Two older Australian Barossa fortifieds

1976 Penfolds Vintage Port

Bottle #5637 (Barossa Shiraz).  I’ve never seen or tasted this wine before- the Penfolds “rewards of Patience” book only mentions the tawny styles. Sweet but supple; red liquorice, aniseed, salted almonds, clean spirit, and this was easily consumed. Traditional, and enjoyable.

Drink to 2026, 91 points.

1987 Seppelt Vintage Fortified (Touriga) 20%
Barossa Valley, GR 124 “fortified with grape spirit” with lots of bling up to 2002 – and released around that time, based on back label comments. It was a recent auction purchase for $25.

I didn’t realise much Touriga was available in Australia then, destined for vintage fortifieds; although Lindemans released some Portuguese-varietal fortifieds around the late 1970s. Probably winemakers aspired to the drier and more “classical” in style, necessitating a move away from reliance solely on Shiraz.

Now (as in Portugal) there are also some dry red table wines made from Touriga, or blended with other varieties.

I was conflicted between “too old” vs “mellow for age”. It’s a light ruby colour. Roses, and rose-hip, red liquorice with a touch of mocha, even some earl grey. I’ve settled on “OK, but better previously”. Sweet fruit, immaculate sprit and there is still tannin. But as a pointer to the drier style, this would have thrilled ten years ago.

Drink now, 90 points.


Penfolds Grandfather (Rare Tawny Port) 20%

This a wine that is meant to be a gift – there is an elaborate, impressive box, a striking, weighty bottle and a hefty price in Australia – around $80-$90. And its not a gift to decline, even though I purchased it from curiosity. It’s sealed with a very ordinary cork, but there is a glass stopper included in the package.

penfolds grandfather 1penfolds grandfather 2

The wine claims a minimum average age of 20 years, and its home is the Barossa Valley of South Australia (although doubtless blended from many parcels from different areas and grape varieties). One of the curious crafts of this style is to ensure the blend is not merely old, but also maintains vitality and freshness. The description “rare” reflects not merely the age, but the quality level. It’s an expensive exercise to hold wine for so long in barrel, with winemakers having to be somewhat circumspect to their book-keeping regime. Old fortified wines are a luxury, low-volume line that -whether in small companies (or even large concerns like Penfolds)- include a nod to winemaker whimsy and tradition.

The colour of the wine is a bright amber/khaki, and there are graceful spice notes, honey, vanilla, caramel and crackling autumn log-fire notes. The fortifying spirit has been sensitively selected and has melded extremely well. The palate is effortlessly balanced with some dried fruit raisins, caramel and vanilla again, plus figs and clean citrus-led acidity to tidy matters along. The persistence of flavours is extensive, and of course the combination ensures resistance to further tasting indulgence is futile.

Overall, this a a super Australian example of this style.

Once opened, this wine is ready to drink – over several weeks, and deserves 95 points.








Snippets from the cutting room floor

Here are several wines enjoyed in the last few months that haven’t shown up in this blog – not terribly thematic but  too good  to ignore – no scores, but assume a minimum 94.

NV Krug Rosé Champagne

Confession time again- due to problems with oxidation, and poor VFM, I ceased purchasing rosé champagnes many years ago. A tasting class late last year rekindled my interest in this complex style.

Krug is fully priced, and this wine is available if you have a lazy $500. But it’s fantastic. Apparently 2006 base vintage plus reserves back to 2000. 59% PN, 33% Chardonnay, 8% P Meunier, partial mlf on 2/3 parcels, 7 g/l residual). PN Fermented on skins, uses small oak casks.
Red fruits- strawberry, raspberry, candied glace fruits, and some lemon too; not merely the overt bread/dough/pastry of most Champagne There is some complexing light vanilla (oak) and the palate is a very fine layered, textured style. It is delicate but there is tension and power to spare, and even some tannin. Beautifully constructed, I cannot really imagine a better example of this rosé style, and no rush to drink this.

2002 Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Les Mesnil Champagne  Blanc de blancs

no malo– disgorged early 2014
Brisk, energy, drive! Acidity will propel this for many more years.
As it warmed, the initial reticence uncoiled, showing ripe apple, some slightly browned sugar, cinnamon stick, crystallized lemon, and light yellow honey. The palate had the immaculate pure citric drive plus minerals, and was just astonishingly fine. Length was amazing.  Revisit in at least 5 years for an even better result. But it costs around $750.

2002 Ayala Blanc de blancs
Honey, citrus, some earthy oyster mushroom age characters; high and clean acidity, lots of minerals, energetic.
From an excellent year, but not a producer I’m familiar with; this was all class, and one to watch for.

2000 Mt Mary Triolet 13%
Vineyard plantings are 75% Sav blanc; 20% Semillon, 5% muscadelle
Mainly old oak, for around 11 months, lees stirring etc. $42.50 on release
Bright clear yellow colour; toast, honey; abundant fresh lemon, and some “juicy fruit” tones.
Grapefruit on palate, fresh, long, delicious – A super Yarra Valley wine that improved over a few hours before fading

2005 Mt Mary Triolet, diam cork
Sauvignon blanc, Semillon and a dash of muscadelle, this Yarra wine has proven cellaring ability.
Lemon colour, and amazingly fresh; passionfruit, gooseberry, tropicals; plus grapefruit and some spiciness from oak. Hard to describe, but has fruit freshness, oak and some honeyed aged complexity. At a lovely stage which should hold for at least another five years. Outstanding. Fruit drive, zippiness and complexity.

2007 Nigl “privat” Riesling 13.5%, screwcap!
From Kremstal in Austria.

Still pale in colour- with a mystery floral bouquet of green apple, nettle, lime. It’s ferociously acidic, yet balanced on the youthful layered palate; there is some grip, and waves of dense zesty refreshment, and nervousness. Complex grass, green and red berry flavours. Unmasked, its identity makes sense, but impossible -blind- to identify this with certainty as Riesling – it’s a high acid yet high alcohol white, quite unlike Australia, Germany or Alsace.  Very highly recommended; prospects are excellent for another 20 years.

2004 Crawford River Riesling , screwcap (Henty, Victoria)

Outstanding. A pull of lime but the undertow of acid pulls us back to Victoria.  Great length, minerals and a compulsion for “more!”. Another 20 years of superb drinking in prospect. Battles with Seppelt Drumborg as Australia’s most consistent outstanding Riesling producer. There are flashes from Tasmania sometimes, from Great Southern sometimes, Canberra sometimes, and the Peter Lehmann Wigan.

2009 Hardy (Eileen Hardy) chardonnay 13%, screwcap
Outstanding. Fruit from Tasmania.
Still a pale lemon colour, it exudes ripe nectarine, lemon peel and a touch of smoke. The palate is rich, alive with stony flinty characters, with a background of classy lightly nutty oak. The fruit flavours are stonefruit – white peach plus some grapefruit. With its abundant natural Tassie acidity, this wine has years of drinking enjoyment ahead.

2004 Seppelt St Peters Shiraz (screwcap)
Outstanding wine. Its a dense dark ruby colour, so fragrant and layered; pepper, dark cherry, blackberry, raspberry.
There is fine-grained tannin on the fleshy, voluptuous palate, and more dark fruits while the finish lingers, and continues. Concentrated without being ridiculous. This Grampians wine is drinking brilliantly, and should maintain this form for another ten years – conservatively. Easy gold medal. Irresistible, and a lesson in balance,


Plus some chardonnays tasted blind in a line-up of 20. Instant gold medal scores to

  • 2013 Oakridge 864 F&D (Yarra Valley)
  • 2014 Vasse Felix Heytesbury (Margaret River)
  • 2014 Penfolds 14a (Adelaide Hills)

They sell for about $60 per bottle, but vividly demonstrate the beauty of modern Australian Chardonnay across 3 different States, and provide wonderful complex drinking now and over at least the next five years.

NV Penfolds Father (Grand) Tawny 18.5%

Its not always easy to adapt existing brands to cater for the fairly recent Australian classifications of “grand “and “rare” that have – at last- infiltrated Australian fortified wines.

Penfolds had a flagship “Grandfather”, now labelled and classified as “rare tawny” (the label Port has been thankfully dropped).

This left an interesting problem for the newly badged (and cheaper) “Father” which has the classification of “Grand”. All clear now?? This wine probably is a smarter version of the Penfolds Bluestone. Penfolds also produces a Great Grandfather- probably labelled as “museum”.

penfolds father

Its colour is amber/pale ruby with some orange tinting on the rim, bright and clear. It’s a class act for a minimum age 10 year material; with vanilla, light jersey caramel and hazelnut prominent. Its superbly balanced on the palate with clean rancio (label states low-strength spirit was used). Its immaculately constructed with a flavours that linger. Even though I paid just over $30, its terrific VFM for this standard. Its not too rich; its not too sweet, and goodness it compels more sipping.

One of my theories is that large companies try harder when they launch a new label; this fits!

Drink now, score 93.