An Australian Topaque and a Pedro Ximenez

Lindemans Classic  Tokay (topaque)  solera WH2 18%
Lindeman’s is a well-established Australian wine label, whose wines have lost lustre and market credibility over the years, with short-term accountancy driving the brand backwards. The Hunter River Semillons and Shiraz are almost invisible – and of lesser renown; the Coonawarra wines (St George, Limestone Ridge and Pyrus) still exist as the flagship, and the Leo Buring Rieslings – Leonay excepted – are a shadow of their antecedents.

Lindemans ran a Classic release program; my paper archives record that the Tokay solera WH1 was released in 1996 with an RRP of $64.95 – serious money 20 years ago! From Corowa and Rutherglen, it was based on an old Rutherglen Tokay parcel purchased in the late 1950’s. The WH2 was a later release that picked up 1 trophy and 20 gold medals.

nv lindemans tokay

It’s another historic fortified wine that is a seriously dark khaki colour with amber tints. Varietal malt, smoothness and density attest to serious average age. Malt, honey, espresso mocha and the clean acid grip of barrel-age impresses, but it still displays wonderful sweetness, balance and refreshment. More please!

Drink now, 94 points.

Buller Pedro X 18%
Buller is based in Rutherglen, Victoria and their bird park was a delight for my children that compensated partly for the long road-trip. Occasional sparkling reds, fortifieds and even a botrytis Semillon (from Swan Hill) were greatly enjoyed. The family has moved on, but this wine is still available (full-bottle) on their website for $29.

In Spain, Pedro Ximenez is often air dried before being used to either bolster sweeter sherry styles, or on its own as a powerfully sweet fortified wine packed with raisin and coffee liqueur traits. In Australia, several brave souls have made PX into a -typically undistinguished- dry white wine, but it has more often been blended with palomino to make sherry-styles.

NV buller px

This wine does not possess an attractive label, and the bottle is another regrettably heavy dreadnought. The cork is pristine, and the back label claims the base wines date back to 1976, with brandy spirit used in the fortification.

Surprisingly, this Buller wine is entirely in the style of Topaque; the colour is a lovely khaki; an absolute paradigm of malt, mocha and honey are in play; the palate is rich and sensual, malt, toffee and caramel combine, with a supple, all-too-easy dark and light honeyed palate. This is an exceptionally smooth, luscious (albeit not the oldest) fortified wine that is utterly delicious.

At the price, it’s worth a food match with a range of cheeses, and after-dinner conviviality.

Drink now, 92 points – and extra merit for great value.

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A pair of 2006 Rieslings from Max. Ferd Richter

The Richter winery is based in Mulheim, in the Mosel, and when I visited – and tasted- had an extensive range of back-vintages available for purchase. Richter produce richer wines than typical Mosel producers, and are very well known for their Helenkloster Eiswein, which – unusually- is produced in most years.

The wines below made an educational pair- the technical/analytic numbers are reasonably similar; the wines (from a year with plenty of botrytis) are very different. Corks were respectable for their age.

2006 richter pair

2006 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 8%
91 g/l residual sugar
Light gold colour, and highly aromatic- camphor, wax, tropical fruits especially mango, and a little petroleum. Palate is varietal, clean, lively and delicious.

Drink to 2025, 90 points

2006 Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 9.5%
106 g/l residual sugar.
A slightly deeper gold colour than its sibling; and a bit shyer aromatically, but displaying  honey, and minerals., The palate is weightier, fleshier, creamier and richer, with brown spice, mineral, ripe apple and blackcurrant. This wine is drinking beautifully.

Drink to 2030, 92 points.

1980 Dow’s Vintage Port 20%

Dow’s is part of the Symington stable, with its vintage ports regarded as relatively dry for the style.

1980 is regarded as a “lesser” – but still declared – vintage in Portugal, but this wine shone – despite a pretty soaked cork.

1980 dow's vintage port
It still possesses plenty of brooding colour, with even some crimson left; camphor, dark chocolates, figs, blueberry, spices (nutmeg and cinnamon). On the palate it’s a drier, savoury style, delicate, and lively with clean spirit, very smooth and persistent; almond-meal, redcurrant, and mulberry.  “Correct” and very stylish, with fascinating melange of flavours- blue, red and back fruits; its balance will see this wine hold for many more  years – a magically impressive bottle!

Drink to 2030, 94 points.

2010 D’arenberg Noble Mud Pie 8%

From McLaren Vale in South Australia, this wine is a blend of 60% Viognier and 40% Roussanne. D’arenberg makes a number of botrytis wine within their immense portfolio; from different years the varietal composition of this wine changes; this year a blend of Northern Rhone varieties. I commented on the 2015 edition in November 2016.

There are difficulties making this wine style; keeping botrytis away from other grapes,  minimising errant “non-noble” rots; the fragility of grapes that easily fall from the vine; the vastly reduced yields, the difficulties pressing and fermenting. And for all the travails, it’s an under-appreciated style.

2010 d'arenberg noble mud pie

This wine has an extraordinary sugar content; around 300 g/l.  The colour is a deep copper/amber; with this degree of botrytis, varietal character is largely extinguished; there are scents of orange liqueur, stewed apricot, red apple and peppermint. The palate is very sustained and syrupy, laden with cumquat and orange marmalade flavours, with some golden honey, and typical botrytis dust and spice. There is still freshness, and enough acidity to assist with the extraordinary level of sweetness.

However, the wine would have been more exuberant, with greater interplay between fruit and development characters a few years ago.

Drink up,  90 points (with a higher score if opened several years earlier)

Henriques and Henriques Terrantez 20% (Madeira)

I am well out of my comfort zone here, as respectable Madeiras are not easy to find, or affordable in Australia, so my tasting experience is limited. This wine was an opportunity to increase my knowledge; although retail at around $125, an extravagant exercise.

Madeira is an island of Portugal, but lies roughly 1000k south-west of the mainland, and has a Mediterranean climate.

The main variety used in making (cheaper) Madeira is Tinta Negra Mole; the higher quality varieties are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malvasia (Malmsey), in order of increasing sweetness.  Terrantez is another quality variety, but an outlier – due to its rarity. Cheaper, earlier drinking madeiras are made by heating, and cooling the wines; higher-quality wines rely on barrel aging and associated oxidation, so these wines are “sherry-like”. Once opened, they can be consumed – very slightly chilled- over several weeks.

There is more extensive detail on the internet than I expected; an excellent resource on Madeira wine is here, another from Nicks is here and a blog from a mad-keen devotee here.

h&h 20 terrantez

It’s amber in colour with a clear, almost green rim; bouquet has spices, walnut, fruitcake, curry powder, dried fruits/fruitcake, but there is a stale note too. The palate is better; medium-dry, lively with fresh almond, citrus peel, fig, coffee , abundant acidity and a dry crisp finish.

The wine will not improve after bottling, but will hold for a long time; the touch of staleness (real, or unappreciated with my naivety at the style) restricts my score to 88 points.

another Willi Schaefer

2007 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprost Riesling Auslese #17, 7.5%
94 g/l residual sugar- serious territory.

2007 willi schaefer

The wine is still a bright pale gold colour, with more “presence” than the two Kabinetts opened earlier.  There is a touch of petroleum, which does not detract from the array of white peach, white flower, ripe red apple, lemon sherbet  and flinty aromatics; the palate is sensual, with those fruit flavours melding with light honey viscosity and a twangy vibrant acidity. This wine is a parcel of delectability, and a fine example of a Mosel sweetie with some bottle development – with great prospects for its future.

Drink to 2033, and 94 points

Willi Schaefer (2008 times two)

Willi Schaefer is an extremely well-regarded Mosel producer, whose wines have been available ( in Australia) for around the last ten years through Eurocentric. Riesling is their forte, with well-sited blocks producing a wide range of excellent wines. Two wines tasted below demonstrate the cellar-worthiness of even “humble” Kabinetts, and their refreshing delivery of full flavours at modest alcohol levels.

willi schaefer 2008 x2

2008 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprost Riesling Kabinett #2 7.5%
52 g/l residual sugar. Pale lemon/gold colour, this wine shows stonefruit characters, and is an earthier, rounder, softer expression than its sibling below; the palate shows preserved lemon , but this is a delicious easy-drinking Riesling with lovely acidity. While there is no obvious cork detriment, I will not be surprised if other bottles show greater vibrancy, and look forward to testing this in the next few months.

Drink to 2023, and 89 points

2008 Willi Schaefer Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett #9 7.5%
46 g/l residual sugar. Again this wine is a pale, lemon/gold colour, but slightly brighter. This wine displays a multitude of  scents- stonefruit (nectarine), minerals and drive. The palate really lights up with spices, red apple, green plum, and sweet lemon. Providing sensual approachability, this wine combines finesse with balance.

Drink to 2030, and 92 points