Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Jackson Family Wines acquires Clarendon

Jackson Family Wines has bought the revered Clarendon vineyard in McLaren Vale – the source some of Australia’s finest Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. As reported in the drinks business, although no purchase price was announced, industry sources estimate it was sold for more than US$10m. “It says something that an iconic American wine company wants to have a stake in Australia and in the Clarendon Hills,” said David Hickinbotham, who managed the family vineyard. California-based Jackson Family Wines is keen to add more high-end estates to its portfolio and is eyeing up opportunities in South Africa.

The sale of the 180-hectare estate, which has grown grapes for wines including Penfolds Grange, Eileen Hardy and Clarendon Hills, comprises 84 planted acres on rolling hillsides, and two homes. The Hickinbotham family put the site up for sale in 2010 after the death of Alan Hickinbotham, David’s father, who bought the estate several decades ago and greatly expanded the plantings. “We had six offers and we all agreed that this was the best fit,” Hickinbotham said.

Clarendon Hills proprietor Roman Bratasiuk, who labeled single-vineyard Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings as Hickinbotham Vineyard, will continue to have rights to the same portions of the vineyard under terms of the sale to Jackson. “They didn’t have to do that,” Hickinbotham noted, “but they agreed to honor what was a handshake agreement for the past 15 years.”

One of the first vineyards planted at elevation in South Australia, Clarendon was established in 1858 and has vines dating back to 1923. The estate includes an 8,000-square-foot stone mansion and an earth sheltered house built into a hillside, designed by celebrated German architect Gerhard Schurer in 1981. Jackson plans to convert both buildings into hospitality houses for guests.

Katie Jackson, daughter of the company’s late founder Jess Jackson, and current chairwoman Barbara Banke, will be responsible for the Clarendon property. “We see more interest in Australian wines, especially at the top end,” Jackson said. “My father taught me that it’s all about the vineyard, and this was a great opportunity to add a special one. I know how beautiful the area is, and how great the wines can be. I have high hopes,” she added.

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