CLONAKILLA Shiraz Viognier Canberra District New South Wales
Winemaker Tim Kirk's ethereal and evocative Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier is perhaps one of the most important advances in the development of Australian Shiraz since the release of 1952 Penfolds Grange Hermitage. Clonakilla, meaning "Meadow of the Church" and located in a gently south facing fold of the cool southern tablelands at Murrumbateman near Canberra, was established by CSIRO research scientist John Kirk in 1971. Fourth son Tim is a theologian turned winemaker, learning his craft from his father and mentors Bailey Carrodus of Yarra Yering and Phillip Jones of Bass Phillip.
A visit to the Rhone in 1991 and a barrel tasting of Marcel Guigal's single vineyard Cote Roties from the 1988 vintage was a pivotal experience – much in the same way as Max Schubert's visit to Bordeaux in the autumn of 1949. At a "sub conscious level" the discovery of these compelling fragrances and textures of co-fermented Shiraz-Viognier was a religious experience; here at play were heavenly forces that showed "the goodness of creation". With considerable foresight, Tim's father had planted a small plot of Viognier in the mid-1980s. In 1992 Kirk co-fermented the fruit with Shiraz. He also included a tiny proportion of Pinot Noir and Mataro (Mourvedre) in the nascent blend.
Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier is sourced from two adjacent estate-owned vineyards. The original vineyard has south-east and south-west aspects whereas T & L Block faces north-east. Lying at 600 meters above sea level, the soils are granitic with sandy brown and red loams over friable clay.
Traditional 'Burgundian' winemaking techniques are employed "to highlight the inherent flavours in the fruit". After a short pre-ferment maceration, partial whole-bunch fermentation is kicked off in stainless steel open vats. After completion of fermentation the wine is left to soak on skins for one or two weeks. It is then racked into 1/3rd new, seasoned French oak for around one year for maturation before bottling. The aim is "to produce wines with natural balance and roundness". Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier is medium to full-bodied with highly aromatic ginger/ white pepper/ apricot fruit, underlying savoury French oak and fine slinky dry tannins. The Viognier component melts into the Shiraz and is rarely more than a "subliminal influence". The style captures the essence of contemporary winemaking philosophy and regional expression.
2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2001, 1998, 1997, 1995, 1994.
Andrew Caillard MW, Langton's