Henriques and Henriques 20 yo Malvasia 20%

H&H 20 malvasia

Indestructible; serious Madeira will keep for months after opening! This makes a bottle price turn into a bargain. Many don’t blink at the price of a Portuguese VP that (should) be kept many years for maximum reward; the incredible Australian muscats and topaques that can cost hundreds of dollars are still a certain bargain; and there is Madeira. It’s part of Portugal, even though 1000k south-west (closer to Morocco).

The “under 10 year olds” Madeira category holds no magic for me; 15 years sometimes; 20 + usually, and older examples are available that should amaze friends who possess descriptive talents and senses alive to possibilities – not just fortified wines.

Malvasia (malmsey) is the sweetest of the Madeira varieties, and this wine will be around 100 g/l of residual sugar, with the acidity making the wines a delicious sweet and sour playground.

Dark amber colour with a clear khaki/green rim; walnuts, mahogany, espresso, earth and brick – roasted but not burnt.

This wine is a meal in a glass – fruitcake spices, dried fruits, almond, walnut, fig, dates and high acidity that leaves me begging for more.

After opening, the style benefits from a decant and a few hours- at least- to unfurl,

Drink now (there’s no improvement after bottling); 93 points

2007 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett AP#16, 8%

2007 willi kabinett

Mosel, screwcap!

Bright lemon colour, red apple, lemon gelati, a hint of nectarine plus some exotic tropical top-notes. The palate is packed with red apple flavours, pear and limes, fresh, tingly, talcy with added slate. The 60 g/l rs painlessly balanced with racy acidity; a light bodied but persistent mouthfilling experience.

A model Kabinett.

Drink to 2028, and 92 points.

Belated odds and ends

2007 (Forstmeister Geltz) Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Kabinett AP #8 8%
Mosel. Very good cork. Pale lemon colour, Tropical fruits, petroleum, lime, mint and plentiful spices. Brisk, round, yellow-flesh stonefruits on palate, with a touch of oily smoke and wax. This is light bodied, but the flavours linger strongly.

Drink to 2025 (easily) and 91 points

1981 and 1990 Chateau Rieussec
Sauternes, and predominantly (>90%) Semillon. From a generous friend, steady conversation over a terrific meal made note-taking problematical. However, the 1981 was paler and presented classic barley sugar, citrus peel and marmalade flavours, lighter flavours (as the year was not strongly botrytised); the 1990 was richer, with an almost-burnt almond, orange, honey and spices – altogether in ripping form. Depending on cork representativeness, the 1981 has seen better days, while the “younger” wine was terrific, and if you have any, get stuck in for a hedonistic ride.

No scores, but what a fantastic experience!

2002 morris vp

2002 Morris Vintage (Fortified) 19%
Acceptable cork. Readers know my esteem for the Morris fortifieds – Topaque and Muscats, plus fascination for the Rutherglen reds (especially Durif), but occasionally Shiraz and the odd Sparkling red. 

I’m baffled that the “current” release of the Morris VF at cellar-door is the 2008 – its price a derisory $25. Later releases (some with Durif, Touriga, etc) have looked very swish at wine shows – as has the continued excellent form of the Pfeiffer “Christopher’s Vintage Fortified”.

100% Shiraz, this wine’s label boasts assorted trophies and gold medals. Density, dark cherry, blueberry, camphor, chalk. Fresh and a good meld of fruit sweetness and spirit. Small berry flavours abound and the finish is appropriately quite dry. Sampled over three days, my score varied between 92 and 94 points so…

Drink to 2035, 93 points.

Stoney Goose Ridge releases “the Ponzi”

It’s been a long time to introduce new drinks from Stoney Goose Ridge. Blame it on Covid, blame it on China, blame it on the boogie, but such is life. The universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest. So it goes.

There are many affluent people engaged in the wine industry; most were wealthier before they started producing. Doctors, lawyers, merchant bankers, mass-entertainment headliners and start-up moguls purchased hobby farms or existing wineries, with little insight into the time, money and traumas involved in the tasks of growing, making and selling wine. Truly, many a slip twixt the sap and the lip.

There are also vinous trophy hunters with gargantuan collections of unicorn, rare and expensive wines (DRC, le Pin, Petrus, Leroy, Jayer, Egon Muller and Prum auction TBA’s and eisweins, Clos du Mesnil, Salon, et al) – in magnum or bigger – paraded before their acolytes, cronies and near-peers). Typically, these collectors are united by their inarticulate poverty of wine appreciation, and venerate wines that are obviously decrepit relics, or with faults that render the wine unpalatable. The label, and the arcane archaeology of the provenance outweigh the calibre of the contents. Sometimes these wines appear at auction, often caused by the “3Ds” (Disease, Divorce, Death), with startlingly stratospheric reserve prices – or egotistically donated to “Charity auctions” for bragging rights. It’s likely some of the treasures are “Rudi” wines.

Most wine production costs are incurred upfront; land purchase, trellising, rootling supply, water, pesticides, picking, making, storage, bottling and packaging, and the funds necessary to make this investment. There are many decisions along the way, plus the curious interventions of weather, legislative intrusions, and personal difficulties. It’s only the end-product that makes the journey worthwhile, and even then, it needs to be sold. Fortunately, there are select people with portions of my munificent talent, and occasionally some of our competitors’ wines can even approach the excellent pedigree of entry-level Stoney Goose Ridge throughput.

But we are here to celebrate the way many business people through the ages have nurtured their fortunes, in the true spirit of financial entrepreneurship. How often in business life are there situations where there is growth in sales, assets, profits, and yet there are transient cash flow issues? One way forward is by soliciting loans and reinvesting in the progress and advancement of the company. Many resort to loan sharks or bridging finance at injuriously punitive interest rates.

Sometimes financial stresses are caused by corrupt employees, siphoning – for years- with bogus invoices supporting extravagant lifestyles with impulses attributed to gambling or substance addictions, luxury vehicles, designer apparel, lavish travel, and extravagant entertainment. Sometimes instances are publicised, but frequently the offenders remain undetected, or are shuffled out quietly to protect the company from embarrassing revelations about their systemic forensic inadequacies. It’s seldom “headless body in topless bar”; more usual is “no one hurt in small earthquake”.

There’s a fine line between a hot tip and insider trading. Enforcement is difficult, as evidence is ambiguous, typically transient. and well disguised.  Courts are baffled by fogs of competing timelines, spreadsheets and byzantine scenarios even when the stench of overt corruption is nauseating. That’s unless the suspects disappear overseas – ideally to countries without extradition treaties – in to live in luxury (thanks to “kind-hearted benefactors”) despite having no assets. It’s a slippery slope that lets the genie out of the bottle, with no turning back.

I am awed by judicial views that BNPL schemes for FMCG do not have credit implications, that UBER, and assorted food delivery drivers are not employees, and that “casual” workers can have fixed rosters for years.  Like all rulings, there is seemingly no limit to appeals and reversals – subject to litigant willingness to contribute funds to participate in the lottery, where roughly one-third of decisions are reversed at each successive level (“the facts of the case are intelligible to the least-instructed layman, and the only persons utterly at sea are those connected with the law” AP Herbert).

Similarly, defamation laws apparently exist solely to line the pockets of thin-skinned politicians – adept in rolling out the pork barrel until the music stops – and celebrities.  Truth is often not a valid defence. Come on dollar, come on! Little action has been taken to quash “phoenix” businesses that leave a trail of debts, and then fold. Mysteriously, the directors establish a very similar business, often at the same premises with assets transferred. In larger corporate failures, liquidators indulge in a feeding frenzy on the carcass to consume residual assets, leaving little for creditors.

The true vinous innovators are not the viticulturalists, winemakers, or the chemists. Yes, we are grateful for glass bottles, seals, vats, presses, and harvesting tools. But the most important artisans are clearly those with finance calculations firmly in their headlights.

Often when travelling, a crowd is gathered around someone with a ball in three cups, or three cards. The itinerant swindlers and their accompanying stooges make their living cheating the innocent. Or do they? The learned Fields stated “It’s the old army game, you can’t cheat an honest man, don’t give a chump a chance, never give a sucker an even break”.  If something is too good to be true, you are asking for trouble – unless you bale out in time.

The wonderfully inventive Ponzi (pyramid schemes) consume the payments of later investors to reimburse earlier contributors. Mathematically, it doesn’t work in the long run. Those at the top of the tree skim as much as feasible along the way.  The typical cross-web of related party transactions, and lavish sponsorship of sporting clubs seems innate. Whistle-blowers (aka “disgruntled employees”) are ostracised, and lambasted. Years later, after the companies are shredded, court cases are launched to retrieve damages from entities with no assets, with little penalty for the perpetrators due to their previously distinguished unblemished career, contributions to the community, advanced age, ill-health, the stress of delays of proceedings, sincere remorse etc.

Stoney Goose Ridge has no tolerance for any of these shameful activities. Renowned for our hyper-aggressive tax strategies, stringent HR policies, ironclad contracts and phenomenal litigation initiatives, our prime mission is to increase the well-being of the fanatical imbibers of our assorted alcoholic beverages. Our encouragement of the whistle-blowers of our competitors and obsessive follow-up through regulators is a tribute to our moral and ethical diligence.

I, Hector Achilles Lannible, am thusly proud to launch The Ponzi, a wine destined to ascend the podium to the pantheon of Stoney Goose Ridge brands. Development of its framework has been guided by overarching positioning, assisted by insights of our community engagement program.

The Ponzi is made from carefully blended Italianate varietals, including portions of Aglianico, Barbera, Corvina, Dolcetto, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo, Nerello Mascalese, Nero, Sangiovese, plus Teroldego grown in a multiplicity of regions. Blending was undertaken and as always, my masterly personal attention resulted in a wine that left the team astonished at my unrelenting nano-detailed prowess.

Expect a typical cavalcade of monumental flavour; authentic savoury terroir-derived attributes, showcasing black Doris plum and Bickford lime cordial, an iron fist in a velvet glove, finishing with a peacock’s tail – suitable for most repasts whether casual or celebratory. Approachable now but with the capability to mature for decades.

The front label image of The Ponzi is licenced from Joseph Banksy, a true artist who has overcome personal adversity with addictions, mental frailties, and other struggles that I will reluctantly not mention due to my concern for his personal privacy in Byron Bay.

Hurry to your concierge to reserve your exclusive tranche of liquid assets, as stocks are strictly limited. There is a certificate of authenticity for every case of individually numbered bottles, magnums, jeroboams, and larger formats. Each verification carries the personal signature of Stoney Goose Ridge CEO Hector Lannible.

The Ponzi RRP $AUS44, $NZ40 $US30, €25, £25

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