NV McWilliams Show reserve Limited release Tawny 19.5%

nv mcwilliams 25 tawny

Humble Australian Riverina fruit (Shiraz, Touriga, Grenache) with a minimum average age of 25 years. Screwcap, and in a 500ml bottle. Amber in colour with a touch of khaki. Toffee, vanilla, mixed salted nuts. The palate is ultra-smooth, with dried fruits, jersey caramels and fig. Clean, fresh, crisp, supple, soothing – light on its feet. It’s one of those wines that sneaks up. It has all the benefits of extended ageing, without the eccentricities that can accumulate. A classy, complete fortified wine.

Drink in good company, otherwise with a film noir and an open fire.

Drink now, 93 points.

Mid-priced imports

 

midrange imports

We’re recently allowed some small gatherings, but I opened these two wines at home recently; they are not monstrously expensive – (Kabinetts $35-70 depending on brand; the Fonseca LBVP was around $50 recently) – but sweeter German Rieslings and the uber-fashionable dry GGs can easily exceed $100; Vintage Ports from the sensational 2016 and 2017 vintages are, alas, closer to $200.

2008 JJ Prum Bernkastler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 8.5%
Gifted to me a while ago; my go-to Prum is the Wehlener Sonnenuhr, with occasional deviations to Graacher Himmelriech (Bernkastler Lay can be special too). 2008 was an “open” year, but Prum is usually backward, fully priced but usually delivers. Mosel Kabinett is “off-dry” but Prum tends to be sweeter than expected, and can still last many years.  Very pale, there is the tell-tale red apple and petroleum, nettle, earthiness and spice notes. The palate is highly acidic, with some grippiness- nashi pear, citrus, apple. Varietal, distinctly Mosel, but drink up while the fruit remains intact- the acidity is pretty dominant, which won’t be to everyone’s favour.

Drink to 2023,  88 points

2011 Fonseca Late-bottled vintage unfiltered 20%
2011 was a mighty year for Portuguese Vintage Port; late-bottled is an easier, more approachable, (and more affordable category), with a longer time in oak (or tank) to ameliorate some of the tannic stuffing. Confusingly, the LBV wines may be ready on release – or capable of cellaring. Unfiltered is a clue that some ageing is expected – yet there was no discernible sediment here, and the stopper was another surprise.

This wine was bottled in 2016, and is nearly crimson in colour. It displayed fig, blueberry, plum, violet and mixed spices and wild herbs; the palate showed cherry, milk chocolate, spices and sound spirit integration. 108 g/l residual sugar is neatly balanced with the fruit, and alcohol. Fine tannins add further interest. I was hoping for greater concentration, but it’s so easy to reach for another glass – a great test of a wine’s engagement.

Drink to 2025, and 90 points.

 

 

 

2013 Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos Aszu (blue-edged label) 11%

Aszu means “rotten” (botrytis affected). The puttonyos is a weight measure, but translates to minimum sugar levels, with wines matured for at least three years before release including at least tow years in oak).

3 puttonyos 60 – 90g/l
4 puttonyos 90 – 120 g/l
5 puttonyos 120 – 150 g/l
6 puttonypos 150 – 180 g/l
Aszu eszencia 180 – 450 g/l
Escenzia 450 g/l (and I’ve never tried one of these)

The Royal Tokaji company’s website gives deep information about history, production and so on.

The Tokaji I have tried over the years had levels of oxidation (bruised apple etc ) that I found unacceptable, so this wine was a triumph of hearsay over experience; and I was very pleasantly surprised.

2013 tokaji

Bright gold in colour, the wine has floral apricot, marmalade and honey characters. The palate is similar- apricot jam, quince, red apple, fruitcake spices and a touch of ripe pineapple. (75% Furmint, 25% Hárslevulu, and 155 g/l residual sugar). With this abundant residual sugar, but plentiful acidity, the wine is winningly vibrant. It’s concentrated but with a different mouthfeel to a Sauternes. Oak is obliterated here by the fruit depth and acidity.

It’s a terrific experiment, worth 92 points and drink to 2026 (a guess with my inexperience of this style),

 

2007 Schmitges Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese** 8%

Another wine from the Mosel (Germany), the ** indicates “more” than a general spatlese level.. The site is around the village of Erden, and “treppchen” means little steps. These have been carved into the steep slope to help the workers in their vineyard travails. A picture is on the Schmitges website.

2007 schmitges

Cork OK, medium gold colour. Fresh, red apple, camphor, wax, blood orange, golden delicious apple, and tropical fruits, especially mango. The palate has more grapefruit, and shows mixed apple and tropical fruits, some glace fruits, creaminess and mixed spices. (85 g/l residual sugar). It’s vibrant and compelling with cleansing acidity. A very, very satisfying, great-value purchase!

Drink to 2026, 92 points

Two Seppeltsfield aperas

Here in Melbourne, in light lockdown, we’re unable to meet at restaurants or share wines with friends. It’s especially difficult to open the strong and/or sweet wines I usually write about – because these styles in particular – are meant to be shared. Instead, I have been spending more time on other pleasures – the movies and documentaries on Kanopy, and a set of music videos on bluescluster. A few Zoom meetings about wine, and on guitar have been diverting. I had just one morning picking Shiraz and another day driving collecting buckets of Shiraz.

Anyway, some impressions of a few recent drinks.

Seppeltsfield DP 116 Aged Flor apera 23%
Seppeltsfield DP38 Vera Viola Rich rare oloroso 21.7%
Australia has a long tradition of making sherry styles (now called apera), with notable exponents Seppeltsfield (based in the Barossa Valley), and a group clustered around Rutherglen – Chambers, Morris, Pfeiffer and others. The style is doomed to be niche, but when cellar-doors re-open, the wines will enliven your taste-buds. In the meantime, check out the bottle shops, and buy one!

These two wines were made by the solera method (based on the Palomino grape, and neutral spirit) , with an average minimum age of 15 and 18 years respectively. Bravo to Seppeltsfield chief winemaker Fiona Donald, and all the crew involved over the many years to sustain this style.

The style thrives as a pre-dinner aperitif, yet has the substance to stand up to a charcuterie platter, a rich soup, or tapas – sardines, whitebait or calamari instantly come to mind; the price for these 500ml bottles – retailing around $30 – is a travesty – jump in! I think the style should be served cool, but I see no need to keep them in the fridge for more than a few minutes. Once opened, they will merrily keep for a few weeks without losing appeal.

seppeltsfield aperas

The aged flor is a bright pale orange/amber colour; it exudes candied orange peel, light honey, cashew, incense and salinity. The palate is concentrated, bracingly fresh, and mouthfilling.
Drink now, 91 points.

The oloroso style is similar in colour, slightly darker amber. More dark honey. Mixed dried fruitcake, mixed nuts, sweet spices, darker fruits, more twang. The palate shows greater vanilla, cream and concentration, with even better length than its sibling. Irresistable!
Drink now, 93 points

For some learning, Ruben Luyten has an amazing site at Sherry Notes; there is a wealth of information about flor yeast, biological aging, the classifications, and digressions to the “en ramas”, almacenistas, and lots more! Highly recommended.

2010 Felton Road Block 1 Riesling 9%

Well known for Pinot Noirs, Chardonnay, and Riesling, especially their “block” wines, Felton Road winery – Central Otago, New Zealand – has a well-deserved reputation for excellence. Their wines have good distribution in Australia and elsewhere. The  detailed website has much detail on each vintage and a handy, albeit optimistic “when to drink” chart.

2010 felton rd riesling bock 1

This Felton Road wine is a bright light gold, showing the prized combination of fruit vibrancy and complexity from development in the bottle. Citrus (lime and lemon) is to the fore, wax and light honey – then ripe red apple emerges. The palate – 64g/l residual sugar- sits at around Spatlese-weight, the citrus flavours are joined with slinky textural flintiness plus the red apple, and some fruit-salad flavours. Acidity matches the fruit sweetness. It’s in the zone now, and hard to imagine better drinking with more age.

Drink to 2023, and 91 points.

A crowdfunded, indent wine from Stoney Goose Ridge

CEO Hector Lannible introduces the whole concept of an indent wine that is crowdfunded.

“The Australian wine industry is going through hard times. The bushfires over summer destroyed several vineyards, and smoke taint ensured that some producers will not make wines in 2020. Of course, Stoney Goose Ridge is immune to these issues- our grape sourcing arrangements and visionary contracts ensure zero exposure to these misfortunes.

“However, coronavirus has now led to the closure of hotels, cafes and restaurants, with obvious job losses and directly reduced alcohol sales transactions. Many wine companies are offering free freight and discounts to generate some cash-flow.

“Even Stoney Goose Ridge has been affected by this pandemic. My extensive essential overseas goodwill travel commitments have been curtailed; the executive team has suffered a remuneration buzzcut, and a portion of my own well-deserved lavish bonus will be anonymously donated to charity. Selected staff have been redeployed to non-compensated external positions. Stoney Goose Ridge continues its industry assistance with comps, FOC and contra, plus wily exploitation of all assistance schemes.

“But Stoney Goose Ridge has a solid trajectory of growth across core product groups. As a trusted premium international brand with transparent supply chain visibility, we continue intensifying total transactional value despite the revenue headwinds others are experiencing. Our overarching liquidity architecture remains intact, with fundamental ubiquity across the vector.

“We sometimes feel sorry for our competitors – their ham-fisted efforts mirror lambs in the headlights unable to talk turkey.  I celebrate a stunning, and timely wine release. Once more, we leapfrog our opponents and snooker them into zugzwang, seizing the window of opportunity with open arms.

“Black wines are again fashionable. Once again Stoney Goose Ridge is at the bleeding edge vanguard with our futuristic foray into this exciting field. It wasn’t a kneejerk reaction to make this wine on the run.  I applied pressure to turn the heat up on my junior subordinate minions, and with my enduring inspirational stimulation, they crafted this iconic superstar.

“You may recall Spinal Tap’s famous black album – “none more black”. Or Prince’s black album? What a concept! Can you set a wine to heavy, with the volume turned up to eleven? Sure!

“We’ve joined the dots to put our best foot forward, so this wine is all natural, with no black arts involved.  We used deeply coloured and flavoured varieties- Zinfandel, Saperavi, Mataro, Durif and Tannat, picked when very ripe, pressed hard with some juice run off. With perfectly legal tannin additions, and matured in highly charred barrels, this is one hefty, solid inky black wine.

“The wine is of course very deeply dark-fruited, a black hole, blacker than the ace of spades, blacker than coal – you may get the idea. It’s dark – very dark. Well technically it’s a red wine but don’t let that fool you.

“It weighs in at a substantial – but balanced, 16% alcohol. It tastes confronting- this is a full-on wine with monumental tannins that demands high-octane food to attempt to tame it; something substantial. Power to the max. Pedal to the metal. Not for wimps. You have been warned. We’re focussed at the cutting edge of the slipstream here, putting the hammer down to jump through hoops.

“There were no problems with the nomenclature for this startling eponymous addition to the active brandline portfolio of Stoney Goose Ridge. I proudly debut The Black.

“A burly, bruising wine for heroes, it won’t suffer the ravages of time. Not for moderates, this wine is crafted for hardcore wild extremist thrillseekers living on the brink. Drink it now with the benefit of a day’s decant, or wait as many decades as possible before opening. Age shall not weary them. The challenge awaits. Who dares, wins.

“A serious, glass-staining, teeth-staining wine, with a truly bargain price for the delivery of the mega impactful volume of flavonoids.

“The RRP was intended to be released for a value-packed meagre $28, but what a bang-for-buck! We’ve done it again with “the Black”.

“But we’re not releasing this wine to the general public through our usual retail or on-premise outlets. Stoney Goose Ridge will market this wine exclusively, directly to customers in a stylish totally unique crowdfunding indent exercise for only $20 per bottle, a totally awesome saving.

“Pay now, and delivery occurs in one year’s time, on 1 April 2021*. This allows the wine to shed some of its youthful excess energy and gain even greater complex intricacies.

“A release party was planned with celebrity invitees including Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue, Shane Warne, Scott Cam, Delta Goodrem, Adam Goodes and many others. While this festive event has been postponed, all purchasers of “the Black” are welcome to attend, when the gala gathering is rescheduled.

“Order now- our operatives at the Stoney Goose Ridge multi-award-winning website can accept your order- no FOMO, but get in quick – you’ll be so glad you did”

*Conditions apply- delivery will never occur. Purchasers agree that they are over 5 years old. Purchasers agree that if not completely satisfied they have no legal or moral rights.

1997 Ch Rieussec 14%

It’s startling to recognise the abundant fruit power this wine style can possess. From the website, its composition is around 95% Semillon, 4% Muscadelle, and a squiggle of Sauvignon Blanc. The typical treatment is 18-26 months in oak (approx. 50% new). And the wine has just soaked up this oak, and is bursting with fruit vitality.

1997 ch rieussec

The cork has performed its task.

This wine is drinking superbly. Deep, bright gold in colour, one can luxuriate in apricot, citrus peel, lime, quince, vanilla, and light honey and almond. Apple and raisin appear on the viscous palate, joined by barley sugar, sweet spices and lime.  The wine is resoundingly fresh, obviously complex, and lingers effortlessly. Sweetness and acidity are highly harmonious here.

Drink to 2030 (but why wait?) and 96 points.

NV Saltram Mr Pickwicks Particular Tawny 19.5%

The label looks fussy and old-fashioned with its portraits of old men in the period costume of the 1830’s. The back label alludes to Charles Dicken’s (first novel) character the Mr Pickwick, founder of the Pickwick Club and his (light) adventures.

Dickens always has memorable characters (albeit often “flat”) Here’s a nice quote…
“’I assure you, my good friend, I have more money than I can ever need; far more than a man at my age can ever live to spend,” said Mr. Pickwick.
“No man knows how much he can spend, till he tries,’ observed Mr. Weller.

There’s a conflict between this homage, and the need to find a market, not easy with a fortified, and becoming even more difficult. I can’t believe I’m begging for label tweak, since this wine is readily available, retailing around $60, and represents such very good value for its quality.

nv saltram mr pickwick tawny

With an average age somewhere between 21 and 25 years (internet searches vary), this is old material – assume its Shiraz-based and from the Barossa Valley.

Amber colour with a khaki rim, its packed full of all the Christmas cake dried fruits, nuts and peel imaginable; fig, citrus, toffee, spices. Exquisite brandy spirit plays its part, and it ends with vanilla and lusciousness. There is obviously old material here, but it’s but amazingly fresh, smooth and decadent.

Oak, and vanilla presence makes a greater contribution than I would prefer in a perfect world, but there is no denying the concentration, power and grace that make it difficult to resist reaching for more.

Drink now (it will happily last a few weeks after the cork is removed), and 93 points.

Two local drinks

2011 Oakridge Limited release yarrawood Riesling 8.0%
Oakridge in the Yarra Valley has excelled with its Chardonnays- struck-match galore but with increasing fruit presence; winemaker David Bicknell has access and the capability to preserve special sites – this one still in the Yarra Valley but from from Yarra Glen.

2011 was a particularly challenging year in Victoria, with widespread rain and humidity wreaking havoc on most of the red wines; whites fared much better.

2011 oakridge botrytis riesling

It’s a bright light gold colour, and delivers botrytis dustiness and slightly bitter almond, along with an array of apricot, yellow peach and twangy acid to hold interest. This is a crazily sweet wine (around 180 g/l) but has the bracing acidity that delivers forgiveness (and a bit more). Its absurdly easy to consume; cumquat and citrus marmalade are highlights on the palate, with varietal ripe apple flavours joining the party

When botrytis takes hold, the yield diminishes; pressing and fermentation involve significant challenges, and marketing is another conundrum.  This is a winemaker’s small-volume indulgence.

A touch of furniture polish scents, plus a suspicion of caramel and toffee holds my score back. For my taste, drink soon (to 2023); and 90 points

1982 Chateau Reynella Vintage Port 20%
Made from McLaren Vale Shiraz, this 38-year-old wine still has plenty to offer.

Bottle 4155 had a dense red colour, expressing liquorice, raspberry, chalk and almond meal. Luxuriant brandy integration. Sweetness correctly led to an evaluation of Australian origin, and more likely South Australia. The red-fruit impacts made me incorrectly dismiss Reynella and Hardys where I associate stern blackberry notes.  Not this time!

Youthful and very enjoyable.

Drink to 2030,  91 points.