Wine Advocate 96 points - Notions of melted tar, blackberries, liquid minerals, and charcoal emerge from the inky/purple-colored 2003 Syrah Hickinbotham Vineyard. Revealing a meaty richness along with great concentration, length, purity, and definition, it is a tour de force in winemaking. This amazing Syrah should age effortlessly for two decades.
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Notions of melted tar, blackberries, liquid minerals, and charcoal emerge from the inky/purple-colored 2003 Syrah Hickinbotham Vineyard. Revealing a meaty richness along with great concentration, length, purity, and definition, it is a tour de force in winemaking. This amazing Syrah should age effortlessly for two decades. Robert Parker 96 points (Oct 2005)
The Hickinbotham family are instrumental players in Australian wine history, and Alan Hickinbotham bought this estate in 1960. Clarendon Hills sources wines from this stately vineyard to produce a single site Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and old-vine Grenache – all detailed by the Hickinbotham family name. Richly compact soils provide depth and a signature across the varietal spectrum
Clarendon Hills is a small family run winery based in Clarendon, South Australia. The company, founded by biochemist Roman Bratasiuk in 1990 is still owned and sustained by the self-taught winemaking proprietor. Considered somewhat of a maverick within the Australian industry, Roman has irrevocably changed the landscape of Australian fine wine. Roman is a man obsessed by the great wines of the world. This passion propelled him toward winemaking as he sought to make wines for himself in the style he enjoyed most, in many ways influenced by his favourite producers and varieties. Captivated by the impact an appellation forges, Roman never deviated from his path in conveying varietal expression. Ancient, low yielding single vineyards based the formula for conveying sense of place and varietal expression; Clarendon and its surrounding districts offered both choice of sizeable old vine 80-90year old parcels but geologically and geographically varied terrain. This was an angle that was absolutely unique within Australia at the time.
The emerging of one particular wine grabbed the world’s attention. 1994 was year Astralis was born. Although, the wine had remained unchanged from the 1990, 91, 92 and 93 Clarendon Hills Shiraz – Roman saw more in this wine than everyone. As a result it was re-branded it to Astralis (Oxford Dictionary: pertaining to the stars) reflecting he and wife Sue’s opinion that it was ‘out of this world’. The wine was an instant success. Most recently the 1994 and the 1996 vintages have been included in the Greatest 1000 wines of all time 1727-2006. It remains Clarendon Hills’ most highly demanded cuvee and least available.
The style of wine Roman made was much more widely received within international markets, whose level of wine education and consumption maturity naturally appreciated his style. To Roman’s frustration, international demand saw close to 100% of the product being exported; his wines were almost unknown in Australia for many years. Clarendon Hills received glowing accolades and awards, invitations to events that showcased only the world’s leading wines, presenting/sitting next to winemakers that perpetuated Roman toward making wine, being mentioned in the same sentence as DRC; these are all aspects of the stratospheric rise of Clarendon Hills in 1990’s.
Yet, returning back home from the most part of the year away, hand selling his hand made wines- Roman would walk in to a bottle shop and not only go unrecognized but offered cask wines and other drive-through specials. You can imagine where he insinuated the casks may be repositioned. Reality. The style of wine Roman makes was not realized by the general Australian public.. yet.
Modern times have seen a quantum leap in Clarendon’s ability. The vines and wines are much more closely attended, added investment facilitated further reach within the quality control department as today the wines are extremely closely monitored where previously the smaller team was stretched. The redesign of our labels in 2003 is intended to represent this new-age. Roman adopted a ‘Burgundian’ labeling philosophy where only the core information is depicted on the label. The Australia government requires a few key items labeled to guide the customer; Roman sought to exemplify this notion whereby he communicated this in a black and white fashion. The net result renders the bottles all looking virtually the same.. this is the core of his strategy whereby any further information you, the consumer requires, need to open the bottle to discover it for yourself – the way Roman discovered wine all those years ago. The intention of this website is to purely in-flex the bottle’s philosophy, where previously ’black on white’ you discovered wine; now white on black.. this is the negative.. you are now inside the bottle with all the background information, looking back out to the world.
Furthermore, with 19 single vineyard wines available: Roman has traced an internal hierarchy reflected in a paradigm seen in the old-world. Village wine, Premier-Cru and Grand-Cru classifications aid identification of an aspect of vineyard quality level and also inherent consumption occasions that each level may dictate. These tiered classes are represented throughout Clarendon’s wines and are implemented to aid and direct your approach to our wines.
Quintessentially, Roman never made wines for anyone other than himself, he maintains it ensures that he dictates the direction of his future path, and not market trends. His winemaking style was clearly ahead of its time and the decisions made in the early 90’s ring true as the general direction of the industry follows suit, 20 years later.
Please take the information available herein as a reference towards understanding our backward approach in bringing you classic examples of variety that spans the elegance of the old-world and the depth new-world Australia has to offer.