Welcome to NSW Freedom Day!
While that is yet another half-arsed slogan, in an era of half-arsed slogans, after 4 months of lockdown nobody cares. There is, instead, a pulsating desire to go to the gym/pub/hairdresser/shops/anywhere outside of your LGA. The want is real.
Indeed the club not far from me (Dee Why RSL) opened up at 12:01 am for (vaccinated) people to get their fix, and the queues at Kmart were 100 deep.
On my run this morning it seemed unreal to watch people in a cafe and eating. Sitting! With people! Although, for everyone in hospitality, this week’s mood sits somewhere between relief and deep anxiety, heightened by a lack of staff to deal with hordes of desperately eager patrons.
Anyway, on a day like today, when we can finally get to a local BYO to share a bottle of wine, six beers and a Muscat, you want the best. I want the best. Something that says ‘treat yo self’!
Something like this Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard The Peake Cabernet Shiraz 2019.
It’s hard to talk down the quality of the Hickinbotham reds. Alongside Jackson Family Wines stablemate Yangarra, this is one of the most impressive estates in McLaren Vale bar none, crafting grandiose reds of luxury and impact.
What I like about the Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard range is that, despite the ‘McLaren Vale goes to Napa’ weight, these are detailed wines. It helps that the clever Pete Fraser is on the ground (with Chris Carpenter dropping in from a US time zone) but at every turn you can see the thought behind the decisions. Couple that with the uncompromising quality of the grapes by plucked feom the coveted contour planted slopes of the ’71 planted Hickinbotham Vineyard and you’ve got a pretty magic recipe.
And the winemaking notes? My kingdom for specific notes like these (and Yangarra for that matter) more often. pH, TA, block numbers, all of it. It’s a benchmark that more producers should aspire too (numbers here: ph 3.61 TA 6.4g/L).
Anyway, the Peake is indeed the peak of the Hickinbotham empire and it’s a magnificent beast. Something majestic, that squarely takes aim at 707 or the like, yet built with more honesty and less added tannin.
That’s a nice segue, because this wine’s biggest challenger is the already superb Brooks Road Shiraz.
The Peake lays is all out there. Sourced from the original 1971 plantings, this is a best blocks, best barrels blend, the winemaking following the Brooks & the Trueman.
There is an almost limitless coffeed richness here, a sense of oak-drawn purpose, backed up by fruit. That palate is absolute top-draw in a seductive, overt way. Reminds me very much of top Napa, unsurprisingly. Seamless, dark fruited, with not a hair of place. Big hats, big fruit, but wearing a very expensive wool suit. Lots of oak too. Hmm.
On polish and purpose alone this is a megastar, long, tannic and taking square aim at Grange. That’s it. It’s Grange-like. Is it perfect? Not yet. That hat is so big that you can’t see the face underneath. But next year? The year after that? The years and years after that? It’s a lay down misère. You’re probably going to love this wine…
Best drinking: not now. 2025 eh? 18.7/20, 95/100+. 14.5%, $175. Hickinbotham website. Would I buy it? Hmm. Would I buy two of the Brooks Road instead? Depends…
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