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20Q: Brad Hickey, Brash Higgins

With stints at Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe and Daniel, and five years at David Bouley’s Michelin three-star, Bouley, Brad Hickey is refreshingly down to earth for one of New York’s former great sommeliers.

Having made his way from the Big Apple to McLaren Vale a little under a decade ago, Brad, together with partner Nicole Thorpe, currently handcrafts some of the most exciting, food-friendly and flat-out delicious wines produced in the region.

We recently caught up with Brad to chat everything from the growing number of sommeliers making the jump into wine production to the importance of a good alias!

1. What do you do for a living?

I take care of a 17-acre organic vineyard in McLaren Vale called Omensetter with my partner Nicole, and make all the wines for Brash Higgins, our wine label.

2. Who is Brash Higgins?

My alias, a NYC sommelier turned Aussie grape grower. Brash is the nickname the pruners I work with gave me when I first arrived fresh off the boat from NYC 10 years ago.

3. How did you wind up in McLaren Vale?

I came to work vintage in SA in 2007 and met a beautiful Aussie woman afterwards named Nicole who invited me to stay; she also planted a vineyard 10 years prior to my arrival, which was quite thoughtful of her.

4. There are a growing number of sommeliers making the leap into winemaking. As a profession, what do you bring to the table?

I bring a broad palate of tastes and experiences, which hopefully leads to a wide variety of drinkable wines.

5. What about the challenges?

I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to do my own thing from day one, but selling everything we make is certainly always the main challenge.

6. Of all the wines you’ve made, which are you most proud of?

Our estate-grown Nero d’Avola, fermented and aged in locally made amphora.

7. Tell us about your hood. What makes it special?

The diversity of geologies and the close proximity to the stunning beaches along the Gulf of St Vincent.

8. Whose wines should we be checking out?

Inkwell, Lino Ramble, Fall From Grace and Year Wines are but a few.

9. What’s so special about Australian wine right now?

The modest shift from full-on to more medium-bodied wines; they’re so much more appropriate for my way of life!

10. The most underrated grape on the planet is…

Crystal, a funky white hybrid we are exploring on Omensetter.

11. If you could do a vintage anywhere, where would you do it, and who would you do it for?

Thierry Allemand in Cornas, Northern Rhône. The King of Syrah in my mind.

12. What’s your ideal way to kill a Sunday?

Bringing a picnic to Silver Sands Beach and unwinding in the Gulf with friends and a bucket of different beers and wines.

13. What’s you favourite smell?

Sizzling bacon.

14. What skill do you possess that nobody knows you have?

I possess amazing hand-eye coordination.

15. You can have one food and wine combo for the rest of time, what is it?

White truffles, buttered egg noodles and aged Barolo.

16. The biggest myth surrounding wine is…

That you need a degree to make it well.

17. City or country?

Country now, I love the space; New York City eventually wore me down…

18. Day or night?

Night, I like it when the rest of the world is asleep. I give myself total license to be creative, to let my mind wander. It’s when all my best ideas come.

19. Whisky or gin?

Gin, with a splash of tonic and lime, or straight up with olives, very, very cold.

20. Springsteen or Dylan?

Dylan, ‘Blood on the Tracks’ still slays me every time, and his body of work over the years is mind blowing.