Penfolds Grandfather (Rare Tawny Port) 20%

This a wine that is meant to be a gift – there is an elaborate, impressive box, a striking, weighty bottle and a hefty price in Australia – around $80-$90. And its not a gift to decline, even though I purchased it from curiosity. It’s sealed with a very ordinary cork, but there is a glass stopper included in the package.

penfolds grandfather 1penfolds grandfather 2

The wine claims a minimum average age of 20 years, and its home is the Barossa Valley of South Australia (although doubtless blended from many parcels from different areas and grape varieties). One of the curious crafts of this style is to ensure the blend is not merely old, but also maintains vitality and freshness. The description “rare” reflects not merely the age, but the quality level. It’s an expensive exercise to hold wine for so long in barrel, with winemakers having to be somewhat circumspect to their book-keeping regime. Old fortified wines are a luxury, low-volume line that -whether in small companies (or even large concerns like Penfolds)- include a nod to winemaker whimsy and tradition.

The colour of the wine is a bright amber/khaki, and there are graceful spice notes, honey, vanilla, caramel and crackling autumn log-fire notes. The fortifying spirit has been sensitively selected and has melded extremely well. The palate is effortlessly balanced with some dried fruit raisins, caramel and vanilla again, plus figs and clean citrus-led acidity to tidy matters along. The persistence of flavours is extensive, and of course the combination ensures resistance to further tasting indulgence is futile.

Overall, this a a super Australian example of this style.

Once opened, this wine is ready to drink – over several weeks, and deserves 95 points.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

2007 Emrich-Schonleber Monziger Fruhlingplatzchen Riesling Auslese #17 9%

Another enjoyable wine from the upper Nahe in Germany.  From Stephen Reinhardt‘s terrific reference book  “The finest wines of Germany”  comes the tribute that the family has “maintained parcels in the steepest sites…and restored a number of top parcels that had been abandoned for decades…since they were suitable neither for mechanisation nor for high yields”, ending with Werner Schonleber’s claim that “quality comes from torture”.

Fruhlingplazchen translates as “Spring’s little place” and is mainly blue slate.

2007 emrich

This wine is a deep gold colour, exhibiting ripe apricot, yellow peach skin, and quince aromas. The palate is unctuous and honeyed, with a touch of tropical pineapple, plus cinnamon spiciness. There is a strong line of mineral and a delicious persistence.  Notes from the importer reveal the wine has 113 g/l of residual sugar, in balance with its acidity. Altogether lovely.

From the half-bottle, drink to 2023 and 94 points.

2005 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese #6, 7.5%

This wine is still a clear and bright pale straw colour, with voluminous aromas of petroleum, kiwi-fruit, green melon, lime, some waxiness, and a touch of camphor too.

2005 fritz haag bjs auslese

The palate is poised and effortless, concentrated , with more lemon and light tropical flavours added to the mix. Its the kind of wine that puts me on high alert as it slides along and teases the senses, freshness and balance a key attribute.

Fritz Haag is one of the top Mosel estates, and this wine was a lovely example of Riesling with some bottle maturity, and naturally capable of much further aging. My suspicion is that the residual sugar level is around 80 g/l.

Drink to 2028 and 93 points.

 

Galway Pipe Grand Tawny 17.8%

I previously assumed  this was a Yalumba wine, but the back label claims the wine was made by Beresford. Anyway, this port-style wine is readily available in Australia for between $30 and $35.

galway pipe

It’s a healthy garnet, bricky colour, and the aromas are full of dried apricot, raisin, roast hazelnut and almond, vanilla bean and mocha. That’s action aplenty!

It claims an average of 12 years age, and this is a complex wine with well-matched brandy spirit, providing rich fruitcake, nuts, rancio and vanilla flavours that unfurl with each sip. The wine is artfully constructed, balancing sweetness, richness and freshness.

In a perfect world I would prefer less of the overt vanillan characters, but the wine is a winning, late-evening drink that will generate enormous enthusiasm at a bargain price.

Drink now, and 93 points.

2005 Donnhoff Schlossbockenheimer Felsenberg Riesling Spatlese 8.5%

From the small Nahe region (close to Mosel), this is a good age to tackle a quality German spatlese Riesling.

2005 donnhoff spatlese

The wine’s colour is a light gold, and importantly the wine is still very fresh, showing some honeyed development, but the interplay of sugar and acidity ensures  there is plenty left in reserve. It’s a proper, typical, German sweet Riesling, with power and grace packed into its modest alcohol level.

There are some sweet ginger spice notes, candlewax and leaf, with breathing helpfully bringing out more aromatic lime and honeysuckle. The palate is viscous, but with some oiliness too, flavours closely mirroring the aromatics.

The wine is unforced, has delightful persistence  and is highly drinkable, with just some faint, but attractive bitterness adding to its charm.

Admittedly, 2005 produced many terrific wines from Germany, and we are fortunate in Australia that Cellarhand imports a wide range of Donnhoff’s wines.

Drink to 2027, and 92 points.

 

Facts behind iconic Australian wine labels

Professor Albert Pedant (MA Hons- Lagos, PhD – Port-au-Prince) – from the online university of Woolloomooloo,  has diligently researched the history of numerous Australian wine brands and labels. “There are extensive gaps in the records; family and staff have often put a spin on history; but meticulous searches through dusty filing cabinets, microfiche, oral histories and numerous interviews  have shown much of the branding is a mixture of spin, myth, mischief and accident; my definitive conclusions are set out below – certain to disturb and dismay the establishment. No black armbands, fake news or alternative facts here!”

Clonakilla
Long-claimed that Clonakilla refers to the name of Dr John Kirk’s Irish grandfather’s dairy farm (translated as the meadow of the church); my scholarship proves the name was inspired by the family’s shared love of ritual and obsessive viewings of World Championship wrestling on their TV. The stunning character of Killer Kowalski, and his trademark manoeuvres – the piledriver and Kowalski claw – stimulated much household study and emulation. There was also an protracted period when winemaker Tim (“Captain”) Kirk channelled the music of another “killer” –  Jerry Lee Lewis – but with guitar rather than piano.

Clonakilla thus epitomises the Kirk clan’s hero worship and Tim’s secret ambition to become a professional wrestler. As chief winemaker, Tim’s career is probably a win for oenology, but a sad loss to the gladiatorial arts.

clonakilla logo

The Clonakilla logo is purportedly taken from the 7th century Irish gospel manuscript the Book of Durrow. But its resemblance to Killer Kowalski’s championship belts is compelling.

It’s no coincidence that the very same wrestler also inspired the label Kilikanoon. Lightning can strike more than once. Certainly, the Killer has left an indelible mark on Australian wine.

Henschke Hill of Grace

henschke hog bottle

The legend insists that the famous Henschke wine Hill of Grace is a translation from the German ‘Gnadenberg’ (a region in Silesia). The truth is more prosaic; although vines were planted on the location in 1860, the site produces an extra-ordinary variety of weeds, thistles and thorns; the biological control agent deliberately introduced – rabbits- did not have the desired outcome. Instead, several different grassy cover crops -both local and imported- were – successfully-  deployed to crowd out the weeds. Thus for many years, the site was known to the family, and neighbours as Hill of Grass”.

This was the intended name for the label, and it was only due to the linguistic misunderstandings, and a degree of hearing impairment of the printer, that Hill of Grace was created. In 1958, When Cyril Henschke saw the newly-printed labels for the first time, he was torn between fury and despair. Owning a cashflow-impaired small business, he could not afford a reprint, and was gracious enough not to hold the printing firm, or the printer- a fellow congregationer -responsible for their error. Thus Hill of Grace was born- now a venerable Australian wine icon.

But the true founder of this Australian label is a long-forgotten, unknown print tradesman of ethnic German descent.

Seppelt (now Seppeltsfield) Para Port
There is no truth that “Para” was derived from the arcana of print and publishing mark-ups.

para labels

The legend attributes this Seppelts (and now Seppeltsfield) brand to the Para river in the Barossa valley; but this is erroneous. The key market for Australian wines – at that time – was England, and the Antipodean approach to branding was to create “critter labels” often featuring emus, kangaroos and other native fauna.

The group tasked with creating the name settled on Parrot Port. Further, the colourful Australian King Parrot was chosen to be depicted on the label. But economics intervened; the quoted cost of multi-coloured printed labels was formidable and weighed decisively against a new market entrant. A plainer label would fail to display the avian magnificence of this ornithological beauty.

Forced to make a hasty decision , the shorter Para was selected. It’s become famous in its variant guises, especially the extra-ordinary 100 year old “port”.

Penfolds Grange Hermitage
The official back-story is that Penfolds’ winemaker Max Schubert travelled to Bordeaux, and after returning to South Australia made the very first – experimental –  “Grange” in 1951. But where did the name come from? This question is far from straightforward.

One proposal – noted in Huon Hooke’s volume “Max Schubert winemaker” – suggested Grange was the name of the Penfold’s cottage inside the Magill vineyard- but alternate explanations surely have greater plausibility than this convenient corporate flim-flam.

penfolds grange

Due to a scarcity of high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Max used the grape variety Shiraz (aka Hermitage). Max would have been well aware of the famous Chapel (la Chapelle) on the Hill of Hermitage. Did Max pay direct homage here? – it’s not a huge leap of description between Chapel and Grange.

Grange is not a wordplay on Garage, and it’s not related to 3rd growth St Julian property Chateau Lagrange. It is highly unlikely that Max was aware of the gentlemens’ establishment outside La Grange Texas (also called the Chicken Ranch), brought to widespread notoriety in 1973 by the band ZZ Top.

Max Schubert typically refers to the wine as “Grange”, but he has unwittingly provided several clues, claiming his aim was to produce a wine “capable of improving year by year for a minimum of twenty years …something different and lasting….controversial and individual.”

One serious suggestion is that Max Schubert was inspired by the Australian composer and performer Percy Grainger– best known for his revival of the tune “(English) country gardens” but also a renowned connoisseur and collector of Europe’s finest wines. Could Max have originally referred to his own opus as “the Grainger”, but ultimately tired of explanations to his less-high-browed colleagues, and gradually it became the “Grainge” and then somehow the spelling was corrupted or simplified? Certainly this heritage is controversial, individual and different.  It is unclear, however, if Max was aware of Percy Grainger’s proclivity for self-flagellation and his other sado-masochistic interests.

Grange is a seaside suburb of Adelaide, where Max spent countless hours on his lesser-known pastimes, fishing from the jetty, and imbibing beer – and smoking-  at its numerous attractive hostelries. Like Marcel Proust’s madeleines,  did this humble municipal district and its numerous attractive recreational memories – perhaps a teenage romance? –  inspire Max to pay tribute, and create the wine Grange?

We have a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; the contenders are numerous, but the true origin of Grange remains a conundrum. Further research is planned, although regrettably the current owners of this brand have so far not co-operated with my endeavours.


As Austrlia’s foremost historian, and while my vinous research is ongoing, (Wendouree and Giaconda are currently under my intense scrutiny), I am honoured to have finally set the record straight on the factual origins of these famous Australian wine brands, and shamed the writers and historians who have uncritically and recklessly promulgated the fantasies behind these labels.

My discoveries will surely impel studies of establishments in Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, Rioja, Alsace, Tuscany and Piedmont – just for starters. Heads will roll – Vive la revolution!

1997 Campbells Vintage Port 18.5%

Rutherglen, 100% Touriga, a terrific year in the district and a very pleasing result.

This a much better bottle than one tried a few months ago. The cork broke, but it was in terrific shape with hardly any travel, and a quick filter did the trick.
1997 campbell's vp
Dark ruby with some amber/bricking on the meniscus, enticing aromas of blueberries, more red berry than dark, some cocoa, spice  and liquorice add to the thrill; the palate is simply lovely, not a sweet one-dimensional style, but (lovely brandy) spirit is integrated, some dense sweet fruit allied with savouriness, fruitcake, nutmeg and intense blue and dark- red fruits. Onto day 3 and there is plenty of life left in this wine, which reveals more with each sip . By no means a blockbuster, the wine has layers of complexity. An excellent result from this grape variety, used in so many of the Portuguese VPs.

Drink to 2030, and 94 points.