Simon Clayfield has many talents, but one of the most magical is an ability to make relatively high levels of alcohol completely disappear into his wines. I’ve seen him do it again and again, and so it is with this wine. Not that all Clayfield wines are high in alcohol; indeed, there’s a striking variability across the range and across vintages. The approach here seems to respond to flavours rather than a particular measure of ripeness, and the consistently outstanding quality of the wines validates the method. I dwell on this for a moment because it’s terribly fashionable to bag high alcohol wines, but in my view it’s misguided to single out one aspect of a wine and, in so doing, forget that great wines are about balance, not fashionable measures of stylistic worth.
This wine is made of 100% Shiraz grapes from Moyston. Immediately, the nose establishes firm regional credentials; this is awash with heady brown and black spice, which sits atop ripe plum fruit. The fruit’s character is appropriately plum-like and very ripe; I suggest grapes were picked at a point of significant maturity. Oak is, as always with this producer, immaculately handled and matched to the fruit flavours. If it lacks the punch and detail of the first label wine, it gives up nothing by way of regionality.
The palate is delightful. It’s here I find the wine’s 15.1% abv hard to believe, as it’s nowhere visible in the wine’s structure. Indeed, this is an elegantly casual, medium bodied wine, with a dash of bright orange acid freshening the palate and velvet tannins for grip and texture. Flavours as again in the regional spice and plum fruit spectrum, oak playing a seamlessly subtle supporting role. The marvellous ease with which this unfolds in the mouth provides such sensual pleasure, it doesn’t matter terribly that flavours don’t smash any records for precision or intensity. This is, above all else, a wine for sophisticated drinking.