According to this benchmark New York Times article, our music tastes are set in our teens. For men, it means your favourite song is likely to have been released when you were 13-16 years old, while for women, it’s 11-14 years old. So we basically fall in love with a song when we’re just becoming an adult.
There’s a nice dovetail there from music into wine.
When I first started ‘getting into’ wine – aka my vinous adolescence – I was a dumb, VB-loving 19-year-old with long hair and an appetite for Riesling & Cabernet Sauvignon. Specifically, Clare Valley Riesling, Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon & Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, with early to mid-90s Leasingham Classic Clare & Wynns John Riddoch my original wine idols.
While I’m older, marginally less stupid, now have no hair and a love of IPA instead, I can still appreciate those glory day styles. Especially a well-structured, truly classic Clare Valley Cabernet (though let’s not talk about the recent Leasingham CC releases, which are burnt out husks of their former selves).
With this Pikes The Hill Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, I can see the same elements that drew me in a Clare direction twenty years ago.
Importantly, there is an inherent balance here that makes the wines irrepressibly attractive (to me at least). It’s a naturalness, a rightness that you can see in all great wines – where the right variety is planted in the right spot, whether it’s Nebbiolo in the sands of Cannubi; Pinot Noir in the clay and limestone of Richebourg, or Riesling in the hard rocks of Stonegarten. As Radiohead sang in one of my favourite songs of all time (incidentally released when I was 19, there goes that theory), wines with ‘everything in its right place’.
That balance ultimately means mediumness. Sure, the oak is rich, the fruit is rich, the tannins are firm. But it’s all done in the right proportions. There’s that sumptuous, mint choc, oak and fruit mid-palate thing that mod Clare Cabernet is known for, and the flavour keeps coming at you long after the satisfying mid-palate is gone. It’s ripe but not warm. Tannic but not dried out. Sure, at this stage, The Hill Block is a bit too eager, too plump, too much. But the lines – the classicness – are all there.
The modern benchmark for Clare Valley Cabernet is still Wendouree (the Cab Malbec is the best Wendoureee wine. FYI. Don’t @ me Shiraz fans) and while this is a different beast, it shares that sense of timelessness and richness of texture without excess. It’s not perfect, with another gear of composure needed for transcendence, but it’s still a lovely drink I can absolutely appreciate.
As Radiohead also sang in one of my other favourite songs of all time (released when I was 20!) this style of red is one of those lovers in the river there with me. Clare Valley red wine, bobbing up in all my past and futures…
Best drinking: Now, to as many years as you like. Sweet spot? Maybe in 5-8, but the plateau is long. 18.7/20, 95/100. 14%, $70. Would I buy it? Sure would.