Kirrihill Clare Valley Nebbiolo 2012 (Clare Valley, SA)
12%, Screwcap, $28
What a curious little wine this is.
‘A quiet type’ according to the releases notes, with ‘elegance and restraint’, this is surprisingly juicy initially, yet also herbal, carrying dry, unripe and stark tannins. Driven by fresh acidity and built in a light-medium style, the overarching impression here is of something rather underdone and lacking in fruit generosity and power – it just falls away.
What’s curious is the figures behind it.
The most notable point is the alcohol percentage – 12%. That’s a Riesling number, not full-bodied Nebbiolo. Even the more elegant styles of mid-weight Langhe Neb never under 13% alcohol…
The question then is – how did this wine end up with such disparate numbers? The simplest answer may lie in the site, which is apparently rather cool and elevated, perhaps suggesting fruit that was never properly sugar-ripe in the first place, picked because it had to be.
Such a situation is backed up by the herbal edge and raw tannins, suggestive of the oft-repeated challenge with ripening Nebbiolo. The elevated pH could be linked with yield issues (too high) or too much vigour/canopy problems (leading to shaded fruit).
Conversely, this could have been put through an RO machine to remove excess alcohol (which would explain the pH and TA), though again the herbal edge works against that.
Finally, it could just be an unusual wine numbers-wise. Nebbiolo is a relatively unknown beast in Australia, and the source for this would probably be a young vineyard (likely 15 years old at the very maximum) with younger vineyards known for occasionally throwing up unusual results.
Ultimately I’m just being presumptuous here, looking at numbers alone – which mean nothing when the wine ‘works’. But this doesn’t it – this tastes just as odd as the numbers suggest..
Score: 14.5/20, 83/100
Would I buy it? No.
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