constantly evolving and are wonderfully expressive varieties to work with. Eden Valley nebbiolo has been a wonderful learning experience and of course Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone is an honour. When you make as many wines as we do it’s a tough question, but I think the Johann’s Garden Grenache Mataro Shiraz would have to be the smoky in the portfolio.