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Brad Hickey’s (AKA Brash Higgins) love for the weird and wonderful in the world of wine seems to know no bounds. And his ‘ZBO’ (Zibibbo Amphora) is as weird and wonderful as they come.
For those unfamiliar with Zibibbo, it is an ancient member of the muscat family, originating in the mediterranean which has found a new home in South Australia. The fruit for this, his second vintage of the ‘ZBO’ was sourced from Ricca Terra Farms in the warm and sunny Riverland.
But what is really unique about this wine is the winemaking behind it. The giant golf ball sized berries are hand picked and destemmed into 200l clay amphorae eggs. After a wild ferment and hand plunging the wine sat on skins for 5 months before the free-run juice was transferred into barrel, with the skins then being hand pressed through a dislodged screen door (awesome!). Every effort was taken to prevent oxygen having any influence on the wine until the last moment when it was racked just before bottling.
Crazy stuff, but incredibly well executed. Mike Bennie gave it a great writeup (93 points), and hit in on the head I reckon: “It’s such an interesting expression… Wild, for sure, but dive in and explore.” Too right.
Hilarious and innovative and just plain cool, that’s Brash Higgins and that’s his ‘ZBO’.
What It Tastes Like
Big and almost ‘brash’ as far as white wines go, this is something else. It’s cloudy in the glass, thanks to the lack of filtration but you definitely want all the bits in this, it just works. Rich and heading towards oily in texture but still maintains freshness, I don’t know how, but it does. Spicy and herby on the nose with lemon stone fruit at the core of it all. The palate is dry, with hints of honeydew and apricot and a crushed rock texture on the tongue. Powerful yet delicate and complex all at once, this was a lot of fun to drink.
93 points. “Sourced from the increasingly popular Ricca Terra Farms in the Riverland wine region. A lot of avant garde producers getting fruit from the vineyard, particularly chasing down some of the more ‘interesting’ varieties on offer. A little parallel to the Swartland Independent collaborative program in South Africa hopefully will emerge, turning around the image of agri-industrial winegrowing.
What a coup when Muscat of Alexandria aka Gordo, such a pedestrian variety, can become so interesting. Certainly is when you drink it from a select couple of producers in its spiritual home of Pantelleria (hello Serraghia). What an island that is! End of the world. Closer to Africa than Sicily, yet part of Sicily, per se. This fruit is off 70-year-old bush vines, is destemmed, slipped into amphorae, goes through wild ferment, spends 150 days on skins sealed in the amphorae, then pressed and sent to old barrel for five more months.
It’s a wine to share, or perhaps savour over a few days. Pretty intense by the second glass, but worthy. Very. It’s such an interesting expression, heady with wild honey, lemon, floral and green herbal scents. Rich in texture, oily, but not too intense, showing crunch and chalkiness and impressive length finishing needle-like and fine. Lemony tang and pepper through the finish, some sweet muscat notes in tow. Wild, for sure, but dive in and explore.”
- Mike Bennie (The Wine Front)
Winemaking: Zibibbo is an ancient, aromatic white grape from the Muscat family grown in the warmth of the Mediterranean and South Australia. Our second ZBO was from fruit grown at Ricca Terra Farms in the sunny Riverland. Chosen for its potential to develop length and complexity from longer skin contact.
Hand picked, we quickly destemmed the golf ball sized, bronze fruit into five waiting 200L amphorae. A wild ferment ensued, and as the grapes broke down, I hand plunged the caps twice daily until the skins sank 19 days later. The skins, seeds and juice remained covered in situ for five months. The ‘free run’ was siphoned off and combined with the pressings (hand pressed thru a dislodged screen door) for further ageing in five-year-old French barriques, racked only before bottling. This is intentional low intervention winemaking, pushing oxygen boundaries, made without refrigeration or any additions besides minimal sulphur. No fining or filtration was used, 20ppm of free SO2 was added at bottling.
Tasting Note:‘Cloudy, pale yellow in appearance. The wine is dry yet exudes a panoply of tantalising herbal, spice and stone fruit aromas. Not as overt as the 2013 effort, the 2014 is more subdued. Complex nose of graphite/pencil shavings, fresh ginger, cloves, cinnamon, white pepper, sweet Texas tea, apricot kernel, white flowers, musky lavender, and honey dew melon. On the palate, a soft entry with phenolic grip and an earthy sweet chalk/clay element with notes of lemon oil, honeyed melons, tangerines and cinnamon apples. Good length.’ – Brad Hickey
Bottle Size: 750ml
About the Producer
Brash Higgins is the label of winemaking ‘yank’ Brad Hickey. With a background as one of America’s top sommeliers, Hickey came to Australia and fell in love with McLaren Vale and local vigneron Nicole Thorpe, with whom he now produces highly characterful, minimalist wines from their much-loved Omensetter vineyard. Wildly original and top quality stuff!
The South Australian region of McLaren Vale is famous for its powerful red wines. Shiraz and Grenache have thrived for years in the Vale’s sandy soils. Nowadays, the region’s varietal diversity has majorly increased, the coastal location and warm climate proving perfect for a new wave of varieties from Italy, Spain and Portugal. The success of varieties such as Nero d’Avola, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, and Fiano has transformed McLaren Vale into one of the country’s most vibrant wine scenes. It’s where tradition meets innovation and it is producing some of the Australia’s finest wines.
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