Clarendon Hills releases new syrah and cabernet wines

By J'aime Cardillo

8 May, 2024

Clarendon Hills has just released its syrah and cabernet wines from the 2021 vintage. Find out how Tasting Team member Marcus Ellis scored the wines.

Clarendon Hills has just released its new wines from the 2021 vintage. Included is the Astralis Syrah, Liandra Syrah, Domaine Clarendon Syrah, Sandown Syrah, and the Onkaparinga Syrah. There are also two cabernet wines, the flagship Sandown Cabernet Sauvignon, along with the Domaine Clarendon BDX, which is a blend of cabernet and merlot. Earlier in the year, the McLaren Vale winery also released the 2022 Romas Grenache and the 2022 Onkaparinga Grenache.

"We have two vintages, but both are from the La Niña growing seasons, and both reflect later harvests and more preservation of natural acids. Very floral, very fresh expressions across both '21 and '22. The 2022 grenache wines, I think, are slightly superior to the 2021s. There's a bit more enhanced articulation of the varietal ingredients. The '21s are really powerful, and have long-term potential, but they also demonstrate the great terroirs that they hail from – Blewitt Springs and Clarendon. In my opinion, they are two of the most striking and defined terroir expressions from all of McLaren Vale," says Alex Bratasiuk.

Alex is the sales and marketing director at Clarendon Hills, and he's also the son of winemaker, Roman Bratasiuk. Roman founded Clarendon Hills in 1990, and over the last decade Alex has been honing his winemaking skills.

Clarendon Hills vineyardClarendon Hills' syrah vineyard.

While the 2021 Astralis has been released, 2024 marks 30 years since the first release of the icon syrah. "The 2021 is quite unique in the context of previous vintages. It was the first of the La Niña series of vintages, the previous (2020) was quite warm, low yielding and probably lacked some of the acid and freshness that the '21 has been able to naturally possess."

Alex says the Astralis is Clarendon Hills' flagship expression. "We're pushing it as far as we can. My father is a biochemist and has a very pragmatic and scientific mind. So every year, we're pushing ourselves further." Alex says they've been investing in larger volumes and better quality oak from France. "We're going to gain a greater understanding of the vineyard as every year goes by. But simultaneously we've got these old vines that are actually getting older and tapping into lower layers of ironstone-rich clays, which take an expression that's already well-grounded and take it even further and higher up quality ladder."

Growing up, Alex was surrounded by bottles people might see once in their life, and that kind of wine education is not lost on him. "...having a couple of them open on the table literally every day of my life." 

Alex says he grew up drinking a lot of 1982 Bordeaux, which happens to be his birth year. "Dad's cellar extends around the world, and I've had a luxurious wine education. I've been able to access Grand Crus across every pocket of France, across many years throughout my entire life. So my education has been very gifted and very privileged."

Roman BratasiukClarendon Hills' Roman Bratasiuk.

His middle name is also Bailey, after Dr Bailey Carrodus. "In total respect and tribute and honour to the founder of Yarra Yering, who was a mentor to Dad." 

When thinking about the next chapter of Clarendon Hills, Alex says Roman is still serving as the chairman. When Roman started Clarendon Hills in 1990, he was a Ukrainian migrant who would pick grapes, and crush those grapes in a bucket, with an empty bottle. "He's 74 this year, and a complete guru and master of his domain, but we've all been working in the business for many, many years."

Alongside the father-and-son duo are two Japanese winemakers who have worked under Roman for the past 27 years. Naoto Saito is the head winemaker, and Akira Tanno is the winemaking assistant. "They've basically been dad's protégés. They've taken everything he's taught them and applied their perfectionism, meticulousness and cleanliness to the entire process."

Alex says, historically, the process by which the wines were made was that he'd receive them as a marketer and then he'd sell them, but now, he's really involved in the production. "I've got an exceptional understanding of what we do and I believe we can make it better. That's why I'm pushing Dad to make the wines fresher and more elegant, to deliver more approachability and drinkability earlier, as opposed to some wines he was making that were highly structured and needed a long time in the cellar. "

Clarendon Hills 2021 syrah winesThere are five 2021 syrah wines in the Clarendon Hills release.

"Those wines repay patience in dividends, but the style that I'm looking to achieve is just a bit different. We've still got the great vineyards, but I believe in wines of suggestion, elegance and reservation, rather than turning up the volume."

Alex says after a few initial tensions, the success has started to show and the sales have followed. "He can definitely see what I want, and he's fully on board with making those changes. It's come from a place of having a highly credentialed, world-renowned winemaker who's been making hundred-point wines and thought he knew it all, and thought that his impression was the final impression. Then [I made] the perilous decision to question that and to say, 'no, let's do it this way and tease out this, and take that and make it better'. 

"And it's been a challenge, but across the course of the last 10 years, I've completely changed the portfolio."

In exciting news, Clarendon Hills will open a cellar door in the near future. Alex says the cellar door will be built in the coming months. Also on the agenda? Rhône whites, specifically marsanne and rousanne. "We've been growing those for the last two years and 2025 vintage will be our first play with them. So keep an eye out."

For more information and to shop the Clarendon Hills new-release wines visit

Image credit: Clarendon Hills.