Senior Winemaker Paul Hotker has been a green thumb for most of his life. From a young age, he had a keen interest in horticulture and the art and science of growing plants. Time spent working as a vineyard hand for family friends at Olive Farm Wines in the historic Swan Valley helped to fire Paul’s nascent passion for Australian wine.
Since then Paul’s passion for horticulture has blossomed into a love for viticulture and oenology. While many have chosen to focus on one or the other discipline, Paul has a love for both and has developed an almost-unique skillset across growing vines and making wines. Combine this with his business acumen and his hardworking ethic and you’ve got the perfect recipe for the modern Australian vigneron.
Bleasdale Vineyards: A Gentle Rejuvenation
Over the last ten years, Paul has brought these skills to one of Australia’s most historic wineries, Bleasdale Vineyards in Langhorne Creek. In his own humble way, he’s quietly reinvigorated this classic Australian winery, building on a heritage of fine table wine and fortified production. New wines, new styles, and new packaging have combined with the best wines that have ever been made at Bleasdale. When you’ve got one of Australia’s best wineries looking and tasting better than it has in over 160 years it’s not long before people take notice.
Langhorne Creek - Celebrating the underdog
One person who has noticed is the most important and most respected wine critic in Australia, James Halliday. James has been keeping a close eye on Paul’s work in the Langhorne Creek as each year the wines have improved and scores going ever higher. Bright and aromatic white wines to classic Langhorne Creek Shiraz to Australia’s most exciting expressions of Malbec, Paul was knocking each and every one of them out of the park. When James was deciding whom he would award his coveted ‘Winemaker of the Year award for 2018’ the evidence was insurmountable… An unassuming winemaker working in an underrated region is now the hottest property in Australian wine.
From green thumb to the vineyard and winery
Kids love playing in the garden. All the soil and mud and flowers and sour sobs, it’s a wonderful world of adventure and discovery. We love to help our parents and friends to plant seeds, we love to watch them grow and we love to harvest fruits and vegetables. Then come the teen years. These are the years when only the most passionate still want to put on a pair of gardening gloves. Thankfully for Australian wine lovers Paul Hotker was one of the passionate few that never lost his connection with the soil, the plants and the produce.
After time working in Margaret River, Paul headed from Perth to South Australia to follow his passion and continue learning more about viticulture at the University of Adelaide. The viticulture and oenology courses at the University are arguably the most renowned in the world. One of the keys to its success is that they expose viticulture students to winemaking and vice versa. For Paul, this exposure sparked an interest in winemaking that would eventually become the perfect complement to his love for viticulture.
Margaret River - Fine wine from way out west
But for now, Paul had a problem. It’s great when you find something that you love doing. It becomes a problem if you love more than one thing. Paul found himself in this position and needed to make a choice. So, halfway through his degree Paul decided to transfer across to study oenology. But he never lost his passion for his first love. Luckily, he found himself the perfect job upon graduating, working for Nautilus Estate in Marlborough as Viticulturist and Assistant Winemaker.
Picking up inspiration and experience before settling in Langhorne Creek
Working as a viticulturist and a winemaker has given Paul Hotker a unique perspective. Along the way many people have also inspired Paul, from Alan Hoey and Clive Jones in New Zealand to Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith MW at Shaw and Smith in the Adelaide Hills. They’ve all help shape Paul’s grape and wine philosophy, in turn driving everything he has done in revitalising Bleasdale.
Paul doesn’t see viticulture and oenology as separate and distinct disciplines. Vineyard and viticultural technique are part of a continuous improvement and proactive winemaking ethos. His aim is to preserve the purity of the fruit flavours the season presents in each vintage. He prefers a winemaking style that doesn’t rely on excessive artefact or an overbearing winemaking thumbprint. At the same time Paul understands the importance of a house style in reflecting the history of a place.
You don’t leave your kids running around in the street and the same goes for wines, they must be nurtured and cared for to achieve their greatest potential, neglect never leads to greatness.
Bleasdale has a long and storied history. The Potts family have built a reputation as one of our most historic wineries since 1850 when Frank Potts first settled on the banks of the Bremer and Angas rivers. The Potts family are true pioneers of the Langhorne Creek wine region, so much so that the place simply wouldn’t be the same without them. One of Paul’s great skills has been his ability to respect the Bleasdale traditions and styles while taking the quality of the wines to new heights.
Paul Hotker and Bleasdale Vineyards – So hot right now
If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Paul Hotker you’ll find that he is one of the most humble and unassuming winemakers in Australia. He’ll probably tell you that his success is all down to great vineyard resources, an excellent bunch of growers, and a focused production team from grape to glass. There’s no question that they’ve all contributed to his success but this belies the skills and talent Paul has brought to the table. His skills in the vineyard, thoughtful winemaking philosophy and innovative business acumen have taken Bleasdale to new levels of quality and success in ten short years.
With this wonderful, and fitting, recognition from James Halliday, more and more wine lovers will get the chance to share the history and evolution of a truly iconic Australian winery. This wouldn’t have happened without Paul Hotker. Now that is something that he can be truly proud of.
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