clos Clare Riesling 2002

First of all, this wine should definitely not be served straight from the refrigerator. Give it half an hour to warm up, and only then give it a try.

This is one of the most elusive wines I’ve ever tasted: the nose had all kinds of things to smell, and almost none of them are anything I could name off of the top of my head. At first I figured I’d just cheat and say it smelled of kerosene or petrol or diesel or whatever, but it really didn’t: it briefly smelled like a fresh peach, and then suddenly like dulce de membrillo, and then it smelled like some unidentifiable white flowers, and then it moved on to something vaguely like what mesquite smells like after the rain in the Sonoran desert… but by then it had skipped along to something else vaguely like stale oregano. Who knows? Let’s just say that there was a lot going on in there, and without a gas spectrometer or an afternoon with Le nez du vin, this is the best I can offer you.

I was hoping it would settle down some in the mouth to give my powers of association a rest, but alas, no such luck. First off: the mouthfeel is sublime. There’s a lovely fatness to it that isn’t built on sugar; there’s also striking acidity that nicely balances everything. Is there any residual sugar? If there is, there’s very little: this is a classic Australian style. Upon reflection, the usual hints of lime peel offered themselves up as well, and the finish was sleek and simultaneously angular as they come, all sophistication and elegance. This is definitely what you Aussies would call moreish: my partner and I found ourselves in a competition to see who could get more of the wine more quickly before the bottle was finished (never an easy task, that fine balance between enjoying it leisurely while also peering over to the other side of the couch just in case their glass starts emptying itself before you have a chance to refill your own).

Overall, wines like these just don’t come around very often. Nearly six years after harvest, it still seems relatively fresh and I’d venture to guess it’s got a few useful years left, although I’ll probably leave one bottle to try again in 2022 just for the hell of it.

clos Clare
Price: US $14 (current vintage is 2006 at US $18)
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: November 2007

I’ve never been to find reliable information about who makes these wines, but my best guess is Jeffrey Grosset may have prior to 2006, and now it’s someone by the name of O’Leary Walker.

One additional thing I’ve been thinking about this evening harks back to an interesting series of confrontations in wine school – the professor had been educated in Burgundy, although the school (and nearly all the students) was very much located in Washington state. I was docked a point or two on an examination for suggesting that one could enjoy a glass of sherry before dinner, and a few weeks prior to that I had been told that I was quite wrong to suggest that a Clare riesling could perhaps age successfully for five or maybe even eight years; her French education had apparently insisted that dry Riesling must inevitably be consumed within a year or two lest it fall apart, especially with the high acidity Clare rieslings tend to display. Both times I wanted simply to say “well, you know, I’ve had a few dinners in Spain and very much enjoyed a copita before my meal, and I’ve had a few bottles of aged Clare riesling (a fairly old Taylors St Andrews came to mind immediately) and loved it – so why are you privileging your French university education over my personal experience and other nations’ traditions?” Of course I didn’t, which is how I probably escaped without failing the course. It’s still frustrating, though.

1 thought on “clos Clare Riesling 2002

  1. Sounds awesomely good. I love our dry riesling style at this sort of mid-point: there’s still acidity and some primary fruit, but a cascade of secondary flavours, plus a softening and thickening of the mouthfeel. Maximum complexity and still a sense of freshness. Lovely.

    Regarding your wine professor – one of the defining characterists of a wine lover, I think, is indefatigable curiosity. A desire to see what this or that might taste like if left a bit longer, or tried at a different temperature, or served with a certain type of food, etc. An ongoing search for greater sensual pleasure through wine.

    I just don’t see how a closed attitude towards trying new things can sit alongside a true passion for wine.

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