Vale Ian Hickinbotham
Wine industry stalwart Ian Hickinbotham has died at the age of 88.
Hickinbotham is credited with many innovations in the winemaking industry. He claimed to be the first Australian to deliberately induce and understand the role of the malolactic fermentation, which at the time was thought not to occur in Australian wines. He was the first winemaker at Wynns Coonawarra Estate, in 1952, and while working at Kaiser Stuhl he brought the young Wolf Blass to Australia from Germany in 1961 to make pearl wine, a lightly sparkling white wine fashionable at the time.
He was Penfolds’ Victorian manager at the time Grange was new, and helped establish Grange’s identity in Victoria. While at Penfolds, he helped developed the Penfolds table cask, a forerunner of the modern wine cask, but it was not a commercial success.
Ian and his family were associated with two wineries: the first, relatively short-lived, adventure was at Anakie, near Geelong in the early 1980s; the second, which still continues, was Hickinbotham at Dromana on the Mornington Peninsula, which is operated by son Andrew.
With his wife Judy, he ran Gini’s restaurant in Melbourne for many years and regularly wrote articles about wine in magazines and newspapers such as The Melbourne Age, the Australian Financial Review and The Epicurean.
Ian was the key player in the introduction of screw-capped quarter-bottles of wine to Australian domestic airlines, an initiative which still continues.
The shock death of his son Stephen in a tragic air crash in 1986 was a major setback for the family. Stephen was an innovator in his own right and is credited with inventing a way of conducting carbonic maceration in palletized plastic bags, which became standard practice in many Australian wineries. The light-bodied, early-drinking red wine named Cab Mac was a result of this invention. It was like an Australian Beaujolais.
Ian’s father Alan Hickinbotham founded the oenology, or wine science, course at Roseworthy Agricultural College, an institution that Ian himself later attended. Roseworthy is now part of the University of Adelaide. Ian was always a stickler for correct science in winemaking and convinced of the crucial role that pH control played in winemaking – especially its importance in keeping wine free from microbial spoilage.
He published his memoirs under the title ‘Australian Plonky’ in 2008.
Ian Hickinbotham died on December 29 at his home in Williamstown, near Melbourne. He leaves his wife Judy, daughter Jenny and son Andrew.
He and Judy had celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on December 23.