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March '23

2020 Pikes 'The Hill Block' Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 

The hills are alive with the sound of cabernet!

Our March instalment has us road-tripping to the wonderful Clare Valley, South Australia, for the very first time. Not reaching for the riesling this trip, we have something far more exclusive and special to share…The Pikes 2020 The Hill Block Cabernet to be exact. 

Pikes is a winemaking family, from brothers, and sons – since 1984. First drawn to the Polish Hill River sub-region of the Clare, the family continues to champion the most pure expression of cabernet at their original site on their estate vineyards. This premium cabernet has been forged over many years of viticultural learnings, vine age, and terroir. The Pikes family opt for a hands-off winemaking approach, relying on their exceptional fruit, vine age, and handed-down tradition. An opulent finished wine, with an ability to celebrate and express the exceptionally special place this cabernet calls home. We invite you to enjoy some Hill’s this month – something you won’t need to upload to strava!

Cabernet - one of the Valley’s best kept secrets.

South Australia’s Clare Valley is a hilly wine region, and is home to five sub-regions: Auburn, Watervale, Sevenhill, Polish Hill River and Clare.

The Clare Valley is typically known for riesling, however, cabernet sauvignon is one of the Valley’s best kept secrets. A variety that, in exceptional vintages, can reach optimal fruit ripeness, and its greatest potential - rivalling the best riesling from the region. 2020 did just that. It was a picture perfect warm and dry growing season for this cabernet. Light rains, and some of coolest late summer months on record, made for a smaller crop, but led to exceptional fruit ripeness, quality, and concentration of flavour.

Now let’s talk dirt-y. The Clare Valley has 11 recognised soil types, ranging from red topsoil over limestone to broken slate shelves. The Polish Hill River (PHR) sub-region, where this The Hill Block 2020 Cabernet hails from, has a unique, and ancient trump-card. Richly layered, the acidic soils overlaying ancient dark grey siltstone of the Kadlunga Slate formation are some 650+ million years old. The PHR exhibits red-brown soil over broken clay and slate. Allowing for water retention (clay element) and for the vine roots the ability to extend easily downward, tapping into the deeper sub-soil for nutrients. Creating the perfect balance of vine vigour for cabernet.  

Family owned, family operated.

A family winery established in the 1980s by Andrew, Neil and Cathy Pike with support from their parents Merle and Edgar. A generation on, sons Jamie and Alister have come on board to steer the ever-growing family business. Riesling dominates the Pikes family vineyards, making up over half of all their plantings. With shiraz, cabernet, sangiovese, pinot grigio and tempranillo completing the portfolio.

The Hill Block 2020 Cabernet, due to yield and vintage conditions, is only ever made in exceptional years. This wine is coming to you with 99% cabernet sauvignon, and only the lightest splash (1%) malbec. The fruit was hand-picked, hand-sorted and destemmed, then fermented with wild yeast in tank. Later matured in older (11% new) French barrique (225L) for 10 months.

Cabernet has a natural vegetal, and herbaceousness; so, removing the stems from the fruit at the initial stages allow for a greater fruit expression to flourish in the finished wine. A courageous grape with darker, black skin carry’s a natural ability to add a depth of flavour and complexity to the wine. Additionally, this element of the cabernet grape skin makes for a wine you can cellar for many years to come. 

The use of older French oak (89%) ensures there is a lessor influence of stronger vanilla, or sweeter, spicy, oak characters. Using a larger percentage of new oak, can sometimes overshadow the delicate nuances of ripe fruit and concentrated flavours. This 2020 cabernet, with rich, and hugely plush fruit, has every reason to shine bright and not hide under an oak veil.

"Dark magenta, the nose is an alluring mix of licorice, black olives, cassis, tobacco leaf, chocolate and coffee beans. The palate moves more to a sour cherry note. Very good grip here and savoury in style, this is well structured with fine but firm tannins, and excellent length. The finish offers aniseed, five spice notes and more cassis. Undoubtedly made with an eye on the future, this will be with us for many years and should score even higher in time. Drink any time if you must, but if you can cellar it for 8 to 10 years, so much the better."

94 points

Ken Gargett | The Wine Pilot

"Sandalwood, cocoa, plum and blackberry compote. In the mouth the wine is concentrated and dense, with a heated lift through the finish. This is a full wine, with weight and gravitas... chocolatey, spicy and moving to viscous. This will go very well in time, but for now, it remains a little frisky (and very fresh). Decant it if you insist on drinking in 2022."

92 points

Erin Larkin | Halliday Wine Companion

Good things come to those who wait.

A deep dark, black cherry red, this cabernet is on show from the very first glass. It’s opulence, and rich colour, inviting a swirl (or three) so you can sit and enjoy the performance.

From the first glass, the wine delivers concentrated plush mulberry, blackberry and boysenberry fruit. The black cherry is ripe and inviting. The concentration of fruit is remarkable, whereby drinking it, you’re able to imagine just how juicy and plump the bunches must have been. The gentle leafy, mint, anchovy, and cedar box aromas complete the experience. But one must go back for seconds, and thirds…Finish him we say!

Keen to put a bottle or two away and see how the wine develops in a year or two (suggested drinking window 2023-10+ years)? As described on the back label “it will reward those who are patient.” You can rest easy knowing you can certainly put some aside to enjoy in later years. The tannins, complex, yet soft already, will only silken and marry well. 

Recipe for success

Cabernet and other structured bold red wines often lend themselves to the roast lamb recipes of the world. You can’t really compete with how the roasted flavours of the meats and rich fats work to counter the tannin structure (and any bitterness) making the meat taste sweeter, and the fruit characters sing louder.

The Hill Block 2020 Cabernet is no different – perfectly matched with a roast leg of lamb, but we also think you can enjoy a glass (or three) with these simple cheese board additions: a sharp, or creamy blue cheese, muscadels, pastrami, soft ash-brie cheeses, and spicy salumi. Just sensational. Thank us later.


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