The wines of Brash Higgins
McLaren-vale based Brad Hickey's eclectic bunch of wines including some amphora-fermented gems


It was a bright winter’s morning when I visited Brad Hickey, at Brash Higgins. I was looking forward to this visit quite a bit. It was the first of the day, I was driving myself (I enjoy driving in wine regions; you really get to know them), and I’d heard quite a bit about Brad but I’d never tasted his wines.


Brad Hickey began as a sommelier in New York city, and he found himself in McLaren Vale. This was some 10 years ago, and he decided to have some fun. He put in Australia’s first commercial block of Nero d’Avola, which hails from Sicily, in 2009. When the first grapes arrived he began to explore new ways of vinifying it. ‘I went to Sicily and started asking questions,’ Brad recalls. He spent time there with COS and Frank Cornelissen, and decided that terracotta amphorae might be the way to go.


‘We have red clay soil here,’ he says, ‘and the whole idea was that if we should try to find a local potter who could work with this.’ He found Bennets Pottery in McGill. He gets the clay from near here. So the debut vintage of Brash Higgins Nero d’Avola, the 2011, was fermented and aged in 5 amphorae.


He now has a farm of amphorae in the winery. The lids have to be custom made from 1.5 inch stainless steel, and they cost as much as the amphorae. The wines are made on the knife edge of volatility, so it is important that the lids fit perfectly. Each amphora is slightly different, but the capacity is about 225 litres.

The Nero d’Avola spends 6 months on skins. ‘Nero was my winemaking school,’ says Brad. ‘This was really different: learning about how to develop flavour with infusion. We were blown away by this. It stays really clean and really pretty.’ The only addition is one sulphur tablet post malolactic fermentation.


Muscat d’Alexandria is also fermented on skins in amphorae – he calls it by its Italian name of Zibibbo. This fruit comes from Ashley Ratcliffe of Ricca Terra in the Riverland. It is harvested in late February and then stays in the amphora until September. We tried some: it’s detailed, complex, pretty, textural and slightly lifted. This old vineyard, dating back to the 1940s, was going to be ripped out. He buys the fruit from Ashley Williams. It’s so delicious.

The lid has been removed from this Zibbibo skin ferment, showing a layer of flor

The skins, from the bottom of the amphora 


Brash Higgins R/SM 2015
This is a co-fermented field blend of Riesling and Semillon. Powerful, limey and a bit briny with some pithiness. Very lively and pure. 90/100

Brash Higgins CHN 2015
Chenin Blanc. Full yellow colour. Powerful with a creamy edge to the pear and ripe apple fruit. Nice acidity here. Lovely texture with fine citrus notes. Intruiging and quite serious. 92/100

Brash Higgins ZBO 2015
This is Zibibbo, aka Muscat, from amphora. Beautifully floral with apricot and citrus and grapes. Lovely texture: dry, powerful with notes of green tea, pear and apricot. So fine and textural. 94/100

Brash Higgins GR/M 2015
70% Grenache and 30% Mataro, cofermented, made from biodynamic grapes from Yangarra. Very aromatic with pure red cherries and plums. Sweet but fresh and quite silky. Fresh, juicy, fine and supple. 92/100

Brash Higgins NDV 2015
Nero d’Avola in amphora. Fresh and detailed with elegant ripe red cherries and some herbal hints. Some ginger spice, too. There’s a touch of negroni, and some nice spiciness. Such finesse but also has potential for development. 93/100

Brash Higgins FRNC 2015
Cabernet Franc. Supple and fine with nice green hints and a bit of chalkiness. Very fine and expressive showing sweet raspberry and blackcurrant fruit. Has a nice earthiness. Delicious and refined. 93/100

Brash Higgins MRLO 2015
This is Merlot with 10% Nero d’Avola. Fermented in amphora. Lifted red fruits nose. Very floral and fresh with nice sweetness and lovely texture. Spicy and detailed with a bit of grip and some wildness, and a grippy finish. Spicy, detailed and pretty. 93/100

Brash Higgins SHZ 2014
Shiraz. 20% whole bunch. Creamy and aromatic with sweet black fruits and black cherries. Very floral, concentrated and lush with fresh, sleek black fruits. Rich but detailed. 92/100

Brash Higgins CBSV 2014
Cabernet Sauvignon. Supple blackcurrant fruit with nice raspberries and cherries. Has a lovely creaminess but it’s fresh and detailed despite the weight. 92/100

Brash Higgins Omensetter 2012
This is a single vineyard wine made in new puncheons (two of them), where it spends three years. 85% Shiraz, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sleek, sweetly aromatic nose of floral cherries and blackberries. Powerful and spicy with some ripeness, but also elegance. Lovely sweetness here with fine spiciness. Lovely texture and depth, made in a ripe style but showing nice weight. Old school but delicious. 93/100

Brash Higgins Bloom Chardonnay 2008
This is a Chardonnay that has been aged under a flor layer for eight years. It’s unfortified. Deep coloured with lovely texture and depth. Savoury and spicy with nice grip and lovely citrus and orange peel characters. Complex and detailed with lovely finesse and real complexity. 94/100


Brash Higgins
Dodgy Brothers
Kay Brothers
Fall From Grace

Wines tasted 07/16  
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