20 February 2024

PODCAST: Now You Know Tim Kirk, Clonakilla Wines

| Lucy Ridge
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Tim smells a glass of red wine. A black and white banner reading 'Now You Know' is overlaid on the photo.

Now You Know Tim Kirk from Clonakilla Wines. Photo: David Reist.

When it comes to wine tasting, Clonakilla Wine’s Tim Kirk isn’t afraid to keep things simple: “Is it yummy or yucky, or something in between?!”

It’s just one gem from a conversation that ranges from his childhood in Aranda with five brothers to a career making wine that is now drunk in some of the best restaurants in the world.

In this episode of Region’s podcast Now You Know, hosts Janette Wojtaszak and Phillip Jones drill down into the story of one of Canberra’s most respected winemakers.

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Tim’s family came to Canberra when he was 18 months old after his father, Dr John Kirk, was headhunted for a position at the newly formed CSIRO in the 60s. Tim’s mother also has a degree in biochemistry, and he describes them as a very clever and intellectually active family.

“To counter all that intellectual firepower, I was more the touchy-feely emotional artistic strain,” Tim told Janette and Phillip.

Clonakilla Wines was founded by his father, who had a lifelong fascination with wine thanks to his hotelier parents in Ireland.

“He had to learn about Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne … At the age of 14, he was reading about wine in order to have conversations with salesmen. It just captured his imagination!”

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After learning about wine and winemaking regions in France, Dr John Kirk saw that Canberra had the potential to be a perfect cool climate wine-producing region. He planted vines in 1971 as one of the first commercial winemakers in that region.

Tim and his brothers often helped (or perhaps hindered) his Dad in the vineyard, and growing up with a winemaker in the house was a constant reminder that wine was something to be respected and it’s worth taking an interest in whatever is in your glass.

Clonakilla Wines has become well respected for its Shiraz Viognier blend, which has ancient roots in the Rhône Valley. After tasting some examples of this wine in France, Tim and his brother convinced their Dad to try something new.

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Despite his success in winemaking, Tim has no formal wine education and is actually trained as a theologian. He opens up about how his ongoing faith informs his winemaking and how he approaches wine. Winemakers traditionally view wine as a pure expression of the landscape.

“It’s about working with the sun, and the landscape and the seasons and expressing that in liquid form,” he said.

“The role of the winemaker is to simply give the landscape a voice.”

Tim takes that to the next level, philosophically, to capture the “goodness and beauty of the world” in his wine, which he carries as an important part of his work ethic.

Now You Know appears fortnightly on Region and wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple and Spotify. Have a listen, tell us what you think and rate us.

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