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Thursday 14 August 2014

A new lease of life for one of Australia's greatest vineyards

The Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard in McLaren Vale is one of the most beautiful in the country with its spectacular contours, and has regularly provided fruit for icon wines such as Penfolds Grange, Eileen Hardy and Clarendon Hills.

Established by Alan Hickinbotham in 1971, when he planted dry-grown cabernet sauvignon and shiraz on the sloping site, the vineyard was sold in late 2011 to Jackson Family Wines of the United States. 
Jackson Family Wines has vineyard holdings in the US (including the famous Kendall-Jackson range), Chile, France and Italy as well as owning the highly-regarded Yangarra Vineyard four kilometres down the road, which produces outstanding biodynamic wines.

Jackson Family Wines is a global powerhouse and has some impressive plans for the site, including a conversion to biodynamic farming down the track. It paid a reported $10 million for the estate, which includes 83 hectares of vines and two historical homes on a total of 180 hectares but on which the vines had become a little run down.

Vines have been planted in this region since 1858 and Clarendon is at a higher altitude and is much cooler than most of McLaren Vale, which lies around 40 kilometres south of Adelaide. 

The Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard covers steep country from the ridgetops above the hamlet of Clarendon down to the Onkaparinga River in a gorge below. 

Jackson Family Wines launched its inaugural wines – four different 2012 premium reds under the Hickinbotham Clarendon label – from the site recently to instant acclaim. 

They are the Revivalist Merlot, Brooks Road Shiraz, The Peake Cabernet Shiraz and the outstanding Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon (my favourite and reviewed below).

The wines, more elegant and nuanced than many McLaren Vale reds, are made by a team comprising local Charlie Seppelt, a member of one of Australia's most famous vigneron families, and American Chris Carpenter, who is responsible for high-end Californian labels like Lokoya, La Jota and Cardinale and says he aims to craft “world-class wines that represent this great vineyard and speak of its unique site”.

Charlie Seppelt says: “We’re both thrilled with the 2012 wines and what the future holds for us and this vineyards legacy. It’s a remarkable site and an overwhelming opportunity to work with the quality fruit it produces.”

Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard 2012 Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon $75
The US-Australian winemaking combination of Chris Carpenter and Charlie Seppelt has come up trumps with this stunning cabernet sauvignon - which I put firmly in the top 20 Australian cabernets on the evidence of its first release. It's a wine that shows McLaren Vale can match Margaret River and Coonawarra when it comes to cabernets with both flavour and finesse. A blend of 95 per cent cabernet and 5 per cent merlot, this is silky, elegant, flavoursome, polished, refined, and downright delicious. 
# The writer was a guest of Jackson Family Wines at the launch of the new range. 

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