Clarendon Hills is a small family-run winery based in Clarendon, South Australia. The company, founded by biochemist Roman Bratasiuk in 1990 is still owned and sustained by the self-taught winemaking proprietor. Considered somewhat of a maverick within the Australian industry, Roman has irrevocably changed the landscape of Australian fine wine. Roman is a man obsessed with the great wines of the world. This passion propelled him toward winemaking as he sought to make wines for himself in the style he enjoyed most, in many ways influenced by his favourite producers and varieties. Captivated by the impact an appellation forge, Roman never deviated from his path in conveying varietal expression.
Ancient, low yielding single vineyards based the formula for conveying a sense of place and varietal expression; Clarendon and its surrounding districts offered both choice of sizeable old vine 80-90year old parcels but geologically and geographically varied terrain. This was an angle that was absolutely unique within Australia at the time. The emerging of one particular wine grabbed the world’s attention. 1994 was the year Astralis was born. Although the wine had remained unchanged from 1990, 91, 92 and 93 Clarendon Hills Shiraz – Roman saw more in this wine than everyone. As a result, it was re-branded it to Astralis (Oxford Dictionary: pertaining to the stars) reflecting he and wife Sue’s opinion that it was ‘out of this world’. The wine was an instant success.
Most recently the 1994 and the 1996 vintages have been included in the Greatest 1000 wines of all time 1727-2006. It remains Clarendon Hills’ most highly demanded cuvee and least available. The style of wine Roman made was much more widely received within international markets, whose level of wine education and consumption maturity naturally appreciated his style. To Roman’s frustration, international demand saw close to 100% of the product being exported; his wines were almost unknown in Australia for many years. Clarendon Hills received glowing accolades and awards, invitations to events that showcased only the world’s leading wines, presenting/sitting next to winemakers that perpetuated Roman toward making wine, being mentioned in the same sentence as DRC; these are all aspects of the stratospheric rise of Clarendon Hills in 1990’s.
Deep garnet-purple in colour, the 2010 Astralis is still quite primary eliciting aromas of black plums, blueberry compote and blackcurrant liqueur with a savoury and baking spice undercurrent plus a fragrant whiff of violets. Very structured, fine and complex in the medium to full-bodied mouth, this wine is revealing much more than when I first tasted it a year ago and is now showing layer upon layer of black fruit preserves, mocha, toast and spices before finishing with great length.