Clonakilla Ballinderry 2004

There are some nice bottles of wine scattered about my house. Not nice in the sense of outrageously expensive, but nice in the sense that I hesitate, for whatever reason, to drink them. On the whole, I enjoy living by myself, but choosing wine to drink is a definite downside. There are no excuses, no-one else to share the burden of having opened the last bottle of this, or an old bottle of that. I was bemoaning my reluctance to drink a lot of the wine I have at home to a good friend the other day, and he said “Just open them.” So tonight, I have.

It’s not an unaffordable wine, this one. I think it was about $35. The reason why it’s an important wine to me is that I bought it with Chris and his partner Dan at Clonakilla’s cellar door after what I presume (because I don’t think we’ve ever visited Clonakilla without this happening) was a wonderful conversation and barrel sampling session with Tim Kirk. Such occasions happen so infrequently when friends live at opposite ends of the earth, and this wine, sitting on my cheap IKEA wine rack, has served as a reminder of Summer weather, a drive from Sydney to Canberra, precious conversation and the feeling of being amongst your own kind. No wonder I’ve not found a worthy enough occasion to open it.

Looking back over my notes, I’m reminded of a slight hesitation over this wine because, at the time, its aroma was almost entirely locked down and its structure formidable. Perhaps it’s an overrated pastime, allowing a wine time to reveal itself. There’s something masochistic about being made to wait for an anticipated pleasure that may never, in fact, happen. And yet this wine’s gradual maturation into complete, liquid elegance communicates intense reward and a sense of happy shock, the same shock one gets when an old acquaintance turns up after many years’ absence, suddenly handsome and magnetic in a way that only makes sense in retrospect. This wine’s features are just beginning to work their magic now. The nose remains quiet, now more sotto voce than mute, too dignified to lunge for the dark berry notes and pencil shavings that seep out from nowhere and fill in the bottom layer of the aroma profile. A whisper of aged leather sits in the middle, gradually building what should be, with even more time, a complete profile of notes.

The palate is getting ready for this completion; it has paved the way by paring back its structure, adding the most striking thickness of mouthfeel and transforming from a somewhat raw beast into something altogether more civilised. The range of notes is textbook: red and black berries, cigar box, tobacco, a hint of gravel. This is seriously good Cabernet in medium bodied, elegant mode. Why aren’t there more Cabernets from Canberra? This seems ideal to me, effortless and flavoursome.

Tell me again, why did I ever hesitate to open this?

Price: $A35
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

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