Clayfield Black Label Shiraz 2008

I’m in the UK enjoying a rather overdue holiday. My current locale is the North East — County Durham — where each day is marked by lashings of rain, wind and the occasional burst of lovely sunshine. Certainly a dramatic change from the floods, cyclones and general sub-tropicalness I left behind in Queensland, but no less invigorating for it.

One thing I didn’t leave behind, though, was this bottle of wine. I brought it along to share with my host here as (what I hoped would be) an example of one of our great Shiraz styles. Three nights ago, we sat down to to a richly aromatic lamb pot roast and I thought it the right occasion to crack this open.

What a disappointment (bear with me, though). On opening, it was disjointed, overly chocolatey and lacking in the particular Grampians fruit character that makes this style so enduring and exciting. Surely this couldn’t be a representative bottle. Simon Clayfield is a painfully talented winemaker, so I had difficultly interpreting this wine’s ungainliness, as did my host, who felt it smelled overwhelmingly of dusty Christmas ornaments in musty packaging (and he’s not even a wino… impressive). We left it aside after a glass each and it’s only now that I’m returning to it, on the chance that something interesting has happened in bottle.

And boy, has it ever. The lesson here is to give this wine plenty of time and air. Three days after opening, it’s just beginning to sing with the most charming and typical plum fruit character, brown spice, flashes of red berry, brambles, dust and cocoa powder. Such complexity and luxe, it’s a wonderful wine to keep smelling. I should note, though, this is definitely a product of its vintage, being a richer wine with less classically cool climate character than is sometimes found in wines of this region.

The palate is most dramatically changed from a few days ago, showing an elegance of line that simply wasn’t present at first. It’s also pleasingly fresh, the bright fruit character and juicy orange acid contributing most to this impression. Overall, it’s medium bodied in weight and brisk in movement, scattering fruit, freshly ground spice and subtle oak across the tongue. It all culminates in a long, rustic finish whose tannins rasp the tongue coquettishly, both sweet and rough. There’s some heat on the palate, unsurprising given its 15.7% abv; whether this is an issue may vary from drinker to drinker.

So glad I waited.

Clayfield Wines
Price: $A65
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

4 thoughts on “Clayfield Black Label Shiraz 2008

  1. Good to hear it came together and highlights how fraught judging a wine from a snapshot tasting can be. Is the 08 available yet? The 06 is still on the website

    • Hey! Yeah, I believe this is available; at least, Simon has mentioned to me that he’s begun selling the 08 at cellar door. Perhaps drop him a note to ask.

      And yes, this wine is a classic example of how problematic it can be to capture a wine at a particular moment in time when just a bit of time can yield such a dramatic improvement. I don’t know how wine judges do it.

      • The answer is that a lot of wine judges don’t do it. One only has to look at the silly results most wines shows come up with to underscore this.

    • Hi Red,
      My stocks of the 2006 are getting very close to the point at which I reserve the remaining wine for further maturation and then make available to restaurants etc. who like wines with some ageing. This has resulted in me starting to ‘show’ the 2008 at cellar door albeit a very youthful wine and really requiring at least another year to settle down. There’s only 160 dozen produced and I expect it to be sold fast.
      Regards, Simon

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