Two from Brown Brothers

Victorians will haves scores of memories about the Brown Brothers cellar door at Milawa. For many, it was a welcome stopover on the way to the snowfields, or Rutherglen, with nearby cheese, olive, and mustard diversions. A cycling trip many years ago introduced me to the delights of blueberries. The cellar door boasted more than fifty wines available to try, with many obscurities. Brown Brothers played a key part in the wine education of thousands.  Their “Kindergarten” winery also provided a licence for winemakers to make microbatches of trial varieties, and experiment with exotic techniques.

The expanding, efficient, friendly cellar-door provided a wealth of real-life consumer and instant focus-group-like research on likes, tastes and experimentation with prices, with rapid feedback. I was cheerfully allowed to taste the more expensive wines – even after I explained these were beyond my budget.

I recall Graciano, Mondeuse in various blends, the Noble Riesling, and names like Koombahla, Banksdale, Whitlands, Everton; sometimes even the grower’s name was highlighted.

Arguably, there was often competence rather than highlights, but it was almost impossible to avoid a few surprising purchases, and some increase in knowledge.

Brown Brothers took their educational role seriously, not just at cellar door, but at events like Expovin and the Exhibition of Victorian Winemakers.

Their wings have spread, and they continue to source grapes widely; the “Patricia” range is their flagship, with the sparkling wine and the Noble Riesling typically standouts (plus the NV sparkling is ridiculous value, and an easy recommendation). I must return!

brown brothers vp's

1986 Brown Brothers late-bottled Vintage Port 18.5%
Cellar-door release, yet another recent auction purchase
Excellent level and cork; This is a mature colour with a fair degree of bricking; mocha, fudge,  and sweet fruits; a lovely mellow wine- no doubt better ten years ago, bit there is still grace here. The sweet brandy spirit is holding the wine together and this is unbelievably easy to consume, with a bonus for the recollections.

Drink now, 90 points.

1991 Brown Brothers Vintage Port 18.5%
Auction again, and “it will continue to develop in flavour and richness when cellared correctly”. But we have here a wine where nothing moves from its slumber – whether it’s had unfortunate cellaring or has merely had better times. There’s remnants of dark berry fruit, acid and tannin, but a wow-factor of zero.

Drink now, and 85 points for being sound and drinkable, but no more.

Stoney Goose Ridge EOFY results 2021

It’s been a year of consolidation for Stoney Goose Ridge. We continue to deliver joy to our growing cohort of enthusiastic consumers, our alcoholised portfolio suite providing a real buzz. For the first time under my inspirational stewardship, we did not achieve at least 20% sales growth – although this benchmark is obviously harder to achieve each year. However, we smashed targets on margin, profit, customer stickiness and all social media measures. Although Forbes does not include us in their top 200, Interbrand and Millward Brown have both recognised the unparalleled trajectory of Stoney Goose Ridge in their brand valuation methodologies. Further, with a venture into Bitcoin, in technical parlance, we made “a motza”.

I don’t blame COVID and the massive tariffs imposed by China for market difficulties. These did not affect Stoney Goose Ridge directly. However, the hopelessly myopic antics of our competitors dumping their bloated wine inventories did not help. Adept in brand trashing and customer loyalty damage, they initiated a price war in a race to the bottom. Stoney Goose Ridge does not participate in this value destruction. Incidentally, we were offered land under vine, bulk and packaged wine stock, plant and equipment, warehousing, bottling lines and much more. Where appropriate, we made very selective purchases at derisory prices. These acquired assets will drive profits for years to come.

The only new product launched this year was our “found” whisky Glen 20. We had sufficient complications sourcing quality material to match the growth of our many other wine, beer and spirit brands to meet the insatiable appetite of our hyperloyal customer base. Mind, we have enormous plans for the coming year with a veritable tsunami in the pipeline. Sourcing, blending, branding, labels, press releases, launch plans, and the supply chain are all prepared, so watch out!

Few companies boast a CEO with a Rhodes Scholarship, Harvard MBA and the youngest-ever full partner at one of the “big 4” management consulting companies, even negotiating bonuses during internship.  As a multi-millionaire during my first year at university through options trading and property development, my record is startling. The numerous academic awards and accolades achieved throughout my education are a sidelight. After a lucrative stint helping dramatically improve the fortunes of many enterprises, and resisting countless headhunters, I took a career break to nurture Stoney Goose Ridge from a modest medium-sized family company into an international powerhouse.

Litigation progress has been slowed by court sluggishness; fortunately, this stalling enabled numerous new actions to be initiated on trademarks, enforcing our detailed contracts, and drafting the necessary background papers and legislation to improve our financial well-being. Stoney Goose Ridge remains an exemplar in the utilisation of low-tax domiciles and our absolute exploitation of COVID business subsidies.

I have participated in fewer seminars this year; Zoom is not the most appropriate medium to display my sublime networking wizardry. Obviously, I could have indulged in essential overseas business travel, but being required to quarantine would have limited my whirlwind brainstorming. COVID thus ensured greater availability for relentless hands-on mentoring of my local top talent; however it complicated my essential wine blending prowess.  Samples needed to be transported to me, meaning reduced efficiency in my mentorship of winery staff on how their efforts can be improved in quality, marketability and profitability – just one of my obsessive critical tasks.

Like most staff, COVID has impacted my home life too; my daughter’s ballet and equestrian dressage interests were restricted; my son’s yachting and marlin fishing challenged; my wife’s charity routines severely curtailed. We did not go to Aspen or the Seychelles this year, having to economise with short glamping breaks in Broome, Noosa, Queenstown and Port Douglas.

Our liquor rivals’ inarticulate PR-led keywords of “pivot”, “premiumisation” and “transitioning” made me vomit. Apart from their public bleatings, these “leaders” are on the back foot trying to keep their ships flying under the radar. Shareholder revolt is overdue to abandon these pedestrian bunglers and tackle their undeserved exorbitant remuneration and unmerited bonuses. Look at their hamfisted two-left-feet performance like lemmings in the headlights, lacking any cogent strategy, urgency or implementation skills. Contrast this situation where even my own anticipated compensation package was somewhat diluted by events.

I remain committed to the ongoing recruitment, development, pastoral care and ESG responsibilities for Stoney Goose Ridge staff, consultants, contractors, interns, and counterparts within our subsidiaries and related entities. In my Board roles at various business representative groups, I have been uniquely forceful in facilitating strategic amelioration stakeholder collaborative frameworks, driving B2B blockchain and streamlining transnational market regulation rationalisation.

The corporate jet has been used less; its pilots and my drivers had to share in less glamorous essential business tasks. Many staff were required to work from home; thankfully our collaborative software and sophisticated realtime online tracking ensured rigorous compliance to KPI responsibilities. Nevertheless, the bonus pool was diluted by circumstances, and only superhuman efforts such as my own can be rewarded. This will be explained forcefully in looming performance appraisals for staff that survived the periodic position culls. Challenging new targets will be confirmed, with maximum exertions necessary.

Your esteemed leader through adversity and paradigm upheavals, Hector Lannible

One local and one Portuguese fortified

2010 Baileys VP 140 (vintage fortified) 19%
Another corporate insult: this “140” range was meant to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the founding of Baileys of Glenrowan. Yet the wine is apparently sourced from the Riverland and Barossa- a long way from Glenrowan! Some web sleuthing reveals- Touriga, Tinta Barocca, Tinta Cao and Shiraz, fortified with “specially selected spirit” but despite this strange regional and varietal mix, it deservingly carted off trophies at the Rutherglen wine show two years in a row, a fantastic achievement.

2010-baileys-vp

Screwcap, and opened at a whim after paying a meagre $20 at auction a few months ago.

It’s a deep ruby colour, and flaunts youthful perfumed sour red cherry, blueberry, blackberry and a cascade of spices with lavender as an aside. Savoury, it’s immaculately, exquisitely balanced, the spirit entirely supporting the fruit. It’s soft enough to approach now (just) but has the architecture to ensure a long and enjoyable life.

This is a terrific wine, but nothing like the ferruginous, concentrated (Shiraz) Baileys VPs of the past, and a travesty to the memory of wines, particularly those made by Harry Tinson…. but such is life.

Drink to 2035, and 94 points.

2001 Fonseca Quinta do Panascal Vintage Port 20%

2001 panescal

Unusually, this is a “single quinta” wine. Portuguese Vintage port may be declared by the producer, and samples are vetted before official approval. This can lead to situations where a vintage is “generally” declared, with some outliers, or where a handful of producers declare and the majority resist. The typical pattern is three declarations per decade, but this has had a shake recently; the successive vintages 2016 and 2017 were generally declared by houses; and Quinta do Noval marches merrily along seemingly declaring every year.

When a vintage is “not quite deserving”, the quintas (made in the same way as a VP) can be released at a much more affordable price; these “single quintas are generally not as rich, striking or age-worthy, but their pleasure can be abundant.

Some single quintas available in Australia include Graham’s Malvedos, Quinta do Noval’s Silval, and Taylors’ Vargellas. These can be terrific, and well worth the hunt.

Panascal forms a large part of the blend when Fonseca declares a vintage.

My extraction techniques failed and the cork broke into many pieces that were easily removed with a filter- this also removed the sediment; it’s a medium density dark ruby, with red plum, dark red cherry, putty, and blueberry aromas, plus unexpected pepper. It’s relatively dry, youthful, and approachable, with more blackcurrant mocha and cocoa on the palate. A pleasure.

Ready, but will easily drink to 2030, 91 points.

Two inexpensive mature wines

richter s&k

2006 MF Richter Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett AP #35 9.5%
Mosel, and this bottle was found in a mini-stocktake. Few Kabinetts should be kept this long, so I was nervous. Cork was fine, and the colour was developed but not alarming.

Deep gold, but bright. Apple pie, sultana and raisin, citrus peel, sweet spices and mango. It’s full-on for a Kabinett, with 83 g/l residual sugar. On the palate, the mixed sweet spices are prominent, with redcurrant fruits, honeyed peach, mineral and citrus. The wine is surprisingly fresh, with excellent depth of flavour. Fully mature, it’s honest and a welcome surprise. My previous impression was posted on 15 July 2020 – and a relatively consistent note.

Drink up (it may have been better in the past) and 90 points.

1990 Stanton and Killeen Jack’s block (vintage) Port 18.5%
Rutherglen, Victoria 100% Shiraz. A recent – bargain – $33 auction purchase; rated 9.5/10 by the producer, it has assorted trophies and gold medals while the back label modestly proclaims, “optimum drinking around the year 2010”. A note on its sibling – the 1990  Moodemere –  was posted on 19 November 2018 with a similar note; this wine is slightly better!

Cork broke. The colour is developed ruby with bricking on the meniscus, mocha, camphor, floral, blackberry and sweet well-integrated spirit. Dark and dense, blackberry and red liquorice, mixed nuts, lavender, fine chalky tannins and light coffee. Lots of different aromas and intermittent flavours = complexity, and explain the score, I have many bottles from this producer, but can’t resist purchase when reasonable opportunities arise. Mature, but still vibrant and utterly delicious.

Drink to 2030, 94 points

Two older Australian Barossa fortifieds

1976 Penfolds Vintage Port

Bottle #5637 (Barossa Shiraz).  I’ve never seen or tasted this wine before- the Penfolds “rewards of Patience” book only mentions the tawny styles. Sweet but supple; red liquorice, aniseed, salted almonds, clean spirit, and this was easily consumed. Traditional, and enjoyable.

Drink to 2026, 91 points.

1987 Seppelt Vintage Fortified (Touriga) 20%
Barossa Valley, GR 124 “fortified with grape spirit” with lots of bling up to 2002 – and released around that time, based on back label comments. It was a recent auction purchase for $25.

I didn’t realise much Touriga was available in Australia then, destined for vintage fortifieds; although Lindemans released some Portuguese-varietal fortifieds around the late 1970s. Probably winemakers aspired to the drier and more “classical” in style, necessitating a move away from reliance solely on Shiraz.

Now (as in Portugal) there are also some dry red table wines made from Touriga, or blended with other varieties.

I was conflicted between “too old” vs “mellow for age”. It’s a light ruby colour. Roses, and rose-hip, red liquorice with a touch of mocha, even some earl grey. I’ve settled on “OK, but better previously”. Sweet fruit, immaculate sprit and there is still tannin. But as a pointer to the drier style, this would have thrilled ten years ago.

Drink now, 90 points.

A freak Alsace and a Rieslingfreak

2001 Zind Humbrecht Clos Jebsal Pinot Gris SGN 12%

2001 zh pg sgn 2021

From Alsace (France), a rare botrytised Selection de Grains Nobles (SGN) purchased at auction in late 2014 For $115. Previously reviewed on 29 June 2016, back then I gave it 97 points.

The cork was in excellent condition; the bright amber/copper colour of the wine caused some looks at the table, but all was forgiven – and more- when people smelled, and then tasted.

Baked apple, stonefruit – ripe peach and rich dark honey with some candied peel and dried fruits; palate (168 g/l) is lush yellow peach, pear, orange marmalade and spice notes. Outstanding. The sweetness level is high, but immaculately folded into balance. Gloriously enduring and hauntingly fresh tasting – irresistible. Magic again.

97 points, drink to 2028, but why wait? – this is a wine worth seeking too!

2017 Rieslingfreak #8 (Schatzkammer) 7%

2017 rieslingfreak #8

Medium-sweet at 50g/l, this is from the Polish Hill River sub-region of the Clare Valley.

2017 was a highly successful vintage for the area – and is well represented in my cellar. Winemaker John Hughes makes only Riesling- a numbered array showcasing various areas, styles, sweetness levels, including a fortified and a sparkling. Rieslingfreak (reverence of riesling)is a fantastic brand name!

Lemon zest with a dash of lime; apples dusted with icing sugar and lemon sherbet, with a dash of sweet spices; the palate follows through representing those aromas, and some light honey; pebbly acidity means the wine is lip-smackingly joyful and balances the level of sweetness. An excellent example of the style (roughly a Kabinett-weight)

I’m inclined to drink it in the next few years while it thrums with vibrancy.

Drink to 2025, 90 points

Two from Australia

1975 Yalumba Vintage Port 18%


Plenty of colour here- quink ink; then comes dark fruits, violet, mocha, almond notes and clean spirit. The palate is deep and voluptuous, relatively dry with an array of mixed fruit; blueberry, fresh plum, red cherry, spice notes and light coffee.  Fine chalky tannins, and a persistent aftertaste filled out the picture – delicious! This wine presented a conundrum – the colour was un-Portuguese, as was the mocha and faint liquorice- yet the complexity of flavour components and dryness pulled me in that direction. My first guess on its age was 1985, but I revised this to 1994 based on fruit vibrancy, Wrong on all counts, but this is a triumph for Barossa Shiraz from Australia. Two bottles were opened, the second was very slightly better, and fresher than the bottle I described!

Drink now, and 94 points.

NV Wynns Pedro Ximenez 17%
Coonawarra, South Australia. Bottle # 9053

Fortified, and light gold in colour, with exotic floral scents of spices and Cointreau, with vanilla and marzipan. The palate is sweet with the cardamon, dried green herbs and raisin notes powering through. Very smooth with vibrant clean spirit – unctuous and just a little cloying, but altogether satisfying with its honeyed richness.  The raisin and light malt notes pointed me to the variety, despite this being different to the air-dried Spanish PX. Perhaps I learned something from the Bullers PX tasted in 2019!

It’s a blend across vintages, with an average age of five years – one surprise to see a young fresh example, and another to find the wine is available (albeit with some hunting) for around $60 for the 500ml bottle.

Drink now, 90 points

A few different ports

1994 Gehrig Family Estate Vintage Port 17.5%
Barnawatha, on the outskirts of Rutherglen (Victoria). A recent very smart $25 auction buy. Although the cork failed to survive the corkscrew and ah-so, all was OK after the usual filtration. From “low-yielding old Shiraz vines”, it’s still a deep ruby colour with blackberry, bramble and sweet brandy vanilla. The palate is mellow and cuddly. There is fruity plum, blackberry and fig to satisfy the most fastidious with enough weight and tannin to maintain interest throughout.  Absolutely at its peak with cork gods indulgence. Terrific, and insanely delicious from a less-well-known producer.

1994 gehrig vp

Drink to 2026, and 91 points

1985 Warres Vintage Port 20%
Three different corkscrews failed to remove the cork cleanly, and plentiful sediment was successfully filtered out.

Ruby with some bricking, but the colour was still  flattering for a 36 year old Portuguese Vintage Port.. The wine is very stylish with fragrant mocha, fig, ripe red and black fruits and smart integrated mellow spirit. The palate adds almond notes, spices and the fresh as well as dried fruit flavours persist.

Drinking dramatically well now – and up to say 2030, and 95 points

1991 Seppeltsfield Para (21 year old) 21%
A single vintage tawny style, purchased last year at auction for $70. Around 40 y/o seems to be my preference in tawny styles; older wines can show extremes, meaning they are impressive but not entirely pleasurable; younger wines don’t achieve all the complexities the style is capable of. But 21 years is enough!

Seppelts (and Seppeltsfield) have unparalleled experience in this style with Para appearing in many guises. Mainly made from Grenache, there is the typical Seppelt khaki colour with a green tint. Beautifully assembled; there are all sorts of nut – almond and brazil with whispers of olive.  Toffee, caramel, mocha, hints of malt, salinity; clean spirit integrated and the end result in is a lush triumph. Rich with depth and acidy preventing any cloying. From a terrific red year in the Barossa

Drink now, and 93 points.

One sweet, one fortified

2011 Donnafugata Passita di Pantelleria Ben Ryé 14.5%
Half-bottle. From Sicily, Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria) air-dried, ending up with 203 g/l of residual sugar. On this island off Siciy, old bush vines are protected from the prevailing winds by terraces. The drying process means the grape-juice loss of perhaps 30%, with lots of manual handing (selecting, and de-stemming) with a flow-on to pricing. This is a super-refreshing dessert wine – no botrytis, no fortification, so there are – merely – the usual sweet wine production hazards of VA, lengthy fermentation and reduced yield. The air drying on mats or racks can add its own special dangers with humidity, insects and wildlife.  Further information from the producer is here. The wine will be hard to find in Australia, but one retailer sells a half-bottle for $80 (vintage not known).

This is a wine with distinctive character – narrow to some but mesmerising.

The colour was deep gold; scents came through with peppermint, vermouth-like herb and spices, and an overwhelming sense of apricots and other stonefruit, peaches, nectarine – a halfway house between over-ripe and tinned fruit. It’s a full-bodied wine of power and intensity. The exotically fragrant Muscat of Alexandria grape is expressed – winemaking here has been expert at preserving fruit vigour over artefact.

Drink to 2025, but it’s ready and will awaken jaded palates, so 93 points

NV Orlando Commemoration (tawny) Port
Another speculative auction purchase for just over $30, again from Barossa Shiraz, Carignan and Mataro, matured in small French oak with an average age of 15 years. So this “old liqueur port” is somewhat more than a generic commercial release, and probably hit the market in 1981 or 1982. Made in a deliberately oxidative style, any improvement in the bottle is marginal, and runs the usual risks of improper storage, cork failure, and potential loss of freshness. Decanting not only avoids sediment, but can alleviate initial aromatic oddities.

The contents have rested in a bottle for 40 years, and the cork broke when I tried to remove it. The art of blending this style is trying to ensure the blend is better than its components, getting depth and flavour complexity from older material, gaining the vibrancy from more youthful material.

I admire the squat bottle, black wax remnants and the charmingly retro label.

The colour is a amber, khaki and a lighter amber-tinted rim. Fresh and strong. The palate is a rich, smooth amalgam of mocha and light caramel, with vanilla present but not obtrusive, dried and stewed fruits, citrus peel., mixed spices- an assembly of passion. Everything sits smoothly,   

Drink now, 90 points

1976 Orlando Vintage Port 18.3%

This was a very recent speculative $20 auction purchase; a “limited special release”, Barossa Shiraz and Carignan, American oak, brandy spirit.

“Ideal for enjoyment now…potential for further cellaring”.
So, an each-way bet, although 45 years cellaring was likely beyond the writer’s imagination. Simpler times then, well before my interest in wine turned to an obsession, with fortified wines a mystery then – still partially mysterious.

The level was low neck., and the cork was stained but intact. There was abundant fine sediment. The high-cropping and well-coloured Carignan turns out to be more widespread in the Barossa than I thought, but its regarded as a second-rate variety confined to blends.

Blood-plum colour with some bricking, the fruit still remains with headsy brandy spirit, and just a gentle touch of mocha.  The palate is relatively soft but with a pleasant lick of tannin to finish. Plum and blackberry dominate, with a suggestion of blueberry, but nothing burnt or over-ripe. Sweet, old-fashioned, straightforward, invigorating, and ideal for a winter’s night of contemplation over the embers of the fire.

Drink now, and 88 points