Global winemaker John Hesketh

By Louise Johnson
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John Hesketh, Hesketh Wine Company, Adelaide, South Australia

John Hesketh, Hesketh Wine Company, Adelaide, South Australia [©Hesketh Wine Co]

Location is no limitation for winemakers that want to make the best wines they possibly can. Adelaide based winemaker Jonathon Hesketh is proving that by sourcing fruit from all over the world for the Hesketh Wine Company releases.

Wine and pushing the boundaries of winemaking is in the Hesketh bloodline. His father, Robert, worked across the global wine community taking his family overseas to work vintages in Burgundy and the South of France, the UK and North America and throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Jonathon himself has an impressive pedigree, working with premium brands such as Wirra Wirra, Moet and Chandon and Cloudy Bay. But in 2006 he and wife Trisha returned to Johnathon's home town of Adelaide to start the Hesketh Wine Company and create the best wines they possibly could using the best fruit they could find, regardless of the region.

"We only produce wines from the most celebrated grape varieties, from only the most acclaimed regions for producing those varieties, wherever they may be, anywhere in the world," he says.

While the initial releases focus is generally in the South Australia region with a McLaren Vale Shiraz, a Barossa Shiraz, a Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvgnon and a Claire Valley Riesling, the international flavour of Hesketh Wines emerges in a Marlborough, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Gruner Veltliner from Kremstal in Austria.

This is the first time the Hesketh family name has appeared on a bottle, despite his father's pioneering influence on the Australian wine industry.

"We've been involved in the industry - my father, brother Tom and myself - for many years. We've generally done things as a family and this is the first time we've put our name on a bottle. We exported wine to the USA in the 1980s before it was fashionable and we sold wine into the UK under the James Herrick brand, sourced from the south of France, but this is the first time we've put our name on the label."

Jonathon says the Australian wine industry has evolved over the past 10 years and winemakers here are only just starting to focus on the varieties best suited to their regional climates. Hesketh Wines takes advantage of that specialisation.

Production is limited to the most celebrated grape varieties sourced in regions renowned for growing them well. Specific fruit is identified and contracted in each region.

"It's taken 150 years to figure out what we do best and where. The world's a very small place and rather than try to be all things to all from one spot we can really focus on what each region does best and do it internationally," he says.

"If you want to grow and bottle savignon blanc the sensible place to do it is probably Marlborough. The reality is there's nowhere that's quite as suited as Marlborough. Also, that's what consumers want to drink so it makes sense. And if we want to do shiraz then the Barossa and maybe McLaren vale. If you're going to do a Gruner Veltliner then the place that's good at that is in Austria."

There's an element of courting the wine drinker too. Hesketh says wine drinkers are becoming more educated. "They are looking for things that are regionally distinctive and are seeking out shiraz from the regions that do it best rather than just drinking generic shiraz. They want to have that sense of place."

Key challenges for a "global" winemaker are creating the right partnerships with growers.

"The way it's actually transpired for us is that it's been more about getting access to the right fruit, that's been the thing that's really determined which regions are viable and what we've gone after. It's really about what we want to drink, it's partly about what we think the market wants to drink and it's partly about access to the right resources and then when we've got all those things in alignment we tend to go ahead."

Future releases may include a sparkling wine and also a New Zealand pinot noir. "Another one in Europe is on the cards very much and whether it's Italian or French that will be determined as I said before by being able to get at the right fruit. It's really watch this space."

Hesketh says they're not about striving for benchmarks for each region, but rather want to create thought provoking wines with balance, elegance and longevity, which retain a sense of place.

"It can seem quite complex, but what we're doing is actually quite simple and that simplicity is what makes it atrractive."

Regions

  • Adelaide (SA)
  • Barossa Valley (SA)
  • Clare Valley (SA)
  • Coonawarra (SA)
  • McLaren Vale (SA)

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