My empirical experience with Clarendon Hills started with the 1994 and 1996 Australis, the top-top wine from Clarendon Hills, in a Hong Kong Wine Society more than 10 years ago. Once started, my passion for Clarendon Hill wines never stops.
The items listed below represented some of my efforts in collecting Cru level Clarendon Hill wines, different style with same density, power and elegance, with a view to share their glory more than the intention to make money out of it. But if I can make some, why not? And all thes single vineyard wines are so affordable under our current pricing!
Clarendon Hills produces 8 Syrah and 3 Cabernet Sauvignon, in addition to one Merlot, one Mourvedre and 6 Grenache wine. This selection is composed of Syrah(Baker’s Gully, Liardra, Moritz, Onkaparinga, Brookman, Piggot Range) and Cabernet Sauvignon(Hickenbotham, Sandown, Brookman) only. All single vineyard, single varitals wines, produced from low yielding, dry grown old vines which are hand pruned, hand picked. All wines are aged in high quality French oak barriques. All dense and bodied wines.
Wine-maker Roman Bratasiuk classified these single vineyards in his own way. I will put his classification at the end of the wine name. All his wines are good. His classification surely reflects his preferences as the maker and definitely that will bound to have relevance, but surely you as the buyer may think otherwise.
Drinking Clarendon Hills wines is akin to looking into the giant trunk of an old growth gum tree, at once immense and profound, with layers and layers of texture. These layers astound you. Like all great wines, they evolve not only in the bottle for years, but over the hours of opening, revealing nuances like perhaps only great classical music can.
Really, I needn’t have to write about them except the background and some personal feelings..…the wines speak for themselves.
Clarendon Hills Single Vineyard Shiraz
Bakers Gulley Syrah(Cru)
One of Clarendon Hills most moderately priced wines, the Bakers Gulley Syrah comes from mostly young vines. Vineyard workers hand pick the grapes, selecting only the best. The winemaking team also hand selects the barrels, aging the wild-yeast fermented wine in approximately 60 percent new French oak and 40 percent aged oak for about 14 months. The resultant wine has smooth, integrated tannins and flavors of blackberry and black currant. The density in the glass for this 2008 Bakers Gully Syrah, RP89+, suggested a complex wine and that’s again what you get. Purple, dark hued wine. This seems to be a very modern, spicy yet earthy wine with a lick of licorice weaving on the nose and palate. For those who may not accustomed to Australian wines with at least five plus years of age will be so surprised at the exuberance of this wine. It is a very more-ish Syrah. This is as right depicted by the wine-maker, an atypical Australian Syrah that’s far from jammy.
Liandra Syrah(Premier Cru)
Made from 25 year old vines growing in well-drained sandy soil, the Liandra Syrah 2008 has a tannic structure that allows the wine to drink well for a decade or longer. The wine tastes of black fruit with a subtle new oak toastiness. The wine also exhibits hits of minerality, earthiness, and smoked meats.
The Liandra Syrah 2008 received RP93, noting flavors of blueberry and boysenberry, as well as a long, silky finish.
Moritz Syrah(Premier Cru)
Fruit for the Moritz Syrah comes from 60-year-old vines growing in sandy soil with pebbled ironstone. The resultant wine tastes of blue fruits, coffee, leather, and roasted meat. Wine Spectator awarded the 2008 version of this wine is with RP94.
Hickinbotham Syrah(Grand Cru)
This wine is made from grapes sourced from the Hickinbotham Vineyard. The combination of fruit from 45-year-old vines and aging in 85 percent new oak yields a consistently good wine that has received 90+ point ratings from Wine Spectator since 1998, and Robert Parker gave the 2008 Hickinbotham Syrah RP94 as well as a lingering finish. The 2008 Hickinbotham Syrah contrasts with the Sandown through its more peppery, anise nose mixed with ripe crushed olives and black jam compote. Wow! A lot going on here, and as with all Clarendon Hills wines it is the brilliant focus in the primary and secondary fruit flavors which immediately captures my attention. That, and the density of the palate. This will comfortably cellar to 20 years, evolving into an earthy, complex aged wine. The kirsch-like liqueur and crushed berry nose and palate make this an immensely rewarding Syrah, perfectly balanced with our roasted meats.
Brookman Syrah(Grand Cru)
Chocolate brown clay soil in the Brookman Vineyard nurtures 80+ year old vines, yielding lush flavors of blue-skinned fruits, roasted meats, licorice and spices. With a run of consistently good vintages since 2001, this is a can't miss wine. Robert Parker gave the 2008 Brookman Syrah attained RP93 points.
Onkaparinga Syrah(Grand Cru)
Hand-picked grapes from 80+-year-old vines, 14 months of aging in 85 percent new French oak, and whole berry wild-yeast fermentation yield a well-balanced wine with integrated tannins, a silky finish, and lush flavors of licorice and grilled bread. Wine Blog Wednesday awarded the This Onkaparinga Syrah is rated RP 93 points.
Piggott Range Syrah(Grand Cru)
Since 1999, Wine Spectator has tasted this wine and loved it. With a string of 90+ point ratings, the Piggott Range Syrah needs to age for at least 15 years, but will drink well for several decades. Flavors include chocolate, blackberry, plum, and sweet spices. Try the Piggott Range Syrah 2008 which received RP96 points. The 2007 vintage is also awarded RP96.
Clarendon Hills Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Hickinbotham Cabernet Sauvignon(Grand Cru)
Forward, rounded sweet, spicy nose: quite firm and assertive. The palate is very spicy with lots of oak underlying the very ripe fruit. A bold style; quite woody.
Vintage 2007 is awarded RP93+ and 2008 RP93. Stylistically, it's a true classic.
Sandown Cabernet Sauvignon(Premier Cru )
Both vintages 2007(RP94)and 2008(RP93) are dense, concentrated, potent and powerful, offering notes of currant mixed with smoky cedar, spice and earthy tones. Beautifully rich and complex, this big, bold Cab can be approached now and will age gracefully. Surely 2007 seems even senser in our views. Single vineyard wine from 75 year old vines. Deep and meaty in its expression - a fleshy and red cedar-like undertone lines the typically velvety texture. Lifted and fresh, this cuvee requires a minimum of 5 years before it starts to soften fully and develop a candid exuberance that defines a dark fruit bias with Cabernet lift.
Brookman Cabernet Sauvignon(Premier Cru)
The 2008 Brookman Cabernet Sauvignon, an RP92, from Clarendon Hills is this burly effort, which manages to be muscular, yet supple at the same time. Mocha, black cherry and vanilla notes combine in familiar harmony, and although this is tannic and structured, the fruit is in proper proportion. Best from 2013–2023. Similar to 2008, the vintage 2007, an RP93+, is even denser and yet more ready.