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The wines of Clarendon Hills, McLaren Vale, Australia

Roman Bratasuikís wines, highly favoured by influential critic Robert Parker, have a huge reputation. The range is enormous, broken down by vineyard and variety, and I tried just a few of them here. This was the first time Iíd tried these wines, and given the way theyíve been talked up by many critics, my expectations were quite high. While these are clearly well made wines, in a ripe, concentrated style, I was a little underwhelmed. Perhaps it was just the way they were showing on the day, but they didnít really flick my switches. Itís dangerous to make firm conclusions from just a few data points, so Iíll reserve judgement for now.

Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Chardonnay 2000
Intriguing, pungent nose: toasty, vegetal, bold and complex. Great concentration on the palate which is rich and intense with rounded, savoury fruit. A very individual wine with lots of character. Very good/excellent 93/100

Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Pinot Noir 1999
Pinot Noir in the McLaren Vale? Itís unlikely to be Burgundian in style, and it isnít. Faded colour. Very sweet ripe nose with appealing spicy complexity and woody, minty notes. The palate is soft, ripe and rounded with sweet fruit character. Not typically Pinot Noir, but quite good balance nonetheless. Very good/excellent 90/100

Clarendon Hills Brookman Merlot 2002
Striking sweet nose with a vegetal character Ė distinctive leafy herbiness is varietally true. Concentrated palate with a sweetness to the fruit. A forward, immediate wine. Very good+ 89/100

Clarendon Hills Brookman Merlot 2001
Sweet ripe, soft fruit with a distinctive spiciness, and a discrete herbal character. Easy drinking. Very good+ 88/100

Clarendon Hills Brookman Merlot 1999
Complex sweet spicy nose with mint and herb notes. Sweet, rounded palate is spicy with some herbiness. Very good+ 89/100

Clarendon Hills Kangarilla Grenache 1999
Herby, spicy, leathery sweet-edged fruit on the nose. The palate displays some sweet herby characters, good concentration, with nice spicy complexity. Evolving nicely. Very good/excellent 90/100

Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
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. Very good/excellent 90/100

Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
Evolved, rounded rich, spicy nose. Forward. The palate is soft, open and spicy with woody complexity. Very good+ 89/90

Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Syrah 2001
Spicy, ripe red fruits on the nose. Very forward. The palate is quite concentrated with lots of spicy, liquoricey fruit. Bold and quite tannic with plenty of wood. Very good/excellent 90/100

Clarendon Hills Brookman Syrah 2001
Distinctive, rich roasted fruit on the nose, which is tight and spicy. The palate is concentrated with a spicy tannic edge. Still quite primary. Very good/excellent 91/100

Clarendon Hills Liandra Shiraz 1998
Intense, ripe spicy nose with a minty edge. The palate is open and concentrated, and very ripe. Thereís almost a saltiness to the fruit. Good balancing acidity Ė a super-ripe style. Very good/excellent 90/100

Clarendon Hills Astralis 2002
Very deep colour. Intense, liquoricey, super-ripe nose of liqueur-like raspberry fruit. The palate is very concentrated with lots of upfront fruit, and a hint of heat and bitterness on the finish. Striking wine in a super-ripe style, but my criticism is that it perhaps lacks real complexity and balance. Very good/excellent 92/100

UK Agent: Cachet Wine

Wines tasted May 2004

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