Visionary winemaker Ian Hickinbotham, one of the great thinkers of the Australian wine industry, passed away at his home at Williamstown in Victoria this morning. He was 88 years old.
Ian’s daughter Jenny confirmed the news a short time ago.
Photographer Milton Wordley captured Ian’s life on his blog ‘People of Wine: 10 Questions’ – http://winetenquestions.com.au/ian-hickinbotham-man-of-wine/
The following information has been sourced from the State Library of South Australia…
Ian Hickinbotham was born in 1929, the son of Alan Robb and Mary Ellen Agatha (Nell) Hickinbotham. Alan Robb, a gifted chemist and teacher, established the oenology course at Roseworthy College South Australia. Always known as ‘Hick’, even to his family, he taught a generation of young Australian winemakers to revere the science of winemaking.
Ian followed a similar path. After his secondary education, he worked at Hardy’s Adelaide cellars and at Dorrien in the Barossa Valley to gain practical experience in the wine industry. He next moved to the SA Grapegrowers’ Cooperative Ltd, near Nuriootpa to learn further. These jobs gave him two years of training.
Returning to Roseworthy he studied for and gained his Diploma of Oenology under Rex Kuchel and other teachers. Like other members of his family – his grandfather, Dave and brother Alan were great Australian Rules footballers – he excelled at sport and led the Roseworthy College football team to its first f lag in years.
Ian’s working life as a winemaker spanned many companies and situations. Renowned for his creative thinking and scientific approach, he often confronted industry myths and questioned long-held assumptions.
Some of his notable tasks included the shaping of Riddoch’s old Coonawarra winery and vineyard for the Wynn family and a stint at the SA Grapegrowers’ Cooperative Ltd. It was by Ian’s initiative that the Cooperative took on the name Kaiser Stuhl and ventured into the production of sparkling and pearl wine and premium red wine. His pursuit of a natural bacterial fermentation in dry reds contributed to the evolution of a ‘softer’ style.
Through one of these ventures, Ian became responsible for the immigration of a youthful Wolf Blass as an assistant in the production of sparkling wine. Ian’s broad view of the wine industry and continual questioning of views took him to Europe and North America during the early 1960s. In California, at Davis Campus of the University of California, particularly, he found many who shared his approach. Upon his return to Australia he worked for a time with Penfolds managing their Melbourne office.
There he not only championed Penfolds fine red wines into the market, he also pioneered one phase of the ‘bag in the box’ phenomenon. Ever the innovator, Ian championed many new causes in the industry – such as stelvin closures – and challenged the industry to pursue greater attention to quality.
Another of his accomplishments was the introduction of mini-bottles of Australian wine onto Australian air flights many years before others had established such a venture.
• Ian’s life will be celebrated at The Seagulls Football Club in Williamstown on 11 January. The date coincides with Ian’s son Stephen’s birthday. Stephen died in a plane accident in 1986.