Encouraged by the success of the Shiraz Viognier, Clonakilla’s Tim Kirk decided to release a new wine, beginning with the 2006 vintage -- a straight Shiraz from the same estate vines that produce the Shiraz Viognier. It was named ‘Syrah’, the French name for Shiraz. The winemaking is simple. A single fermenter is filled with the best Shiraz from the north-east facing T&L vineyard.
The whole berries (no stems) are fermented warm by native yeasts. They then spend up to a month macerating on skins followed by 18 months maturation in French oak, one-third new. The Syrah is typically a darker, more brooding wine than the Shiraz Viognier, with a distinct wild berry and potent spice character. This is Clonakilla’s ‘Hermitage’ to the Shiraz Viognier’s ‘Côte Rôtie’. Total production is no more than 300 dozen each year.
Vines were first planted in the Canberra District in 1971 near Lake George by Dr Edgar Riek. The district is roughly divided into two areas, one in the Yass Valley around Murrumbateman and the other around Lake George and Bungendore. Canberra District has a cool continental climate with hot dry summers necessitating irrigation. A region of rolling hills, with elevations varying between 300 and 800 metres, means that spring frost is a real hazard, making site selection crucial. Small producers dominate the region, making handcrafted, high-quality wines particularly from Riesling, Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz.
The story of Clonakilla is one of risk and ingenuity, of vision, generosity and faith. Founded in 1971, Clonakilla grew from a small, struggling boutique winery in the marginal wine region of Murrumbateman to become an icon of ultra-fine Australian wine. Under the skilled winemaking of Chief Winemaker Tim Kirk, Clonakilla’s remarkable flagship wine, the Langton’s Classified ‘Exceptional’ Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier has risen to become a definitive example of its genre. Clonakilla also produces a number of superb whites including Riesling, Chardonnay and Viognier alongside its range of superbly crafted cool climate reds.