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Wine Companion Editorial Article, May 11th 2024

Clarendon Hills Food Wine Jan31 2022 6581 HiRes

Wine Companion Editorial Article, May 11th 2024

It’s been a big week with Halliday’s Wine Companion releasing an outstanding editorial article on Clarendon Hills and a bunch of excellent scores. To say we are pleased would be an understatement. The new releases to the Australian trade in 2024 are composed of the 2022 Grenache and 2021 Syrah and Cabernet wines.

‘Clarendon Hills’ New Releases’ by J’aime Cardillo, Digital Editor at Halliday’s Wine Companion. May 11th.

Clarendon Hills has just released its new wines from the 2021 vintage. Included is the Astralis Syrah, Liandra Syrah, Domaine Clarendon Syrah, Sandown Syrah, and the Onkaparinga Syrah. There are also two cabernet wines, the flagship Sandown Cabernet Sauvignon, along with the Domaine Clarendon BDX, which is a blend of cabernet and merlot. Earlier in the year, the McLaren Vale winery also released the 2022 Romas Grenache and the 2022 Onkaparinga Grenache.

“We have two vintages, but both are from the La Niña growing seasons, and both reflect later harvests and more preservation of natural acids. Very floral, very fresh expressions across both ’21 and ’22. The 2022 grenache wines, I think, are slightly superior to the 2021s. There’s a bit more enhanced articulation of the varietal ingredients. The ’21s are really powerful, and have long-term potential, but they also demonstrate the great terroirs that they hail from – Blewitt Springs and Clarendon. In my opinion, they are two of the most striking and defined terroir expressions from all of McLaren Vale,” says Alex Bratasiuk.

Alex is the sales and marketing director at Clarendon Hills, and he’s also the son of winemaker, Roman Bratasiuk. Roman founded Clarendon Hills in 1990, and over the last decade Alex has been honing his winemaking skills.


While the 2021 Astralis has been released, 2024 marks 30 years since the first release of the icon syrah. “The 2021 is quite unique in the context of previous vintages. It was the first of the La Niña series of vintages, the previous (2020) was quite warm, low yielding and probably lacked some of the acid and freshness that the ’21 has been able to naturally possess.”

Alex says the Astralis is Clarendon Hills’ flagship expression. “We’re pushing it as far as we can. My father is a biochemist and has a very pragmatic and scientific mind. So every year, we’re pushing ourselves further.” Alex says they’ve been investing in larger volumes and better quality oak from France. “We’re going to gain a greater understanding of the vineyard as every year goes by. But simultaneously we’ve got these old vines that are actually getting older and tapping into lower layers of ironstone-rich clays, which take an expression that’s already well-grounded and take it even further and higher up quality ladder.”

Growing up, Alex was surrounded by bottles people might see once in their life, and that kind of wine education is not lost on him. “…having a couple of them open on the table literally every day of my life.”

Alex says he grew up drinking a lot of 1982 Bordeaux, which happens to be his birth year. “Dad’s cellar extends around the world, and I’ve had a luxurious wine education. I’ve been able to access Grand Crus across every pocket of France, across many years throughout my entire life. So my education has been very gifted and very privileged.”

Clarendon 28 web scaled 1

His middle name is also Bailey, after Dr Bailey Carrodus. “In total respect and tribute and honour to the founder of Yarra Yering, who was a mentor to Dad.”

When thinking about the next chapter of Clarendon Hills, Alex says Roman is still serving as the chairman. When Roman started Clarendon Hills in 1990, he was a Ukrainian migrant who would pick grapes, and crush those grapes in a bucket, with an empty bottle. “He’s 74 this year, and a complete guru and master of his domain, but we’ve all been working in the business for many, many years.”

Alongside the father-and-son duo are two Japanese winemakers who have worked under Roman for the past 27 years. Naoto Saito is the head winemaker, and Akira Tanno is the winemaking assistant. “They’ve basically been dad’s protégés. They’ve taken everything he’s taught them and applied their perfectionism, meticulousness and cleanliness to the entire process.”

Alex says, historically, the process by which the wines were made was that he’d receive them as a marketer and then he’d sell them, but now, he’s really involved in the production. “I’ve got an exceptional understanding of what we do and I believe we can make it better. That’s why I’m pushing Dad to make the wines fresher and more elegant, to deliver more approachability and drinkability earlier, as opposed to some wines he was making that were highly structured and needed a long time in the cellar. “

roman Bratasiuk

“Those wines repay patience in dividends, but the style that I’m looking to achieve is just a bit different. We’ve still got the great vineyards, but I believe in wines of suggestion, elegance and reservation, rather than turning up the volume.”

Alex says after a few initial tensions, the success has started to show and the sales have followed. “He can definitely see what I want, and he’s fully on board with making those changes. It’s come from a place of having a highly credentialed, world-renowned winemaker who’s been making hundred-point wines and thought he knew it all, and thought that his impression was the final impression. Then [I made] the perilous decision to question that and to say, ‘no, let’s do it this way and tease out this, and take that and make it better’.

“And it’s been a challenge, but across the course of the last 10 years, I’ve completely changed the portfolio.”

In exciting news, Clarendon Hills will open a cellar door in the near future. Alex says the cellar door will be built in the coming months. Also on the agenda? Rhône whites, specifically marsanne and rousanne. “We’ve been growing those for the last two years and 2025 vintage will be our first play with them. So keep an eye out.”

Wine Advocate Reviews Clarendon Hills Syrah

scores halliday clarendon hills

Clarendon Hills Onkaparinga Grenache 2022

From stubby, low-yielding vines planted in the ’40s in Blewitt Springs; 18 months in 3–6-year-old French oak. There is much talk at this vaunted address about evolving to fresher, less oak-influenced styles. That trajectory is not an abrupt one, though, with the hallmark dark brood and tannic drive still present. The ’22 is also a vintage that has yielded many structured grenache bottlings, and so too here. The use of all the pressings also naturally has an influence. Ample air is required, with sour red cherries, moody florals and warm dark spices emerging, tannins impactful, acidity fresh.
95 points, Marcus Ellis, Halliday Wine Companion

Clarendon Hills Onkaparinga Grenache 2022 2 bottles with glass decanter LoRes

Clarendon Hills Romas Grenache 2022

From a steep part of the Blewitt Springs vineyard, with vines planted in the 1920s to sparse ironstone, quartz and shale soils. Destemmed, with 30% whole berries retained for native yeast ferment; matured for 18 months in two- to eight-year-old French oak. This is a darkly wrought and powerful expression of grenache, with brooding black fruits, dark spices and a sense of those rocky, craggy soils. Black plum, panforte, dried flowers, dried orange, black cherry liqueur, licorice. It’s as fiercely structured as it is intense – savoury, long, chewy and with acid verve. It’s a singular expression, reflecting site and house preferences, and it needs time and plenty of air to show itself.
96 points, Marcus Ellis, Halliday Wine Companion

Clarendon Hills Romas Grenache 2022 2 bottles with glass decanter HiRes

Clarendon Hills Sandown Cabernet Sauvignon 2021

From 1940s vines; 18 months in 60% new French oak. Grenache and syrah are naturally thought of first at this address, with cabernet a little overlooked, or that’s how it seems. This is an impressive bottling, deep and rich, but with varietal integrity resoundingly intact, a breeze of lavender and violet florals adding immense appeal. Cedar, mulberry and cassis, redcurrant, Kalamata olive and a briary herbaceousness allied with rocky, mineral savouriness. Composed, deep and linear, this should age very nicely indeed.
96 points, Marcus Ellis, Halliday Wine Companion

2021 Sandown Cabernet

Domaine Clarendon Syrah 2021

From the highest vineyard in McLaren Vale at 350m; 70/30% seasoned/new French oak. Pulpy and open, a wash of boysenberry, lilac and violet, iodine and brambly wild fruits, blackberry pastille, soft licorice, black tea and potpourri. This is meaty and intense, loaded with character and the typically drying, long-drawing tannins of this address, but there’s plenty of fruitful levity and an appealing peppery savouriness through the finish.

94 points, Marcus Ellis, Halliday Wine Companion

Clarendon Hills Food Wine Jan31 2022 6492 HiRes

Clarendon Hills 2021 Liandra Syrah 93/100

From 29-year-old vines planted to sand in Blewitt Springs; matured for 18 months in French oak, with 55% new. It feels like there’s still a bit to unpack here, with fruit bound into structure, though there’s a good resolution between the two, just further time required. It’s typically tannic and firm, but with plentiful plum, raspberry and blueberry ensnared within, with caraway, brown cardamom, anise, smoked meat and clove accenting. Give it a couple of years or decant vigorously, or both.

93 points, Marcus Ellis, Halliday Wine Companion

21 liandra syrah

Clarendon Hills 2021 Sandown Syrah 95/100

From 1940s vines in Blewitt Springs planted to decomposed ironstone, quartz, shale and schist. This was matured for 18 months in French oak (45% new). The house style is one that emphasises fruit intensity with a deeply grippy, tannic draw, and across varieties. That’s on show here, but there’s finely pitched balance, too. Dried cranberry and raspberry, dry earth, iron and blood, bresaola, rosemary and black tea. Dry toned, savoury with an apt preservation of freshness for the style, the flavours complex and lingering long.

95 points, Marcus Ellis, Halliday Wine Companion

21 sandown Syrah

Clarendon Hills 2021 Onkaparinga Syrah 96/100

From 1940s vines, with 18 months maturation in French oak (45% new). Oak shows its hand here with fluffy ground coffee, malt and dark chocolate notes, but it’s so well suited to the fruit, which tracks through tapenade, blackberry pastille, licorice, blueberry conserve and beef jus accented with black pepper, clove, iodine and dried kelp. There’s flex and fullness, some hardy herbs, the clang of iron. It’s boisterous but savoury, bass and treble synched, and it’s just thoroughly engaging. But please, decant this to access its charms.

96 points, Marcus Ellis, Halliday Wine Companion

21 Onka Syrah

Clarendon Hills 2021 Astralis Syrah 96/100

The flagship at this address, or guiding star perhaps more aptly, from low-yielding vines planted in 1920. A reserve style treated lavishly with 100% new French oak and a typical 18-month élevage for the house. Rich and saturated, darkly struck, fruits veering through black plum, olive, fleshy black cherry and blackberry tart. Full, though not colossal, iron-like minerals, anise and coal dust filtering up through the amassed fruit notes. There’s still some freshness here, a pleasing provision of vintage, but this unsurprisingly needs a lot more time. Like so many of the Clarendon Hills wines, harmony comes with ample time in a decanter – don’t skip the step.

96 points, Marcus Ellis, Halliday Wine Companion

21 Astralis

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