Decanter Wine Legend: Clonakilla, Shiraz-Viognier 2001

A legend because…
The style of Shiraz that blends, and usually co-ferments with Viognier is an established, if not historically accurate, tribute to Syrah from Côte-Rôtie. Not everyone admires the style, but most would agree that no Australian winery makes a better version than Clonakilla. Most vintages through the 1990s received high critical acclaim, from show judges and wine guides, and the 2001 came to be regarded as one of Clonakilla’s most outstanding.
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Looking back
The Kirk family arrived in Australia from Ireland in 1968, and three years later the biochemist John Kirk planted a vineyard in Murrumbateman, 40km north of Canberra. The property took its name from the family farm in Ireland’s County Clare. The first commercial wines (and the first for any in this region) were made in 1976. Viognier was first planted in 1986, when it was still seen as a rare, exotic variety. Throughout the 1980s Clonakilla Shiraz was blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, but after visiting the Rhône in 1991, Tim Kirk resolved to model the wine on Guigal’s single-vineyard blends he’d tasted from barrel. The first Clonakilla Shiraz-Viognier was made in 1992.

The vintage
2001 was a warm year that gave a good growing season without disease pressure, and harvest for this wine took place from 31 March to 10 April. Although the crop was large, the wines show rich flavours and good concentration.

The terroir
The soil at Murrumbateman is sandy clay-loam, over a layer of friable red clay, which sits on a subsoil of decomposed dacite. By Australian standards the climate here is cool, as the vineyards lie at 600m. The Kirk family gradually increased the area under vine, planting more Shiraz and Viognier between 1993 and 2007, until it reached today’s 13.5ha. The cool climate brings out the spicy red fruit and floral character of Shiraz, though the profile inevitably varies according to vintage conditions.

The wine
In 2001 a third of the Shiraz went into the fermenters as whole bunches. Lightly crushed Viognier grapes were added and then covered with destemmed Shiraz. The gradual release of juice as the bunches broke down through the course of the fermentation prolonged the process and moderated the rising temperatures. There were three punchdowns daily. After a short post-fermentation soak, the wine was run into fine-grained French oak barrels, of which one-third were new, for 12 months. Kirk is aware that an excess of Viognier can impart a blowsy apricot sheen to the blend, which he is keen to avoid, and he also steers clear of a pronounced oaky character to the wine.

The reaction
In the 2002 Penguin Good Australian Wine Guide, Huon Hooke and Ralph Kyte-Powell named the wine Best Red and Wine of the Year: ‘This could be the best yet in a very distinguished line. Tremendously intense and alive, with great elegance and power.’

In the same year Max Allen in Decanter declared it a ‘new benchmark for cooler-climate Australian Shiraz, and a serious rival for the classiest Côte-Rôtie.’

In 2009 on jancisrobinson.com, Julia Harding wrote: ‘Apricots on the palate as well as on the nose. fione and tight and superbly structured. Scented, floral, peppery aftertaste with beautiful finesse and length.’

In 2014 Lisa Perroti-Brown of The Wine Advocate wrote: ‘Lovely creme de cassis, prune and pot pourri notes allied to hints of dried Provence herbs, tobacco and game. Crisp and structured by medium-level, chewy tannins…a stemmy character to the fleshy palate and finishes long, earthy and savoury.”

Written by: Stephen Brook

The facts:
Bottles produced: 10,700
Composition: 93% Shiraz, 7% Viognier
Yield: 50hl/ha
Alcohol: 14.1%

2016 Shiraz Viognier – Halliday’s Top 100

We’re thrilled that for the second year in a row the Shiraz Viognier made James Halliday’s Top 100 list.
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“The perfumed, spicy bouquet with red flowers and fruits doesn’t prepare you for the intensity and piercing length of its beautifully balanced, medium-bodied palate. This is a truly glorious wine that draws you back again and again to explore the wealth of red fruit flavours and the majesty of its texture and structure.”

2016 O’Riada Shiraz released

We are pleased to announce the release of the 2016 O’Riada Shiraz.

The O’Riada is made from fruit picked from our estate vineyard and other excellent sites in Murrumbateman and Hall. It’s a quintessential Canberra Shiraz. Ripe red berries and plenty of spice.

“The definition here is impressive, smooth and ebulliently ripe red berry and plum fruits with pastry-like nuances and gently spicy waves. Rich. Effortless appeal and flows smoothly along on ripe, detailed tannins. Great balance. Drink now to 2028” – Nick Stock

We’re thrilled that for the second year in a row the Shiraz Viognier made James Halliday’s 2017 Top 100 list.

“The perfumed, spicy bouquet with red flowers and fruits doesn’t prepare you for the intensity and piercing length of its beautifully balanced, medium-bodied palate. This is a truly glorious wine that draws you back again and again to explore the wealth of red fruit flavours and the majesty of its texture and structure.”

Just in time for summer the 2017 Viognier Nouveau is now out.

“…It’s elegant, slippery, touched by spice, just-ripe, refreshing. Light, almost stony…” – Campbell Mattinson

2016 Shiraz Viognier released

The 2016 vintage was generous and early. Late summer temperatures were consistently warmer than average and a larger than average crop proved to be a double blessing, slowing the ripening, which would have otherwise raced ahead, and filling the fermenters in our newly expanded winery with some of the most opulent, spice laden, dark berry fruit we have seen. A powerful vintage with great cellaring potential.

From deep within the vineyards at Clonakilla Tim speaks about the soil structure and its impact on the wine.

Rare & Small Batch Release

This is a great day on the Clonakilla calendar. We get to release our edgier rare and small batch wines to you, our devoted Clonakilla family.

2015 and 2016 were both cracking vintages so we had no excuses to produce anything below par.

I’m confident you are going to very happy with these wines. My only regret is that we have no Tumbarumba Chardonnay to offer you this year due to a severe frost that wiped out the fruit from our grower Steve Morrison at Revee Estate. (The 2017, now finishing it’s ferment in barrel, looks terrific)

2016 Viognier
Classically rich from a warmer year, it retains its signature balance of opulence and restraint.

2016 Pinot Noir
Just delicious with abundant red berry fruit and a wild, savoury edge.

2016 Ceoltoiri
Not too heavy, not too light, just eminently drinkable. Something new and exciting has been discovered in Murrumbateman.

2015 Ballinderry
A blend of the Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Two years in oak. A powerful wine and a great example of the style.

2015 Syrah
This wine: ‘very aromatic …elegant, poised & stately.. abundant fine tannins… lovely balance. 98 points’ – Huon Hooke
Just buy it…

Warm regards,

Tim Kirk