We recently had the opportunity to taste the 2014 releases of the Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard in McLaren Vale. The four wines reviewed here showed very well just as they did in the 2013 vintage, which we also tasted. The wines characteristically offer rich and concentrated aromas and flavors, good texture and mouth feel, with firm but silky tannins, They are wines of overall power and elegance, outstanding balance and good length. Drinking well today, despite their big tannins, they should provide drinking pleasure for a decade or longer.
Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard is one Australia’s most beautiful and iconic vineyards. It was established by Alan Hickinbotham in 1971 in McLaren Vale, and over the years has been the source of fruit for some of Australia’s finest wines including Penfolds Grange and Hardy’s Eileen Hardy. Jackson Family Wines purchased Hickinbotham in 2012. After its purchase of this historic, 200 acre property, Jackson Family Wines launched a major revitalization of the vineyard that included reducing yields (Merlot) and improving pruning and canopy management.
Winemakers Charlie Seppelt and Chris Carpenter lead the project. Charlie’s winemaking experience includes Torbreck and Wolf Blass in Australia, Jean-Louis Chave in the Rhone and wineries in New Zealand and Napa Valley. Chris Carpenter is the winemaker for such prestigious labels as Cardinale, Lokoya, La Jota and Mt. Brave and is based in Napa Valley.
The grapes for these wines are handpicked, destemmend, sorted and transferred to open fermenters. After a four-day cold soak, the wines are pumped over daily and kept on the skins for a minimum of 18 days. The wines are basket-pressed and the resultant free-run and light pressings are combined. The wines are aged in barriques for some 15 months before bottling.
Hickinbotham 2014 Merlot Revivalist McLaren Vale ($75) 92 The Merlot Revivalist displays a medium dark ruby color and an earthy and spicy nose of dark ripe plum. It is soft and creamy on the palate with tremendous density of flavor. Rich dark fruit permeates the palate and the wine finishes with black pepper, licorice and blueberry notes. A rich and flavorful wine with excellent balance.
Hickinbotham 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Trueman McLaren Vale ($75) 93 The Cabernet Sauvignon Trueman offers an effusive bouquet of dark red fruit with hints of Christmas cake spices. It is huge and mouth filling, very broad and polished with firm underlying tannins. It is also rich and spicy at this stage of development.
Hickinbotham 2014 Shiraz Brooks Road McLaren Vale ($75) 92 The Shiraz Brooks Road is a rich and spicy bold flavored wine of black berry and toasted oak. It reveals nice purity of blackberry fruit on the palate with good acidity and freshness. The finish is persistent with assertive tannins.
Hickinbotham 2014 Cabernet Shiraz The Peake McLaren Vale ($75) 95 The Cabernet Shiraz is the most impressive of this foursome. It offers aromas of ripe blackberry on the nose with a touch of wood spice. It is bright and densely flavored on the palate with nice red fruit notes complementing slate and black fruit. It is spicy, rich, and thick, with firm round tannins and very long finish