Some years ago now I had the pleasure of spending three days as a guest of Ian Hollick and his family in Coonawarra at their winery and vineyards – Hollick Wines. I’d actually never been to Coonawarra before this! Yes, sad but true. After a leisurely four and half hour or so drive, there we were, slap bang in the middle of Australia’s Cabernet heartland.
You could instantly see why the original land surveyors like the famous John Riddoch were so impressed at the promise of this region for growing fruit – dead flat, rich red soil, a mild cool climate and plenty of water – ideal. Underneath the (at times) thin layer of this justly famous rich terra rossa (red earth) is a limestone base – again, perfect for wine production. Thus, the legend that is Coonawarra grew from these very characteristics.
The year was 2011 and as we rode into town, the harvesters were working the vineyards over at a cracking pace – it was now or never to get as much of the good fruit off the vines as possible – conditions hadn’t been great that year and botrytis and powdery mildew was affecting most, if not all producers, with some tending to write off the vintage altogether, but then, we found so many other vineyards with pockets of fruit that were absolutely delicious – ripe for the picking so to speak.
I could not have asked for a better introduction to one of Australia’s most famous wine regions, with our incredibly generous hosts Ian Hollick and his family giving us a thorough tour of the region and its surrounds (including Wrattonbully) with lashings of history, current issues, and the odd piece of local gossip thrown in.
Hollicks is a small, quality outfit committed to reflecting real regional character and complexity in their wines. The winery is established on what is known as “Neilson’s Block”, one of the original John Riddoch Coonawarra selections.
Ian Hollick has a hands-on approach to making the wines, which are sourced from three main vineyards – Neilson’s Block, planted in 1975, the Wilgha vineyard, purchased in 1987 and the relatively new Red Ridge vineyard, developed in 1998 at Wrattonbully, just next to Coonawarra. Red varieties predominate of course, however, there is a small selection of white wines made.
How about (re)discovering their story for yourself via their terrific range of wines? The vintages are very good, which is reflected in the wines. Or why not jump in the car and go for a visit, it’s not that far away… HOLLICK COONAWARRA “TANNERY BLOCK”
CABERNET SAUVIGNON MERLOT 2012 ($25)
A classic Coonawarra style, with vibrant berry and cassis aromas and flavours along with smooth tannins on the finish. Full, rich forward, fruit packs out the middle and makes this the kind of red you want around when the occasion calls for something flavoursome, juicy ‘n soft on the finish! The 2012 vintage delivered great quality fruit and it shows.
HOLLICK SHIRAZ 2013 ($30)
Very impressed with the depth of fruit here and the deep dark colour, yet it doesn’t feel heavy or overdone at all. There are good black fruits, savoury black olive/tapenade nuance and spice on the nose and palate that really add to the interest and complexity of the wine with its core of rich dark plums. The tannins are smooth and the feel is full and the flavours show good length on the finish. Great stuff!
HOLLICK COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 ($30)
There’s a lot to like about this wine. I could say that the richness of the blackcurrant fruit is damn good, the tannins are beautifully ripe and balanced and the integrated oak and slight savoury character really complete the picture, which is to say that what this wine is really all about is its structure. Beautifully put together, very fine indeed with elegance, feel and complexity all in harmony leaving you in no doubt as to its provenance – Coonawarra.
HOLLICK COONAWARRA “THE NECTAR” BOTRYTIS 2012 375ML ($25)
This is a delicious “nectar” indeed. A really refreshing dessert-style wine made from late harvest Riesling grapes that give brightness to the fragrant apricot/crème brulee/pear aromatics and flavours on the palate, with an ever so light tinge of acidity underpinning it all and keeping it in line – luscious, yet lithe and for the money, simply great value.