Hugh Hamilton Wines exists to create exceptional wines, topics of conversation & new experiences. If you’re ready to learn something new, taste something unique and be wowed with service, you’ve arrived at the right place.
Hugh Hamilton and his daughter Mary Hamilton are the 5th and 6th generation of the Australian Hamilton wine dynasty that stretches back over 180 years. In 1837 Hugh’s great great grandfather Richard emigrated to the new colony of South Australia and planted Australia’s first wine grapes.
As with all families one is a Black Sheep and Hugh is it. Hugh Hamilton wines are far from ordinary. Hugh has a clear vision about the way he sees wines and he produces accordingly. Hugh’s legacy continues as Mary is now the CEO of the family winery and brings insight, energy and enormous talent to this exciting winery.
Every element of this winery, from our Cellar Door experiences and our friendly and passionate staff to our exciting Wine Club, the Black Sheep Club, and our premium range of eclectic wines is designed by the family themselves to be of an outstanding quality.
Before emigrating to South Australia, Hugh’s great, great grandfather Richard was an honourable tailor on the high streets of Dover, England. But by the light of the moon, Richard was smuggling contraband Bordeaux from France.
We can only speculate his dark secret was catching up with him because Richard, with his wife Anne and eight children packed up and staked his future on 80 acres on the other side of the globe.
Discover 180 years of family secrets, black sheep and pioneering winemaking…
The first of our vineyards is our Cellar Vineyard, the vines which form the beautiful sweep of green immediately to the south of our Cellar Door.
The soil here is ‘Biscay Clay’, also referred to as ‘self-mulching black cracking clays’. These soils are relatively widespread in the McLaren Vale/Willunga strip and have unique properties. Slow to wet, they can hold a large volume of water, but hold it very tightly. Vines struggle to recover that moisture when it is needed, and so stress very quickly if exposed to a sudden heat-wave. The fruit therefore needs to be watched very carefully as it ripens, or it can very quickly shrivel and show sunburn.
When dry, these soils get cracks 2-3cm across, which can extend down as far as a metre. As they crack and separate, vine roots, irrigation pipes and concrete footings can all suffer, torn apart by the intense but very slow-moving force of the particles contracting after swelling when wet. It’s lousy soil to build houses on—which as farming land comes under pressure from urban sprawl, we think is wonderful—but vines love it, particularly Shiraz. Such vines can produce fruit with great fragrance and power and a structure which guarantees ageing potential.
If you stand in our beautiful Cellar and look east toward the old Bethany Chapel, you look straight across our ‘Church Vineyard’, which surrounds the chapel on 3 sides.
It is planted to Shiraz, Saperavi, Merlot and Sangiovese –a very important piece of real estate to Hugh Hamilton Wines, indeed! The soil here is alluvial as the vineyard is an ancient creek bed (a deep, winter-only creek at the eastern end is the last vestige to it). There is a distinct but very shallow gully which cuts across the Merlot and Shiraz vineyards; and at the western end has a band of soil which is shallow and tough, with bits of quartz and scattered ironstone.
The rows run east/west, which provides maximum shade from the sun during heatwave conditions. The Shiraz vineyard can best be described as alluvial loam. It’s not easy country for the vines, but they are pretty happy once they get their roots into the clay below, and produces a crop which ripens readily and evenly.
On the north-eastern fringe of the broader McLaren Vale region lies the Blewitt Springs sub-region: higher in elevation and further from the sea—and consequently cooler and later-ripening than the main region, and featuring large ancient sand hills which are interspersed with gullies which feature ironstone and clays.
Here is the Hugh Hamilton ‘Black Sheep’ vineyard: a very diverse piece of land with a sizeable creek separating it into two Main sections. It is home to substantial plantings of Shiraz and Cabernet, each of which is divided into smaller sub-blocks according to the patchwork of soils on which they lie. Many of these are quite mature—so that what our winemaker refers to as the ‘Young’ Cabernet is probably at least 25 years old … what a privilege to call such vines young!
And what he calls ‘Old’ Shiraz needs to be differentiated from the ‘Ancient’… but we believe both vineyards to be well over 60 years old.