Brash Higgins’ winemaker and vinitor, Brad Hickey, was profiled in America’s Food & Wine Magazine recently by Christina Pickard. Here’s what she had to say:
American Winemakers Down Under
“Raising Expectations in McLaren Vale”
“McLaren Vale has long struggled to shake its reputation as a bulk wine region. It’s the last place you’d expect to find pithy, ginger-and-lemon tea flavored Zibibbo, or a sweet-and-sour, Chinese-herbed Nero d’Avola, both aged in amphorae made from local clay. But these are the wines of Chicago native Brad Hickey, whose Brash Higgins label is helping to redefine “the Vale” as a region that embraces sustainable farming and adventurous winemaking.
“His impact has captured the groundswell of interest in producing expressive wines of the region,” says Australian wine writer Mike Bennie. “His wide-eyed appreciation of a breadth of grape varieties is seen as a vanguard move away from the mainstream.”
Hickey is a sommelier-turned-winemaker, with a resume that includes New York’s Café Boulud and Bouley. It was love that brought Hickey to the McLaren Vale region in 2007; love first for the vines and then for a local vigneronne, Nicole Thorpe, who convinced him to stay and start his own label from her family’s Omensetter vineyard. Before long, Hickey was helping to lift the profile of small-scale, artisan wineries by spearheading the local collective, Vale Cru.
The wines themselves—made both from esoteric grapes and conventional ones, like Shiraz and Grenache—have gained a following both in Australia and Hickey’s homeland. “He’s showing American consumers that wines of finesse can be produced in Australia,” says Michael Madrigale, the influential sommelier at New York’s Bar Boulud.
As for his approach in the fields and the cellar, Higgins says he goes with his gut. “I see [winemaking] more like cooking than chemistry,” he says. “And I’m definitely more of a farmer than a chemist.””
Here’s the link to the original piece, where she also writes about Will Berliner from Cloudburst and Mike Weersing from Pyramid Valley: Brash Higgins Link in Food & Wine