At a certain point during the evening, quite a few wines in, Tim Kirk took flight. Talk of poetry and music filled the air, gestures became broader and more animated, and I’d like to think those of us who were present were a little, or perhaps more than a little, swept up in the passion of the moment. While a winemaker’s enthusiasm doesn’t inevitably translate to the finished wine, there’s something addictively glorious about seeing someone’s inner life blossom so charmingly before your eyes. As it happens, the excellence of the evening’s wines justified every moment of Tim’s rhetoric.
I don’t make a habit of attending wine dinners, but I jumped at the chance to taste a bunch of Clonakilla’s key styles in mini verticals. Bookended by a glass each of the current Viognier Nouveau and a pretty Auslese style Riesling, three vintages each of the Riesling, Cabernet Merlot and Shiraz Viognier were presented. There was not a bad wine amongst them, although inevitably the room was split on which version of each — newborn, young adult, fading groover — was drinking best on the night.
Brief impressions follow.
Clonakilla Riesling 2012
Primarily floral on the nose and clearly a very young wine. Aromatics are all high toned powdery goodness. The palate is surprisingly generous, showing more weight than I expected. A cut apple flavour suggests oxidative treatment? Nicely textured too.
Clonakilla Riesling 2005
My pick of the Rieslings, this shows clear primary and tertiary characters. The acid remains prominent, contributing a fantastic texture to the palate. Delicious.
Clonakilla Riesling 2002
Flavours are quite developed and the wine has transitioned from edgy youngster to mellow sage. It’s far from falling apart, but it is most certainly starting to glow with age. A very beautiful wine. I’m very happy to have some in my cellar.
Clonakilla Ballinderry 2011
Bright, slightly raw aromas of red fruit and tobacco pre-empt a palate that is acid-driven and still settling. Too young to drink without a very good airing, this nonetheless showed some pure, attractive flavours.
Clonakilla Ballinderry 2005
Another amazing 2005. Considerably more stuffing than the 2011, this showed delicious umami flavours in addition to its plush berries. Tannins a highlight, with texture generally feeling bright and attractive.
Clonakilla Cabernet Merlot 1997
All about umami. At this stage, texture has softened considerably, with the wine showing less palate weight and impact than the 2005. Tannins still present and drying, however.
Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2011
Fine black pepper, blueberry fruit and spice. So put together, but fruit a bit simple at this early stage.
Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2005
A step up in complexity and subtle textures, this feels strongly shaped in the mouth. Plenty of blue fruit and a multitude of other flavours besides. Lovely.
Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2002
Holding on without any struggles, this still tastes young, with rich chocolate notes over spice and primary berry fruit. The tannin structure is still firm and a real feature. A slight whiff of game not distracting.