A couple of weeks back, I finally, finally got around to inventorying all of the wine that’s stashed around the house (and in the garage). The single most important thing I learned? I have way, way too much wine. (Duh.) Most surprising of all, however, was coming to the realization that I had a few things in the dodgy wine fridge in the garage that I had completely forgotten about. Case of 2002 Petaluma riesling? Check. Six pack of 1998 Clonakilla s/v that presumably came from the closeout bin somewhere, complete with discounted price stickers? Check. Why I didn’t realize this earlier, I have absolutely no idea. So what to with this stuff? Easy: Drink it.
This wine doesn’t look remarkably old; the cork was in good shape and it’d been carefully cellared for a good long time. It’s beautiful to look at, with some browning towards the rim, but more importantly it’s got that lovely sort of finely particulate look that I for whatever reason enjoy. On the nose, this smells like nothing so much as Cornas. Honestly. It’s got just a hint of rich, dark syrah fruit – but over and above that it’s got real minerality, charred back bacon, dried violets, and the smell of rye bread baked over an open fire, giving it a roasted, charry, smoky effect.
Upon entry, the first thing that strikes me is the relatively light feel of the wine, combined with a surprise sourness. However, given time and attention, the palate does fill out, balancing the sourness with bright, sharp red fruit. Tannins are still very much present, but nicely silken and restrained at this point; there also seems to be just a hint of cocoa on the finish, which gracefully declines into a lively, babble of sweet cherry fruit and spicy, earthy meats.
I don’t know what this wine was like when it was younger; a lot’s happened since these grapes were harvested. There is a real beauty to this wine, though, and although it may not be the most complex or enthralling Clonakilla I’ve tasted, it still has moments of transcendence and beauty to offer.