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Amphora and the Beast: McLaren Vale newcomer, Brash Higgins, turns up the heat
Hot on the heels of their first wines, Brash Higgins adds two new, thought-provoking wines to its portfolio – the amphora-aged, estate grown 2011 ‘NDV’ Nero d’Avola and the 2011 ‘GR/M’ Grenache-Mataro Co-Ferment, both from McLaren Vale.
Brash Higgins creator and vinitor, Brad Hickey, who relocated to McLaren Vale from New York City in 2007, immediately saw the opportunity to produce new wine styles in the area, in particular using those varietals resistant to drought and heat, like Nero d’Avola, Grenache, and the beast itself – Mataro.
“We reacted to the hot, dry climate in South Australia by grafting a research block of Nero d’Avola in 2009, one of the first in the Vale,” Brad said.
“Then, to make sure we got this right, we did a fact finding trip to its native Sicily to explore their handling of Nero, the viticulture, and, in two cases, the use of amphora vessels.”
“Fermenting and ageing wine in amphora really fascinates me, the vessels can produce pure, interesting and delicious wines that make a statement, so I gave it a go. We had the pots made locally, it was new ground for everyone involved.”
The Nero d’Avola is released alongside the equally progressive Grenache-Mataro blend made by the unorthodox method of co-fermentation. On the same day, Mataro and Grenache grapes grown at two selected sites in McLaren Vale were handpicked, crushed and mixed together in an open top fermenter for 14 days to forge a tight-knit bond of their distinct flavours.
“The Grenache-Mataro, or ‘GR/M’, is really about fusing two varieties which thrive in the warmth of the Vale and complement each other so well,” said Brad.
“The exciting thing about co-fermenting the fruit is that it locks in the blend during the ferment and creates a seamless wine if you get it right. Since Mataro is a peppery beast, it’s key you get the proportions spot on, or else it can take over. I think we nailed it.”
Brad has been producing wine since 2007, collaborating with winemaker Tim Geddes and viticulturist Peter Bolte for the past five harvests to develop the Brash Higgins label. Their risky business has paid off, with these new, provocative wines hitting the shelves this month.
2011 Brash Higgins Nero d’Avola ‘NDV’- Amphora Project
Grafted to Brash Higgins’ Omensetter Vineyard in 2009, this first vintage of the drought tolerant Sicilian varietal Nero d’Avola needed all the sun it could get to make it across the line in 2011. More of a ballerina than a boxer, the transparency of the Nero d’Avola grape was preserved by using gentle, ancient techniques and naturally occurring wild yeasts. Never seeing oak or steel, the BH NDV was fermented and aged on its skins for seven months in locally made 200L bees-wax lined clay amphoras. Bottled unfiltered. 112 cases
“A glowing, translucent ruby in colour. On the nose waves of fresh cut lavender, honey, wet stone and orange zest aromas leap out of the glass. Soft and delicate on the palate with an earthy warmth, there is a deep core of bright, sweet cherry fruit that belies the wine’s initial lightness. Good acidity and clarity with firm fruit tannins from extended lees and skin contact, the finish lingers long after the first sip. A gentle-natured newcomer with great purity and potential. Best served with a light chill.” - Brad Hickey, Vinitor, January 21, 2012.
2011 Brash Higgins Grenache Mataro ‘GR/M’ Co-Ferment
Small lots of Grenache and Mataro from two specific sites in McLaren Vale were hand-picked on the same day and co-fermented using wild yeast in an open fermenter. Eight months in four trusty French hogsheads further forged the fine red berry tones of Grenache (70%) with the savoury spice of Mataro (30%). Bottled unfiltered. 119 cases
“A sniff of white pepper from the Mataro co-mingles nicely with the lively, red berry and chocolate notes of the Grenache. Deceptively rich despite its medium body, the GR/M strikes a perfect counterbalance between the openly fruity nature of Grenache and the darker, more brooding grunt of Mataro. A tip of the hat to the wines of Southern Rhône; it’s a little spicy and wild on a warm and supple frame.” – Brad Hickey, Vinitor, January 22, 2012.
Brash Higgins wines are available online at BrashHiggins.com
Brash Higgins is Brad Hickey’s wine label. In 2007 Brad, a New York City sommelier, swapped his wine knife for a pair of secateurs and came to work vintage in McLaren Vale. In true Aussie tradition, his name was summarily changed to ‘Brash’ which provided a ready alias to work under the radar - Brash Higgins. This new identity gave Brad time to find his place in a vineyard and meet like-minded vinous cohorts with which to make thought-provoking, site specific wines.
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