Just a few miles up the road from Coonawarra, heading north toward Adelaide, lies Langhorne Creek, a pleasant little town and an underappreciated wine region, even among Australians. You can taste freely at the tasting rooms of Langhorne Creek without battling the busloads and carloads of tourists.
If you have ever tried Wolf Blass wines, though, you have undoubtedly sampled Langhorne Creek. Wolf had high regard for the wines of this region, even when it was smaller and more under-rated than it is today. And his winemaker for many years, John Glaetzer, was even more enamored of Langhorne fruit (although true to the Australian tradition, it was often blended with grapes from other regions). John's Blend was started as a wine Glaetzer set aside for himself from the best Langhorne Creek lots. Since 1974, it has been sold commercially, and it was the best wines I tasted in Langhorne Creek--well worth a try if you can find it. It's distributed in Canada but not the United States.
John Glaetzer is the winemaker who coined the term, "no wood, no good." And Wolf Blass wines have always reflected that philosophy. Whereas Penfolds uses new oak barriques to extract more tannin, Glaetzer used it to soften the wine and make it more approachable--a style that has become quite popular among lovers of New World wines. It's definitely not my style, but I can respect it and appreciate the well made bottles of John's blend.
More to my liking are wines from the Metala Vineyard, one of the oldest in Australia, dating to the late 1800s. We visited these old, gnarled vines on the outskirts of Langhorne. And, on other ocassions, tasted two bottles of the 1992 Stonyfell Metala Vineyard Shiraz Cabernet. While the varietal fruit traits of both grapes had faded, this wine showed incredible secondary traits and old vine intensity. For my own pleasure, this is a wine I would choose over the John's Blend, the top Wolf Blass reds or even the Grange.