Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2002

Six months too late to call it spring cleaning, I found three bottles of this hidden in the bedroom closet last weekend. Oops. Talk about suboptimal cellaring conditions: nearly 80 degrees in there all summer long. I decanted it, set the decanter in an ice bath to cool it off a bit, and waited an hour before drinking: I hope that mitigated any damage I did as best I could.There’s a visual texture to the wine that’s unusual: there’s a blackly rich core of fruit in the glass, thinning out to a less intimidating rim at the edge of the glass. Better yet, there’s a suggestion of particulate matter, with bits stuck to the sides of the glass; presumably, more of the same in the wine itself lends it all an impression of body and richness. I have no idea why, but the older I get, the happier I am when my wines have a certain look of, well, relation to the world of the natural. I don’t like wines filtered to a glossy smoothness; I want to be reminded that they were grown in dirt and raised in wood.At first, the nose is off-putting, smelling sweet, strangely sweet, the sweetness of blackcurrant jam. It’s only temporary, though: wait half an hour at least and its true nature will out. There seems to be an overall level of Brett here that teeters between “ugh, no thanks” and “OK, I can deal with this”; harsh patent medicines duel with roasted smoky notes, and no one comes out on top. Ultimately, the off notes mostly win out, which is a disappointment in the extreme; the quick flashes of roast coffee and bacon fat are there all too briefly before being one-upped by slightly metallic aromas of the medicine cabinet.Still, there’s enough interest here to make me want to finish (just) a (single) glass before tossing the rest of the bottle and waiting another year or two to try one of the six bottles remaining. The texture is beautiful, a rich, solid mass that glides forward on lovely, smooth tannins into a long, silky finish that most wines would kill for. Ultimately, though, the strange qualities of the wine carry the day, and you’re left wondering what happened – I remember this wine being profoundly beautiful five years ago, but I’m just not feeling the love right now. Sadly, the warm cellaring spot probably didn’t help matters. Oh well. Clonakilla
Price: $20
Closure: Cork

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