Old Baileys fortifieds

From a recent auction purchase, the two wines described are believed to have been bottled at least 35 years ago. The style can lose freshness, even under screwcap. I have many vivid memories of visiting Baileys outside Glenrowan, Victoria – even as a child – and their heroic and long-living ferrous red wines and luscious fortifieds. It was a rare day when visits did not coincide with bitter weather (and a welcome open fire) or alternatively a heatwave, when it was tempting to remain inside. HJT are the initials of legendary winemaker Harry Tinson and these wines represent their best selections of the styles. Harry led Baileys from 1973 to 1986, before escaping to start his own label at nearby Lake Mokoan,  (but died in 1995).

My impression is that under assorted corporate ownership, Baileys was starved of investment (except for label redesigns), and its existence, location, wine styles, and its loyal and vocal customer base was regarded as a nuisance, and largely ignored. It’s now under the Casella umbrella, and I remain optimistic.

The wines of Baileys are now made by Paul Dahlenburg (also at the excellent Eldorado Road) and have the same intensity with some more winemaking finesse – something I only picked up with 2009 vintage and onwards; the fortifieds are again outstanding.

nv hjts

NV Baileys Winemakers selection HJT Liqueur muscat
The wine is a dark khaki/coffee grounds/motor oil colour; the aromas are stacked with all the mocha/toffee/orange rind and spiced raisin that are desired; the palate is very, very concentrated. rich, ultra sweet but with the bracing freshness, dried fruits and a touch of camphor to brighten the excesses and “please sir can I have some more?”

Drink now, but 92 points for this piece of history

NV Bundarra (Baileys) Winemakers selection HJT Liqueur (tokay) Topaque
Time has been less kind to this bottle, but no-one had issues drinking, and requesting top-ups. It’s a similar colour to it sibling, albeit not quite as deep. The varietal malt/anchovy/fishoil/butterscotch characters are present with saline, malt and some staleness. The palate is very rich and luscious. Malt extract, roast hazelnuts and dark chocolates build a delicious complex picture, but this wine requires some judicious freshening (use another bottle of topaque and experiment!)

Drink now, 86 points (well worth the purchase price to revisit tasting and travel memories)

Humbling masked tasting of 2 Victorian fortified wines

It’s never straightforward tasting masked wines, attempting to reach conclusions on characteristics, origins, quality, while at the same time attempting to appreciate their virtues – a clash of analysis and appreciation. This was another lunch, with two delicious (masked) fortifieds to finish.

The first wine showed some bricking in colour, and the aromatics showed cocoa, raspberry, and blackberry jam – a vintage port style. The spirit was integrated with a hint of perfumed, headsy character. The palate was quite sweet, almost too much, but the fruit was dense, vibrant, and juicy. Warm but not hot with its alcohol, this deliciously cuddly wine seemed an “old-fashioned”, typical Australian in style, and more in a North-eastern Victorian vein, likely Rutherglen. My guess was that the wine was from the early 1990’s. The surprise was that the wine was actually 1975 Bailey’s Vintage Port. Made by Harry Tinson,  its source in Glenrowan is “near enough” to Rutherglen to claim some minor credit. The wine looked so much younger – in a holding pattern -with plenty of time ahead of it (to 2035). I scored it at 92 points, and it turns out I previously tasted it and described here about one year ago. The score, and descriptors are quite similar, so I’m either consistent or adjectivally deprived.

The calibre and deliciousness of the first wine made me turn reluctantly to pay attention to the second wine, which was similar in style. It seemed older, based primarily on its colour, and its aromatics of dark chocolates and lavender immediately led my thinking- vintage Port; Australia; Rutherglen; mid- 1980’s. Some almond meal, and its lower degree of sweetness compared to its companion led to a fleeting flirtation with Portugal, but I stuck with my first impressions. Quite mellow, it suffered in the shadow of its brooding companion. And the wine was 1987 Bullers Vintage Port (magnum).  I scored it at 91 points, drink to 2030.

Both wines are likely to be predominantly Shiraz.

What an extraordinary privilege to drink a 40 y/o and and 30 y/o wine in one bracket. More please!

1975 Baileys Bundarra Vintage Port

There are wines that are difficult to assess objectively. Wines from Baileys present this issue to me, for a raft of sentimental reasons. In the heartland of Ned Kelly country near Glenrowan in Victoria, Baileys is a winery that I travelled to with my parents, then with my family and children. We often seemed to visit partly to break the journey north, and my memories recall many a sweltering day, when the winery provided temporary relief from the un-airconditioned car. Inside was dark and blessedly cooler. The counter was typically set with a large range of whites, reds and an impressive range of fortified wines including the “founder” range. The general instruction was “start at that end and keep going”.

My visits covered a range of winemakers including Harry Tinson, Steve Goodwin and more recently Paul Dahlenberg, and the usual problem was to limit purchases to either fit the available budget, or avoid taking up much space in the car – generally artfully jam- packed for holidays. Down a bunch of narrow roads with turnoffs easy to miss at the speeds travelled. Afterwards there was the classic all-too-brief drive across the scenic Warby ranges with the possibilities of going to Brown Brothers at Milawa, or trying the range of mustards nearby (and the pie shop).

At various times there seemed to be numerous back vintages of Baileys available at very reasonable prices. But the wine in question was purchased at auction perhaps 10 years ago, with the label, level and cork looking pretty good – after all –its now 40 years old!

75 baileys vp

This wine (made by Harry Tinson) had surprisingly little fine sediment; and key impressions were dark, dark red black colours, initially with some hot spirit showing. seeming much younger than it really was. And a typically sweet, old-fashioned Australian vintage fortified, BUT with air of generosity; milk chocolates, cocoa, chalk,  and a long-lasting fruitcake palate. The spirit settled, the fruit emerged from its long sulk, and others at the table had no problems in returning for further sampling. All Shiraz, and while its fully ready, it’s in no danger of collapse and seems to be on a plateau that will provide quite decadent drinking for at least another 10 years.

Drink now to 2030; score (objectively) 90; sentimentally 93