“My father always taught me that it’s all about the vineyard, and this was a great opportunity to add a special one.”1
Katie Jackson’s words echo what many have known about the Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard for years. Established by Alan Hickinbotham in 1971, the vineyard has been the source of some of Australia’s finest Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon supplying fruit for the likes of Australia’s greatest wines including Penfolds Grange Hermitage and Hardy’s Eileen Hardy. In fact, vine history in the Clarendon area goes back to 1858 when vines were first planted by the area’s settlers.
Clarendon is a subregion of the famed McLaren Vale Geographic Indication. While the entire McLaren Vale region is known for producing classic expressions of wines that are opulent, bold, and rich with intense flavor, the Clarendon subregion produces wines with a similar profile but layered with elegance and finesse. Located in the northernmost part of McLaren Vale with an elevation of 820 feet above sea level2 which exposes it to cooler temperatures than most of the region, the Clarendon area is blessed with great diurnal ranges which results in world class, age-worthy wines that have great intensity and complexity.
Even though the vineyard was purchased by Jackson Family Wines, so special is the vineyard that the family created a separate label that showcases the single-vineyard designation interconnected with the Clarendon and the Hickinbotham heritage. This new era of the Hickinbotham Clarendon legacy, which commenced in 2012, has shown the same commitment to the vineyard as evidenced in their offerings of Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a flagship Cabernet-Shiraz blend. Given the increased interest in high-end Australian Wines, this was the perfect addition to the family’s portfolio.
I had the opportunity to taste the entire Hickinbotham Clarendon portfolio3 and what a treat it was. I tasted with a group of regular, everyday winelovers as well as wine geeks, and the general consensus was that these are some special wines worthy of a spot on your dinner table or your coffee table while hanging out with friends.
2015 The Revivalist Merlot, McLaren Vale, Australia ($75)
Crafted of 100% Merlot, the wine poured a deep ruby in the glass. Initial aromas of black fruit and baking spice emerge the minute you take a sniff. Giving it a swirl, violets, cassis, pencil shaving, and cocoa emerge. In the mouth, the wine decadently wraps around the tongue like a velvet glove offering up ripe black cherry fruit. Smooth, integrated tannins make this one fine to sip on its own, but the present acidity will allow it to hold its own with food. A long lingering finish makes it even more memorable. I seriously don’t know why people don’t love Merlot more. This is such a beautiful representation of this noble variety.
2015 Brooks Road Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia ($75)
I’m still on my Syrah comeback. A once maligned (by me) grape has had me swooning as of late – this one included. Crafted of 100% Shiraz and sourced from predominantly 1971-planted blocks, it shows a deep intense, purplish ruby in the glass. I absolutely loved the nose on this one with opulent, rich black plum preserves, cedar, and cinnamon spice. On the palate, the tannins were nicely melded along with more black fruit and spice. Voluptuous yet elegant. Even with all the ripe fruit, the wine was so nicely balanced with the acid and tannin keeping it all in check. This is no fruit bomb. A fine effort that would pair nicely with a braised short rib.
2015 Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, Australia ($75)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon and just a gorgeous effort here. This one was drank over three days, and I enjoyed more each day. The nose offers up blackberry preserves, graphite, dried savory herbs, smoke, and spice. In the mouth, the wine is lively and vibrant, offers nice structure, approachable, integrated tannins, and strikes a beautiful balance of acidity and black fruit. The acidity brings such vibrancy to the fruit. Blackberry and cedar greet the palate initially while the spice and cedar just linger on the finish. A great wine today will be even more amazing in a few years (if you can hold on that long).
2015 The Peake Cabernet-Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia ($150)
The flagship wine named ‘The Peake’ after the original founder of Clarendon – Sir Edward John Peake – is a blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon and 44% Shiraz which were planted in 1971. Powerful and seductive, the wine showcases the best of both varieties. Chocolate, vanilla, violets, and spice all encompass the nose. Tasting it actually took me by surprise. I was expecting a big, brooding wine with brash tannins, but that’s not what I got. Rich and full-bodied, the wine showcases both smooth tannins and substantial backbone to accompany the ripe, juicy blackberries, cherries, and spice. I may have even heard whistles of appreciation from the wine squad. After a lengthy decant, this was such a beautiful wine. I can only imagine what it will be like in a decade or so. And the finish just goes on and on…
If I only had one word to describe all four wines, I’d either have to go with seductive or hedonistic. The Hickinbotham Clarendon wines just seriously draw you in and invite you to linger. If you get the chance to try one, please let me know what you think. Wines can be purchased at Hickinbotham Wines. Limited selections are also available at Wine.com.
- California’s Jackson Family Wines purchased the Hickinbotham Vineyard at Clarendon in 2010 after the death of Alan Hickinbotham who founded the vineyard in 1971.
- In fact, it was one of the first vineyards planted at elevation in South Australia.
- Wines were provided as samples for review but as always, opinions are my own. Imagine that! An opinionated lawyer!