One sweet, one fortified

2011 Donnafugata Passita di Pantelleria Ben Ryé 14.5%
Half-bottle. From Sicily, Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria) air-dried, ending up with 203 g/l of residual sugar. On this island off Siciy, old bush vines are protected from the prevailing winds by terraces. The drying process means the grape-juice loss of perhaps 30%, with lots of manual handing (selecting, and de-stemming) with a flow-on to pricing. This is a super-refreshing dessert wine – no botrytis, no fortification, so there are – merely – the usual sweet wine production hazards of VA, lengthy fermentation and reduced yield. The air drying on mats or racks can add its own special dangers with humidity, insects and wildlife.  Further information from the producer is here. The wine will be hard to find in Australia, but one retailer sells a half-bottle for $80 (vintage not known).

This is a wine with distinctive character – narrow to some but mesmerising.

The colour was deep gold; scents came through with peppermint, vermouth-like herb and spices, and an overwhelming sense of apricots and other stonefruit, peaches, nectarine – a halfway house between over-ripe and tinned fruit. It’s a full-bodied wine of power and intensity. The exotically fragrant Muscat of Alexandria grape is expressed – winemaking here has been expert at preserving fruit vigour over artefact.

Drink to 2025, but it’s ready and will awaken jaded palates, so 93 points

NV Orlando Commemoration (tawny) Port
Another speculative auction purchase for just over $30, again from Barossa Shiraz, Carignan and Mataro, matured in small French oak with an average age of 15 years. So this “old liqueur port” is somewhat more than a generic commercial release, and probably hit the market in 1981 or 1982. Made in a deliberately oxidative style, any improvement in the bottle is marginal, and runs the usual risks of improper storage, cork failure, and potential loss of freshness. Decanting not only avoids sediment, but can alleviate initial aromatic oddities.

The contents have rested in a bottle for 40 years, and the cork broke when I tried to remove it. The art of blending this style is trying to ensure the blend is better than its components, getting depth and flavour complexity from older material, gaining the vibrancy from more youthful material.

I admire the squat bottle, black wax remnants and the charmingly retro label.

The colour is a amber, khaki and a lighter amber-tinted rim. Fresh and strong. The palate is a rich, smooth amalgam of mocha and light caramel, with vanilla present but not obtrusive, dried and stewed fruits, citrus peel., mixed spices- an assembly of passion. Everything sits smoothly,   

Drink now, 90 points

1976 Orlando Vintage Port 18.3%

This was a very recent speculative $20 auction purchase; a “limited special release”, Barossa Shiraz and Carignan, American oak, brandy spirit.

“Ideal for enjoyment now…potential for further cellaring”.
So, an each-way bet, although 45 years cellaring was likely beyond the writer’s imagination. Simpler times then, well before my interest in wine turned to an obsession, with fortified wines a mystery then – still partially mysterious.

The level was low neck., and the cork was stained but intact. There was abundant fine sediment. The high-cropping and well-coloured Carignan turns out to be more widespread in the Barossa than I thought, but its regarded as a second-rate variety confined to blends.

Blood-plum colour with some bricking, the fruit still remains with headsy brandy spirit, and just a gentle touch of mocha.  The palate is relatively soft but with a pleasant lick of tannin to finish. Plum and blackberry dominate, with a suggestion of blueberry, but nothing burnt or over-ripe. Sweet, old-fashioned, straightforward, invigorating, and ideal for a winter’s night of contemplation over the embers of the fire.

Drink now, and 88 points

Unrelated wines – catching up

1983 orlando vp july 2020

1983 Orlando Vintage Port 19.8%
Barossa Valley (South Australia) Shiraz. Solid ruby colour with minor bricking.  aromatic – sweet, fine brandy spirit; fig, plum, stewed rhubarb, blueberry; fruitcake spices. Later, red liquorice, cherry liqueur, and a touch of almond. Lingering fine tannins meshed with that superb spirit.

Delicious drinking but without the magic of the previous bottle (on this blog Dec 2019) albeit similar notes. No complaints at 37 years!

Drink to 2030, 91 points

2008 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett AP#3 7.5%
Mosel, Screwcap, and 48g/l residual sugar. Bright gold; citrus and Jonathon apple lead with brown spices and minerals; the palate shows juicy yellow-flesh peach, wrapped up with zingy acidity. The mineral influence shines through. The wine is easy to drink, but is not as expressive as most of the wines from one of my favourite Mosel producers.

Drink to 2025, 90 points.