Toast to Vibrancy: A Review of the Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier’s Redness Celebrations

By | 1 April 2024

Ken Gargett unites with Canberra winemaker Tim Kirk and his family to commemorate the fiftieth year of one of Australia’s four premier red wines.


Ken Gargett

About ten years ago, we participated in an exclusive tasting of Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier, hosted to mark its 40th birthday (refer to WFW 39, pages.58–63). Presently, we are able to replicate the activity, and even extend it, for the 50th. I denote, “a bit more than,” as the initial scheduling was Covid-impaired, like many things have been. Luckily, Tim Kirk along with his kin did not put an end to their plans. They just kept revising—it turned out the third try was successful. 

Why should we ponder over this wine? In simple terms, Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier ranks amongst the elite wines produced in Australia. Personally, I regard it as one of our top four reds, in line with Penfold’s Grange, Henschke’s Hill of Grace, and Cullen’s Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon. Certain other wines, like Brokenwood’s Graveyard, the superior Pinot Noir from Bass Phillip and Bindi, and Wynn’s John Riddoch, are indeed hot in pursuit. More are out there, all of who would possibly feel slighted to have been overlooked. 

Clonakilla stands as the top winery in Canberra’s region, continuously producing various exceptional wines, including its well-known Shiraz/Viognier. The Kirk lineage are pioneers of this area, with Tim Kirk being an exceptionally skilled winemaker.

For those who may not be well-acquainted with Canberra or its wineries, it’s worth mentioning that Canberra is Australia’s capital. Following the federation in 1901, the location for the new capital was eventually chosen in 1909. Prior to these developments, local indigenous people lived here with canberry signifying ‘meeting place’ in their dialect, and it also served as a way stop for stockmen. Our historical knowledge indicates that it was selected as the capital since neither Sydney nor Melbourne would permit the other to bear the title, and it was situated roughly in the middle, albeit closer to Sydney. It’s somewhat isolated making its proximity seem irrelevant. This location decision exemplifies a typical bureaucratic mix-up.

Although Canberra can experience intense cold in winter and scorching heat in summer, it is typically marked by warm days and cool nights. The annual rainfall slightly surpasses 24in (600mm). This healthy natural acidity, owing considerably to the noticeable day-to-night temperature shifts, has been integral in creating high-quality wines.

The region is home to around 140 vineyards, stretching beyond the official boundaries of the Australian Capital Territory and into the neighbouring state of New South Wales. The area boasts several dozen wineries.

Clonakilla’s beginnings can be traced back to Britain in the 1960s. A pivotal figure in the vineyard’s history is Dr John Kirk, an Irish biochemist who studied at both Oxford and Cambridge. Frequently visiting Ireland for family holidays on the Kirk family farm, known as Clonakilla in County Clare, John dreamt of living a farmer’s life—a dream which seemed unlikely given his successful scientific career.

John’s first encounter with wine goes back to World War II, when he was just 14 years old and working in his family’s pub, the Hydro Hotel, in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare. Young John was tasked with managing the cellar, prompting his interest in wine. Embracing his scientific spirit, John bought “the best book on wine available ” at the time by André Simon. This turned John into a “non-drinking, teenage expert” on wine.

In 1968, John seized a research opportunity with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s Division of Plant Industry. Having relatives who had migrated to Australia during the gold rushes, John, his wife and their four sons moved to Canberra. The region had no vineyards at that time, with the prevailing belief that the climate was too cold for wine grapes. However, John thought otherwise. Strong in his conviction that the region was perfect for growing wine grapes, he fulfilled his farming dream by purchasing a 44-acre farm in Murrumbateman, just north of Canberra, in 1971, where he planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling grapes.

Indeed, he cultivated both Cabernet and Riesling vines numbering 600, and a dozen each of the Shiraz, Pinot Noir, and Traminer. This selection may appear unusual now, but at that time, few wine enthusiasts in Australia knew about Chardonnay. The very year was the 1971, the same year Tyrrell’s primed what would later turn into the first mass produced Chardonnay in Australia, albeit in tiny quantities. Riesling had widespread cultivation and was viewed as our top white variety. Cabernet, on the other hand, was the unparalleled heavyweight among the red varieties. Traminer was frequently mixed with Riesling. Pinot Noir barely received any recognition. Shiraz was familiar and was produced in large quantities, however, during that era—despite Penfolds’ efforts with its Grange Hermitage—Shiraz was rarely seen as anything beyond a common, everyday variety, suitable for an array of uses from rosé to fortifieds, sparkling reds, cask wine, or even muffins.

In 1976, John showcased his first wines, a Riesling and a Cabernet/Shiraz mix. Tim’s brother Jeremy felt the urgency for the family to carve a market niche. In 1986, he convinced his father to cultivate Viognier. At the time, it was virtually unknown in Australia (or anywhere else). It’s quite surprising they even managed to locate any vines. They found two vines in nearby Wagga Wagga—where most Australian vintners received their training—and managed to persuade the staff to let the family take some cuttings. It’s hard to imagine anything more niche at the time.

The family did not bottle a pure Shiraz until 1990. Even then, it was produced in such minute amounts that it did not qualify for entry in the Sydney Wine Show. Surprisingly, it qualified for the Griffith Show, which was closer, and astoundingly, it nabbed the Best Wine of the Show. Dr John simply remarked, “That marked the end of the Cabernet/Shiraz.” But it took a long while for it to emerge as Aussie’s leading Shiraz/Viognier.

A few years back, Australia witnessed a trend where every local winery had a Shiraz/Viognier. Regrettably, an excessive number included too much Viognier, resulting in blends that more resembled some peculiar apricot juice than a recognizable wine. Nowadays, it is rare to see the term “Viognier” on a red wine label, as a result of the backlash. Clonakilla is one of the few exceptions, but it all took some time.

Following the triumph of his Shiraz at Griffith, Tim made the journey to the Rhône Valley. Guided by the suggestion of a local journalist, he sought to deepen his understanding of Shiraz/Syrah. Originally a theology scholar, Tim abandoned the church in 1996 to commit himself full time to winemaking with his father. Today, as a grandfather, he stands at the helm. Tim’s brother, Kiaran, is also immersed in the world of wine, succeeding Louisa Rose as head of the Australian Wine Research Institute. Jeremy – the brother who so wisely decided to plant Viognier – is a Supreme Court judge in NSW.

Discuss the exceptional La Chapelle 1990 from Jaboulet with Tim and he’ll chat away happily. But it was Guigal’s Côte-Rôties which truly captured his imagination. Suddenly, the Viognier vines had a purpose. Tim merely grins and gazes heavenward when he considers the mysterious workings of his chosen path, jokingly challenging anyone to deny the existence of God. His joy is infectious and could even make hardened atheists like Richard Dawkins or Ernest Hemingway see the light.

1992 was the year Clonakilla produced its inaugural Shiraz/Viognier. Being among the first of its kind in Australia (Yarra Yering in the Yarra Valley having beat them to the punch) only made its quick ascension to premier maker of this style all the more impressive. A detail often overlooked is that Viognier wasn’t the sole addition in the winemaking process in those early days. Pinot Noir often made an appearance, and in the inaugural 1992 vintage, even Mataro played a part. All these varieties are co-fermented at Clonakilla.

Over time, Tim has honed his art and discovered the keys to producing excellent wine. The sweet spot for Viognier, for instance, falls somewhere between 5–7 percent. Any less than 1 percent, or more than 10 percent is not ideal. New oak plays a pivotal role – though never exceeding one third. They only use French oak now, finding it best complements their pursuit of more refined wines. They have embraced the use of whole bunches since 1993, usually comprising one third of the blend, although this is never set in stone. Variations over the years have ranged from none in 2011 to a full 100 percent in 1994.

Tim’s ambition is to “allow the landscape to speak,” encompassing everything that implies. Raspberries and strawberries are viewed by him as crucial flavor elements, as a “red celebration.” He considers Shiraz to be “instinctively aromatic.”

The transition to screwcap occurred incrementally. The wine was always corked up to and including 2002. Tim began using some corks over the next four years, but started using screwcap gradually. Since 2007, all wine has been sealed with a screwcap.

Tim’s efforts have resulted in an extensive accumulation of wine accolades—awards, medals, and trophies—as well as a highly dedicated fan base for each SV release. Tim and his fan base share a rarely seen connection. The 2011 harvest, which was a disaster across much of Australia, left the winery with a pitifully small amount of its coveted SV, meaning that 300 regular customers would be unable to receive their share. Tim personally called each of those 300 customers to explain the situation. He felt like he had transitioned “from theological student to grief counsellor” that day.

If more proof was needed of Tim’s high regard in the industry, many of the attendees at the family’s 50th (technically 51st or 52nd) anniversary were other winemakers, some of the most respected in Australia: Bruce and Chris Tyrrell, Stephen and Prue Henschke, Louisa Rose, Pat Carmody, Tom Carson, Stuart Hordern, Ian McKenzie, Charlie Melton, Ken Helm, Julian Castagna, Dave Bicknell, Michael Dhillon, Sam Middleton, Sarah Crowe, Steve Pannell, and others.

The event encompassed a diverse palette of 21 vintages of Riesling, seven individual selections of Syrah, an assortment of seven unique Shiraz wines, and seven other mixed wines from Clonakilla, presented with international reference points during the dinner. However, the toast of the event was unquestionably the presentation of 21 vintages of Shiraz/Viognier from the years 1995 to 2021.

The 1997 Riesling stood out amongst the wines, although some participants were more impressed with the subtle nuances of the 1994. In terms of Clonakilla Rieslings, 2021 and 2016 were most preferred. Canberra’s Rieslings have often been overlooked – a statement that can represent the entire region which is far more esteemed by the inhabitants than by the rest of the nation and beyond. Among the Syrah wines showcased, the 2019 vintage took the crown, with the 2015 close behind. The 2009 vintage hadn’t lost any of its charm.

The Shiraz/Viognier blends were arranged in a non-chronological pattern and were split into three categories: the “Luminous” Cool Years, the “Ethereal” Temperate Years, and the “Glow” Warm Years. Any notable comments from the previous event have been added to the attached notes. The new Shiraz/Viognier 2022 release is priced at around A$120. The vineyard is also selling magnums of the impressive 2021 vintage at A$250, although they are likely to be snapped up quickly.

The first Shiraz/Viognier blend was the 1995 Clonakilla, which came from a cool and wet year. After almost a decade, the Viognier vines finally produced a satisfactory harvest. The blend was composed of 80% Shiraz, 10% Pinot Noir, and 10% Viognier. A third of the Shiraz along with the Pinot Noir grape was fermented as whole bunches. New and second-use French oak barrels were used for aging, with bits of American oak also included.

A breathtakingly mature and complex red with the tone of a blood sunset. Notes of rich flesh, hints of game and dried herbs, tones of warm earth, and remnants of red fruits give it its unique character. Miraculously still vibrant, its charm lingers with a pleasant acidity and fine tannins, though the touch of the wine is slightly astringent. It holds in its roots a minerally and chalky aftertaste. Its length is decent. It is a wine ready for consumption now, yet it is in no hurry. Unlike a bottle opened a decade ago which displayed little Brett, there wasn’t a hint of Brett here. | 92

2002 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier: A mix of 30% whole-bunch and 6% Viognier. It has spent a year in oak barrels, with one third being new Sirugue barrels, and the rest being François Frères and Bossuet barrels. Past experiences with cork taint were not a worry for this serving. Tim views it as “the most Burgundian of our wines,” and previously referenced as “red wine with mulch,” which was actually a positive review.

Deep red in color with a hint of olive around the rim. It is fragrant, packed with a deep range of flavors. Mature and complex yet still holds a breath of freshness. The notes of flora, undergrowth, animal skins, and briary characters shape its personality. Fresh acidity and good grip are prevalent. However, there is a slight dissolution towards the end. Yet again, this is a drink-now style with no real urgency. | 91

2010 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier: This is marked as the year that the drought finally broke. With rainfall starting on Christmas Day (in 2009) and lasting till harvest, on and off. The grapes were picked during breaks in the rain. It has 20% whole-bunch and 5% Viognier.

With a distinctive bright red hue, a prominent focus on spices and an aromatic uplift, the notes of this wine are fresh with red fruits. Cherries, raspberries, warm earth, game, and flesh – could there be a trace of Viognier in the stone-fruit aroma? The endless spices, subtle pepper, and elements of leather create an appealing texture that is smooth, captivating, and seamless in its execution. An exquisite experience overall. It has a fine acidity line, and the palate is adorned with a blend of red fruits, smoked meats, cherries, and coffee grinds. Interestingly, the wine still has about a decade ahead of it, which differs from previous expectations of its longevity. A real treat. | 96

2011 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier was described as the most challenging year they’ve ever faced—a sentiment echoed by not only Clonakilla but also the whole Canberra region. The year was a nightmare across most of Australia. Fruits were handpicked meticulously, with very little stems or whole bunches included, and utilized less new oak than usual—only 28% compared to the usual rate. There was 5% Viognier, with a total of just over 1,000 dozen produced, less than half of the standard amount. (A high-production year reaches about 2,500 dozen.) They didn’t even make a Syrah, leaving more than half of the fruits to wilt on the vine. 

Despite adversities, this wine is a tribute to overcoming unfavorable circumstances. The vibrant red/garnet hue introduces floral notes, spices, dried herbs, and more leathery undertones than the 2010 version. The palate also experiences animal flesh, charcuterie, cherries, and coffee beans. Focused and long-lasting, with a final hint of ultra-smooth tannins. It remains finely balanced, with a prominent acidity line covering the entire journey. This wine is expected to age well in the long term—it’s already doing remarkably well. However, there may be questions about whether its structure will overshadow its fruity essence, although this shouldn’t be an issue for the next 10 to 15 years. | 93

2012 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier was a rainy year marked by cool conditions towards the end of February and early March. It was followed by a long bout of cool, dry weather with 25% of the whole bunch and 5% Viognier making up the components. 

A delightful deep maroon hue exudes a complex mix; violet undertones, cassis, floral hints, subtle chocolate, dark berries, and coffee beans, accented with a whisper of cocoa powder. Despite its matured color, the wine seems surprisingly youthful. The palate uncovers a smoky meat flavor, coupled with slight orange rind and dark fruits. Exhibiting an optimal combination of focus, aroma, continuity, and perfect balance, the length is impressive and tannins are silky smooth. Truly a remarkable wine. | 96

The 2017 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier hails from an era which saw the heaviest rainfall during late winter and spring, succeeded by a warm to hot summer. The wine stands out as something extraordinary. With its light crimson color, the aroma spirals through cherries, dark berries, slight stone fruits, spices, a trace of licorice, coffee beans, and enticing scents. The structure of the wine is seamless with focus, elegance and a lingering finish. The silky tannins and extraordinary length suggest a life expectancy projected at ten to 20 years. | 96

The 2021 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier is a product of what has been widely acclaimed as one of Australia’s finest vintages across numerous regions. In the Canberra region, the La Niña event facilitated a downpour amounting to 40in (1,000mm), as compared to the average of 25in (630mm). This led to a prolonged, slow maturation process, putting the harvest dates in alignment with those seen about two decades ago. Surrounding Easter were warm conditions, resulting in “smaller crops of beautifully flavored fruit”. The Viognier component measures 6%.

Clonakilla has produced one of their greatest Shiraz/Viogniers to date. The vibrant wine is still exhaling its youthfulness but signals a promising future. Red fruits such as cherries, raspberries are present, accompanied by floral notes and a whiff of deli meats. The energy exuded by this wine is palpable. Stone fruit undertones owe themselves to the integrated Viognier. Spices and bay leaves are detectable as well. Silky, seductive and well-balanced tannins contribute to its allure. The intensity of this wine is enthralling, yet it radiates a certain delicacy. It has a lasting finish with the intensity remaining constant. It has the potential to develop over the next 20 years. Considering the age of the 2013 blend, it offers more complexity but in due time, this wine could surpass it. | 98

1994 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier Quality of this wine was exceptional despite the scanty yield owing to a severe frost during the late October of the preceding year. The produce amounted to a mere three barrels. The blend comprises 14% Pinot Noir and 4% Viognier. The whole bunch was foot-trodden and fermented in open fermenters. The wine was aged in two thirds new French oak barrels (Seguin Moreau). This marked the first time all the oak used was of French origin.

It has aged well and emits quite a fragrant aroma. There are notes of spices, animal skin, dry herbs and a distinct meatiness. The wine is noticeably complex and ready to be consumed. There is still some life left in it, having a somewhat firm texture and a mid-length finish. Although it’s fit for immediate consumption, there’s no rush. However, it paled in comparison to the bottle tasted a decade earlier. | 92

1997 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier This blend emerged from a warm summer following winter rains. It consists of 5% Viognier that was co-fermented. A third of the Shiraz was whole bunch. 6.5% Pinot Noir was independently produced and then mixed into the final blend. It was aged for a year in 30% new Sirugue oak barrels.

Deep red, with an olive rim. A nose of barbecued meats, game, brambles, and dried herbs. There is a note like a freshly extinguished campfire. Maturity here, and some complexity. The palate really steps up to a new level. Bright acidity, good concentration, excellent length. It almost seems like a different wine on the palate—fresher and with more life than the nose indicated. Silky tannins. The palate suggests we have another four to six years ahead of us with this gem, but again, a pale comparison to the wine we saw a decade earlier, when it was the wine of the day. | 93

2001 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier This vintage kicked off a run of warmer years (apart from 2002). Tim considers it a benchmark. 30% whole-bunch and 7% Viognier. 13 days on skins, which included three days pre-ferment. A year maturing in a mix of one third new Sirugue, François Frères, and Bossuet. Tim describes this as “the wine that launched Clonakilla,” winning all manner of wine bling, including a “wine of the year” award. This wine was one of the last under cork—and it showed. Tim opened eight bottles for the tasting but could use only four. 

An attractive maroon hue. The nose is redolent of flowers, spices, cherries, strawberries, coffee grinds, a hint of charcuterie, and new leather. The wine has balance, focus, and length, with satiny tannins. Finely crafted, it still has a decade or more ahead of it. Today, it is a slightly drier style than some and hints of rustic notes are emerging, but it is a superb effort. A decade earlier, it looked sensational. | 93

2004 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier 23% whole-bunch and 7% Viognier. A year maturing in Sirugue, François Frères, Taransaud, and Mercurey oak, with 35% new. This is Tim’s favorite wine, with its “wild, ethereal perfumes.”

Deep maroon. The attractive flavors of red fruit combine harmoniously with tobacco leaves,

dried herbs, and smoked meats. Despite its age, it still has energy and brims with complexity.

It has a smooth, flowing style but it doesn’t lose its focus. It has a noticeable spicy/peppery

taste. The tannins are fine and there is good concentration that lingers to the finish.

There is a lot to appreciate in this wine. It should age beautifully for at least the next

ten years. It is worth mentioning that it was also a favorite a decade ago. | 95


Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier The year started with rainfall, but overall, had a good growing

season. It matured in 32% new oak barrels. For Tim, this wine represents the quintessential Clonakilla style,

and reflects a lovely, even year. For me, it was one of the best wines of the day.

The wine has a deep crimson color and is at its peak for drinking. It should continue to

deliver pleasure for at least another decade. The aromas are alluring with spicy notes,

mixed with dried herbs, bay leaves, cherries, strawberries, other red fruits and ground

coffee beans. It is a complex wine, with an inviting texture, a seamless structure, and

very fine tannins. The flavors dance on your palate with notes of coffee beans, aniseed,

cocoa powder, and cherries noticeable. A fine line of acidity maintains the length while

the intensity doesn’t waver. The finish is very long and the wine is superb now, yet it

still has years ahead. We loved it as much as we did during the previous event. | 96


Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier This year was described as a “textbook year” as it had a

larger-than-average crop, which was a welcome sight after three sparse harvests. It was

cultivated with 23% whole bunch and 5% Viognier.

For me, a superior wine and the star of the soiree. It has a dark cherry hue. The bouquet is magnificent, giving an impression far younger than its 2012 vintage. Captivating notes of stone fruit linger faintly. It’s rich, well-rounded, smooth, enduring, with a spirited persona. With layers of cassis, anise, blueberries, and floral tones. Nose and palate are in perfect harmony. The allure, the silky tannins, the gentle plush mouthfeel – all are irresistible. Its exceptional length and impeccable balance indicate it still has a good decade or more to go. | 99

2014 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier This year saw dramatic temperature swings, exceeded 104°F (40°C) for four days near the end of January. It included 23% whole-bunch. A prominent local winemaker has said of these wines: “They combine power and concentration with precision and delicacy – they are effortless.”

A delight to behold with its red/garnet color, its scents leaping out of the glass. Traces of Viognier are still evident. Each sip reveals cassis and coffee bean, smoked meat, and an array of spices. Even now, it clearly will benefit from some aging. It’s well balanced, intense but not overpowering, with soft tannins and an extended, satisfying finish. Come back to it in 10–15 years, it’ll be even more stunning. Extremely good. | 96

1998 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier In the months leading up to the harvest, a string of quite hot days was recorded. One third of the grape bunches were whole and it had 5% Viognier, co-fermented. Post fermentation, it spent a year in oak, with 30% new Sirugue and the remaining in François Frères barrels.

Red with a brown edge, and some not inconsiderable sediment here. The aromas weave through cigar boxes, brambles, tobacco leaves, warm earth, and dried herbs. Quite mature, though still more than clinging to life. A mid-length style, finely crafted with soft tannins on the finish, it still has time, though there is no reason not to consume now any bottles you might have. A decade earlier, the suggestions were that this was exactly the direction in which it was headed. | 90

2003 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier
The year of drought. This was harvested March 13–14. Usually picking occurs mid-April to early May. 30% whole-bunch, 6% Viognier. 12 months in one third new Sirugue oak, the remainder between François Frères and Bossuet.

Deep maroon hue. This is not from the most elegant end of the Clonakilla spectrum, being a little burly with a gentle fade. Notes of campfire, cherries and other red fruit, aniseed, dried herbs, bay leaves, and warm earth. Quite bright on the palate, it still exhibits bags of life. Decent length and intensity, but it does show that slow fade, so might perhaps be best drunk soon. The notes reflect what we saw a decade previously, though it is now a little further down the track. | 92

2007 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier
A serious frost in November was a bad start, and the crop was down 92% on the previous vintage. Harvest was the earliest ever here, starting on February 27. Only seven barrels were made, and one of these was declassified (though Tim has no doubt that they could have sold it), hence a total of just 1,800 bottles. 70% new oak, 23% whole-bunch and 6% Viognier. Customers were limited to just four bottles, with the full production sold within 36 hours. Anyone who managed to get hold of this wine will be very happy. 

Deep in a rich, blood-red hue, this composition is beguiling. It presents notes of dark cherry, violets, smoked meats amongst others, all elegantly interwoven. A plushness to the structure gives it a seamless and supple quality. Everything finely balances with a stream of acidity cutting through its length and tannins that feel satin-like. Exceptionally long-lasting, it is a joy to drink. It was an astonishing wine a decade ago—and it remains so now. | 95

2009 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier At the time, Tim categorized this as “Canberra’s best red year to date,” and the wine surely mirrors the sentiment. February was extremely hot, but the contrast of the region’s climate allowed the temperatures to plunge by 27–36°F (15–20°C) during the night. Made with 22% whole-bunch, 5% Viognier.

A dark cherry in color. It boasts a faultless texture, splendidly integrated, a vibrant acidity, boundless vitality, faultless balance, and excellent length. Taste sensations range from cassis, cocoa powder, dried herbs, aniseed, to blueberries and deli meats. A latent power here, beautifully accompanied by finely textured tannins. Still a decade left to mature. Elegant yet powerful. A decade earlier, Tim hadn’t hesitated to hail this as the “greatest wine we have ever made.” It undeniably still ranks amongst the very best. | 96

2016 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier El Niño ensured that this was a parched year, with some brief but relief-providing bursts of rain, particularly towards the end of January. Yields were abundant. The wine was picked exceptionally early—on February 29. As per Tim, it exudes primary characteristics even now.

An eye-catching shade of crimson. The bouquet is youthful and the scent of Viognier is noticeable but well-integrated. The aroma combines flowers, spices, cherries, raspberries, a hint of an orange-rind, and tobacco leaves. It has good focus despite the palate not possessing a lasting effect as the best wines. However, it will probably continue to taste good for about a decade. | 93

2018 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier A prime year for some regions in Australia, but unfortunately, a hailstorm in January disrupted conditions here, along with heavy rainfall right before the “final ripening.” The storm ruined 15% of the crop before a “perfectly warm autumn” took over. Despite the setbacks, the result is an exceptional wine.

This wine boasts a purple hue and bursts with aroma and flavor. It is a bouquet of flowers, chocolate, bay leaves, cocoa powder, black cherries, aniseed, and a hint of eucalyptus. The aroma is splendid. It has a seamless texture, well-matched flavors, acceptable acidity, and excellent length. This wine promises to offer an abundance over the next 15 years and probably longer. | 97

2019 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier The year was marked by drought. However, bore-fed drippers came to the rescue before adequate rain fell in January and February. Yields were lower than usual, about a 20% decrease. This wine, with 6% Viognier, spent a year and a half in a barrel, this change in routine as all other wines spent nearer to 12 months in oak.

A magenta hue. The nose is obviously very young but redolent of chocolate, tobacco leaves, cassis, mocha, and coffee beans. There is real elegance here—another superb example of how good these wines are. Great length, balance, and the silkiest of tannins. This is the first of the wines where any oak influence is at all apparent, but it is still early days, and one would assume that integration will soon be complete. Elegance and intensity. This has a good 20 years in it. | 96

Tasted separately (recently)

2022 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier A cool season and a longer-than-usual ripening period. Between 20% and 35% whole-bunch, co-fermented with 5% Viognier. Wild yeasts and a two- to three-week maceration before pressing into French oak, one third new.

It is evident that the cooler years show more pepper and spice. That would suggest that this was a very cool year indeed. A nose like an Arabian spice bazaar. Everything from white pepper to cinnamon; nutmeg, cloves, dry herbs, and more. Leather and tobacco leaves. This is fresh, with good acidity and serious length, though it is perhaps leaner than some. The tannins are extremely fine and yet ever so slightly grainy. Intensity is maintained throughout. Ten to 15 years of pleasure ahead here. At the moment, it definitely benefits from decanting or, at the very least, time in the glass, and it is even better the following day. | 96

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