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Determined reds from Reilly's


Whitey seems deeply moved by this royal trio from a tiny Clare producer.

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Reilly’s Dry Land Clare Valley Sangiovese 2013
($29; 14.5%; screw cap)

Dry and dusty as a hot summer’s day, with old horse tack swinging in the breeze … here’s a Sangio set to make Chianti jealous in the way it’s unswervingly focused and determined to be Clare. Or Watervale, to be more precise.

The palate follows that aromatic line straight and true. It’s lean and puckery and pointed straight at that bistro/brasserie table with the big glasses. It makes me hungry as much as talkative. Don’t talk with your mouth full, Philip.

Any sort of rustic antipasto or tapas will swing with this fine, austere, deliciously appetising intensity. Ping!

Reilly’s Dry Land Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
($38; 14.4% alcohol; screw cap)

Similar in its lean visage and thousand-yard stare, this is classic Clare Cabernet wearing a stylish French oak couture.

Something about that region – I suspect it’s the very low humidity during ripening – grows fruit with less of the fleshy primary berry character you find in, say, typical McLaren Vale. At its very best, Clare seems to produce more savoury olivine flavour: it’s more like pickled kalamata juice than blackberry or raspberry.

Here’s your example. It grew in the eucalypt country at Leasingham. Oh sure, there are sweet red fruits glowering in here, and the musky confectioner’s sugar, violets and faint lavender like other grand Cabernets waft about. But it’s lean and athletic, and while it’s taking its time to start, it’ll soon swing into that long-distance rhythm and run an easy decade.

Right now, it’s another guaranteed appetiser: bring on the dribbling pink cutlets! Spinach with pine nuts. Potato and pumpkin mash with raw diced Spanish onion stirred in with the butter. Parsnips with properly caramelised tails.

Or, dammit, a towering chevalburger with frittes.

Reilly’s RCV Clare Valley Shiraz Pressings 2012
($65; 17% alcohol; screw cap)

Brrrr. Dry-grown 91-year-old Shiraz from the Stolen Block at Watervale. 100% pressings. 23 months in new French oak. Seventeen alcohols!

It doesn’t smell like 17 alcohols. It sure smells strong and aloof in its authority, but all that many?

Nevertheless, honesty is unavoidable with a big mutha like this. You might well ingest it innocently and eagerly, but it won’t take you long to realise what just went in there.

With all that posh livery on the blacksmithed essence of old Clare, we get this sweet royalty: in some ways a solid ingot of calmly reserved power, in others a felicitously-dressed scoundrel spilling ethanol all down its shirt.

It does have some pretty minty edges in its intro, and then the spirit of great French trees that would have built a brutal navy moves into the field of sensory vision and you know you might just as well take your bottle to the hold, lie down on the sacks, and wait till the cannons go quiet. Suck your thumb.

Ensure you keep half the bottle for the captain. It’ll help you avoid the deserter’s lashing.

Otherwise, have it with slow-roast side of walrus. Or seriously, spooned stilton like Max used to have when the Granges got big.


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