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!
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.