Clonakilla Cabernet Merlot 2001

It probably won’t come as a relevation that Chris and I are fans of Clonakilla’s wines. I remember once visiting the cellar door and having a chat with Tim Kirk about this Cabernet blend, and was surprised to hear him express reservations. I suppose the Canberra District calls to mind Shiraz and, to a lesser extent, Riesling, with Cabernet-based wines tending to fall into the same “why would you” territory as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Still, I’m always on the lookout for glorious exceptions, and I’ve usually enjoyed this label a great deal.

High quality cork. Beautiful, heady aroma of violets, blackcurrant fruit, cedar and some underlying decay. It’s quite a thick, enveloping aroma profile, though it retains some of the angular elegance I associate with Cabernet Sauvignon. I love smelling this wine, and for my taste it is showing enough bottle age to add significant complexity without challenging those who have a distaste for old red wine.

Really good continuity from nose to palate. There are a few striking aspects to this wine as it currently stands. Firstly, the flavour profile echoes the aroma’s complexity and balance of aged versus primary notes. It reminds me a little of aged Hunter red wines, with some light earthiness alongside more classically Cabernet flavours. Secondly, mouthfeel is soft and gently textural, and for a moment hides the degree to which flavours adhere to the tongue. There’s a really interesting interplay between luxurious flavours and structure, which moves from slippery to textured to almost crunchy on the after palate. Here it becomes evident there’s still considerable acidity keeping the wine fresh, and I imagine guaranteeing it a few more productive years in bottle.

Cabernet may not contribute to the Canberra District’s renown, but here’s a wine that, eight years after vintage, is still continuing to improve. Not bad. A beautiful wine.

Price: $35
Closure: Cork

2 thoughts on “Clonakilla Cabernet Merlot 2001

  1. It gets worse – if memory serves me, the first bottle of wine we ever drank together was a Clonakilla shiraz (or shiraz viognier) – it was shortly after I’d visited the winery the first time and impulsively gave Tim the bottle of Le Cigare Volant I’d picked up in Melbourne for you as a thank you for showing us around the winery. If I hadn’t gone to that wine shop in Melbourne to find that specific wine, I never would have heard the story about Randall Grahm dissing all Aussie shiraz as “raspberry motor oil” save for Clonakilla, so I never would have stopped by the winery, and I likely never would have developed such a taste for their wines. To this day, the magnum of the ’01 s/v sits in my kitchen, empty – it was the wine we drank on our wedding night, even. Now that’s fandom. 🙂

    • Indeed, there’s a bit of our personal history mixed in with Clonakilla’s wines, which is not only cool but also, somehow, appropriate for the king of social beverages. 🙂

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