Two South Australian vintage fortifieds

2002 d'arenberg vp

2002 d’arenberg Vintage fortified Shiraz 18.5%
McLaren Vale.

Last year I tried to visit D’arenberg to see the notorious cube, plus try some of their gigantic range of eclectically-named wines.  Their baffling website defeated my booking attempts, and the door-keeper was reluctant, and then in fact unable to assist. Who needs usability when the website looks attractive?? My conclusion was “never again”. But here is one of their wines…

This bottle was purchased a few months ago at auction for a meagre $23, so another bargain (and bonus points for being a cool vintage).

Battered cork, but the wine has survived 21 years. Loads of sediment.
Deep black colour, bricking but Ok; Dark fruits, red liquorice, fine brandy, plentiful spices. The palate has ripe, sweet dark fruits, fruit-peel characters and very refined “milk chocolate” tannins – altogether a memorable little package. Time ahead too, cork permitting.

Drink to 2030, 92 points, and 92 points.

1972 seppelt vp

1972 Seppelt Barossa Vintage Port GR72 20%
Shiraz, Barossa Valley

Served blind. Ruby with some bricking and evidently significant age.
Ripe, sweet, old-fashioned, cuddly, delicious. Australian, brandy spirit (although one winemaker thought neutral SVR). Very, very fine and lingering. Creamy and just some complexing hints of oloroso sherry.

A different bottle showed as slightly more youthful. I guessed mid-1970s, and from North-east Victoria, but when unveiled -a terrific treat as a 50 y/o with great wine show results.

Drink to 2035, and 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)

2015 D’arenberg Noble Mud pie 11.1%

95% Viognier, 5% Arneis; screwcap, 375ml RRP $20

People seem to tolerate my comments on wines that are not available- so here’s one at the start of its journey, for $20; less with careful shopping.

Viognier is a grape of Condrieu, where it makes distinctive, exotic dry white wines (and in more recent times, sweet wines too. More important is its contribution (in minor proportions)– with Shiraz- in Cote Rotie. In Australia, Yalumba has pioneered Viognier to make a dry white at varying price levels, from the humble but VGV “Y” series, through the Eden Valley range, then up to the Virgilius, (and sometimes a botrytis Viognier as well). Viognier is also used in some Cote Roties, with Clonakilla’s Shiraz Viognier generally regarded as Australia’s best.

Viognier may have vivid scents of ripe aprico -better examples show white peach- and the texture and mouthfeel make an enormous contribution to its appeal. Getting picking times correct seems critical to keep the wine brightly flavoured.

Arneis is an Italian grape variety- albeit one that I am not familiar with- but the textbook descriptors of pear, apricot and peach seem a good fit with Viognier. Arneis is another variety that is becoming hip throughout Australia, although vine age  and familiarity with appropriate growing and winemaking mean we hasten slowly.

The number of wines that D’arenberg produces from its base in South Australia’s McLaren Vale is dizzying; and the labels have their own distinctive quirks, and stories.

For the last few years, they have produced several “Noble” (botrytis-affected wines) – and this is one, from along the road in the Adelaide Hills. Using Viognier in a botrytis wine is unusual, and this blend is a one-off; how much the 5% Arneis contributes is problematic.


It’s a bright gold lemon colour, with aromatics of apricot, marmalade, cumquat, and dusty nutmeg botrytis spices. The palate is intensely sweet (my guess was 150 g/l of residual sugar, but a peek at the spec sheet indicated 185 g/l). Most Australian sweet wines are flabby, but thankfully here is ample acidity to maintain freshness. The palate is also complex, and very dense with some tropical fruits- candied pineapple, and some lime pie to bolster the yellow peach and ripe apricot.

I was quite impressed, with the wine demonstrating excellent value, and providing an interesting “alternative” drink that will work beautifully with desserts from fruit platters through citrus-oriented pies.

Somewhere however, the “x-factor” is missing. Drink to – conservatively- 2020, and 91 points, but the sugar/acid balance makes this wine a bracing and instructive treat.