167 years and 6 generations of history
History & Passion
Established in 1850 by Frank Potts, Bleasdale is the spiritual home of Langhorne Creek
Bleasdale is rich in history and producing some of Australia’s most exciting, consistently impressive premium wines. Whether a Bleasdale wine is $12 or $70, whether it is a Sparkling Shiraz, a single vineyard Malbec or the Frank Potts Cabernet, it conveys a story in the glass that substantiates its history, diversity and increasingly, its pedigree.
Bremer River Red Gums and Wide Floodplains
After Frank Potts purchased 100 acres in April 1850, it was only a few years before the first 30 acres of Shiraz and Verdelho were planted. The harnessing of the natural flooding of the Bremer River by early grape growers makes the Langhorne Creek region quite unique. Frank Potts developed a system of levees and floodgates to capture and divert a metre of water and nutrient rich silt across the entire vineyard. The vigour in growth caused by this natural abundance of water sometimes presented challenges, but it is now managed by modern viticultural practices.
Langhorne Creek experiences relatively low annual rainfall, so supplementary drip irrigation is used to provide the vines with every opportunity to produce optimal fruit. The soils for Bleasdale’s vineyards range from well drained, alluvial soils to brown loams over limestone.
Over the years, further varieties were planted including Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. As Bleasdale grew it established contract grape growing arrangements with an increasing number of growers. Some of these relationships are entering their third generation of arrangements. New varieties and varietal clones are regularly being trialled as well.
In 2011, Bleasdale began sourcing Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc from the cooler Adelaide Hills region, and has quickly built a reputation for quality and value white wines.
Bleasdale’s Langhorne Creek red wines have fine tannin and fruit structure, and are highly regarded for their complexity and longevity; whilst the white wines of the Adelaide Hills display elegant fruit, balance and length of flavour.
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The Foundation of a Great Glass of Wine
1815 – 1849
Born in England in 1815, Frank Potts joined the British Navy at the youthful age of 9. He became a ‘Powder Monkey’ whose duty was to carry bags of gunpowder to the guns. After serving on the then training vessel, HMS Victory, for several years, Frank sailed on HMS Challenger from 1828 – 1833.
During this time he travelled to Australia, the Middle East, India, China and back to Australia (Fremantle) before sailing back to England via South America to complete a circumnavigation of the globe. So, until the age of 18 he was raised in the British traditions of global exploration and achievement.
Frank came to South Australia on HMS Buffalo when the colony was founded in 1836. Starting colonial life as a house builder, he then worked under the first harbour master, Captain Lipson, constructed his own ketch, the Petrel, and became a trader on Kangaroo Island.
1850 – 1890
While on his way to Wellington to undertake a Ferry master position, Frank crossed the Bremer River and noticed the fertile floodplains of what was then known as Langhorne’s Crossing. Frank purchased the first Section here in 1850, and together with his new wife, cleared the land of its huge red gum trees and started farming. When Shiraz and Verdelho were vines being planted a few years later, Bleasdale became the first winery established in Langhorne Creek.
Frank Potts liked building things – a home, a workshop, a winery, water pumps, floodgates, vats, a lever press and a dynasty. When he added more land to his original holding, the vineyard area expanded and so the winery, and the family, grew.
In his later years, Frank handed over the daily workings of the vineyards and winery to three of his sons and went back to boat building. He built three paddle steamers and a number of barges along with several yachts which he and his sons enjoyed racing on nearby Lake Alexandrina – very competitively.
In 40 years, the estate was transformed and the family became a significant part of the burgeoning wine industry in South Australia. The basis for a strong viable family estate was established.
1890 – 1948
On Frank I’s death in 1890, the original section with the winery was inherited by his son, Frank II. Two other sons, Fred and Henry, had adjoining properties and they all worked together building the fortunes of Bleasdale in harmony. The original Shiraz and Verdelho vines saw new varieties added – Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec – and the wines produced continued to be mostly fortified Ports, Sherries and Madeira.
Frank II died in 1916 and, for 19 years, his wife Alice, along with her large family of 10 children, ran the property and winery. Through the First World War and the difficult years of the 1920s the grapes grew, wine was made and sold and the business survived. Bleasdale could easily have been lost at this time, but hard work, vision and family commitment saw it through.
On Alice’s death in 1935, her eldest son A.B. (Artie) Potts inherited the winery and original section, other sons inherited vineyards and the daughters inherited money. By 1939, A.B. Potts had already had a bridge built across the creek and added a floodgate to provide greater control of floodwaters in both Bleasdale’s vineyards and for those of his neighbours downstream. The bounty of the Bremer River was more fully utilised.
In 1948 the privately owned property became a Company, Bleasdale Vineyards Pty. Ltd., with shareholders being A.B. Potts’ own family and several of his brothers.
1948 – Today
Following World War II many things changed in the wine industry, with immigration, mainly from Europe, changing social structures. Table wines were introduced and wineries raced to adapt. At this stage, and to provide post-war employment, the current cellar door and a spirit store were added. Bleasdale also took on a number of Greek migrants who were not only very industrious in the vineyards and winery, but built a house and other additions.
Bleasdale kept pace, making its first varietal red, a Malbec, in 1961. In the winery, stainless steel tanks and refrigeration were installed. The sparkling wines entered our culture and, in 1964, Bremer Gold was released – the first of a large range of bubbles, including a “Sparkling Burgundy”. The range of varietal reds expanded and the whites followed.
1981 became known as the ‘Year of Floods’. Normally there were only 2 or 3 floods a winter – this year there were at least 10.
In the 1990s, there was a drive to double the size of the Australian wine industry to cement its place in the global wine industry. This started with a doubling of the area of vineyards planted and, along with major changes in the approach to water in the Murray Darling Basin, enabled Managed Investment Scheme projects to prosper, albeit temporarily. Along with other aspects of globalisation, the effect on the wine industry has caused serious difficulties in operating viable businesses.
So far Bleasdale has weathered this storm by focussing on developing quality in the vineyards, increasing the range and quality of branded wines, seeking new opportunities by sourcing white grapes from the Adelaide Hills and generally adopting a positive approach in difficult times.
In 1995 our red wine range was finally given the names you still know today – Frank Potts Cabernet Blend, Mulberry Tree Cabernet Sauvignon and Bremerview Shiraz.
After six years of drought, a flood in 2009 was a welcome relief for the dry region.
In 2013, we had new shareholders invest in Bleasdale and continue to work hard to ensure a prosperous future.
Experience & Expertise
Bleasdale produces one of the most diverse portfolios of wines in Australia.
Paul Hotker is the current Senior Winemaker, and he and his team are achieving excellent results both nationally and internationally.
Each vintage over 200 different parcels of wines are made, all expressing their own individuality based on micro-climate and soil type of the vineyards they have come from.
In September every year Paul and his team spend three days assessing every parcel of wine, aided by two independent judges, from which they will create the script for each final blend to be assembled.
The winemaking team’s philosophy is to allow the region to express naturally what it produces with minimal influence by winemaking. The reds have an honest masculinity but are not brutish. Cabernet has elegance and captivating depth of flavour, Shiraz is a ripe fruit style with refined cool climate spice elements and Malbec is perfumed and finely structured.
The Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris are expressions of purity of fruit whilst the balanced, cool climate Chardonnay portrays great structure and length of fruit.
The wine portfolio steadily grew during the mid/late 2000s with the production of Petrel Reserve and The Broad-Side – both Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec blends.
In 2010 there were two wines produced to celebrate the 160 year anniversary of Bleasdale – the Powder Monkey Shiraz and the Double Take Malbec. The Wise One Grand Tawny and Grand Verdelho fortified wines also emerged in 2010.
The most recent wine releases have been the Iron Duke Cabernet Sauvignon, named after one of the guns owned by Frank Potts, and the Fortis et Astutus 20 Year Old Rare Liqueur Tawny. Fortis et Astutus translated means “strong and astute”, reflecting the passion, innovation and ideas that have abounded as the family has taken its journey from the earliest days of wine in South Australia to producing some of Australia’s most exciting wines today.
How exceptional these wines are has not just happened on its own. Seven years ago Paul completely overhauled the rating system for the company’s vineyards and those of its growers with the sole purpose of receiving grapes of the highest calibre possible.
Since 2010 Bleasdale has seen the benefits of this through a multitude of awards and accolades. It’s the way it should be, in the pursuit of quality.