Current Issue #476

Reds put a seal on the Wicks success

Reds put a seal on the Wicks success

Tim Wicks is unlikely to forget how he makes his living – with his home slap bang in the middle of a hundred acres of Wicks Estate vineyards, his view on all sides comprises vines, vines and more vines, relieved by occasional stands of redgums.

Tim Wicks is unlikely to forget how he makes his living – with his home slap bang in the middle of a hundred acres of Wicks Estate vineyards, his view on all sides comprises vines, vines and more vines, relieved by occasional stands of redgums. There are constant reminders, too, when out and about, as the Wicks label – its stylised wax seal creating a fat drip of scarlet on white – is a highly visible presence in restaurants, pubs and bottle shops. It’s surprising to learn that Tim and his business partner and brother, Simon, branched out from civil construction and property development to begin their venture into wine only 14 years ago, planting out their newly purchased Woodside property with Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz. The idea of becoming vignerons was not pure whim – the brothers Wicks grew up amidst their family’s orchards and nursery business in the foothills around Highbury. The orchards were eventually turned over to the creep of urban sprawl, with part of the proceeds purchasing Wicks Estate. “I guess we just wanted to stay involved with some form of agriculture,” Wicks says. In addition to owning their own vines, building a winery was integral to their grand plan: “We wanted to be completely self-dependent and control our own destinies. We didn’t want to have to rely on the majors to buy our grapes and be dictated to by them, so we took the path of making our own label and selling wine under our name.” It was Sauvignon Blanc that initially led the charge for Wicks Estate. While happy to put his agricultural knowledge to work in the vineyard, Tim Wicks prudently stopped short of trying to make the wine himself. When the flash new winery was put in on the property in 2004, expert help was only a few hillsides away in the form of family friend Tim Knappstein. Knappstein is a pioneer and virtuoso maker of Sauvignon Blanc in South Australia, and the elegant whites he made for Wicks quickly picked up prizes as well as a popular following, and they continue to defy the deluge from New Zealand. The winemaking at Wicks, especially among the reds, also enjoys the Barossa-based experience of Leigh Ratzmer, whose previous jobs include a stint at Torbreck. In the past few years, the reds from Wicks have begun to follow the lead of the whites, with the 2012 vintage a standout. In addition to its The Adelaide Review Hot 100 SA Wines top 10 spot, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon won gold (and best wine in class) at the Adelaide Hills wine show, as well as the Winewise Small Vignerons varietal trophy. Meanwhile, the Shiraz took gold at Perth and Adelaide. With few of the Wicks range retailing for more than $20, it’s a remarkable record. Tim Wicks is happy to play up the Estate’s cool climate credentials. “The market seems to be getting more accepting of light-to-medium bodied styles,” he says. “We’re not making reds in the big blockbuster style; the wines are food-friendly, they have a lovely, soft tannin structure and drink well early. They’re really approachable wines.” While both brothers and their families still muck-in during vintage, their growing success has led them to enlist the services of another family wine company, Angoves, to handle distribution. While they have made some efforts to export their wines, and they do sell into China and the Netherlands, their focus remains the local market. Tim Wicks is well aware that hard work lies ahead to avoid the tough times that have befallen many small-to-medium-sized wineries. “We’ve managed to buck the trend, and while we don’t want to become the biggest winery in the Hills, we do want to continue our growth path. “Offering high quality, good value wines is the way to do it.” wicksestate.com.au

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