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.









1996 Seppeltsfield Para Tawny 19.7%

We are not allowed to use the term “port”, but that’s the style, in this example probably using Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre (Mataro). Unusually for a tawny style, this wine is from a single vintage, and aged 21 years before release.
seppelt 1996 para
The Seppeltsfield (and previously Seppelt) Barossa tawny often has some green, or khaki tints- and this wine which is a bright clear amber colour- conforms. Black coffee, almond and some walnut, shortbread biscuit, rancio, and vanilla bean are beguiling scents. The palate manages to be intense and supple, with beautifully integrated brandy spirit, and has tremendous verve, the acidity balancing its rich sweetness, teasing to further tasting. All the flavours come in waves. 22 years old, and what a privilege that it’s available.

At around $80 for $750 ml (retail or at Seppeltsfield – for the 1997 vintage) – this wine is outstanding quality and value.

Decant (to freshen it up), drink now – it will keep, but not change -and 94 points.


Seppelt Show Tawny port DP90 21.5%

Purchased via auction recently, this was likely to have been bottled in the mid-1990s, made from Barossa Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, with an average age of 21 years. This line has been superseded by the Para Rare Tawny (now under the Seppeltsfield banner). DP means “duty paid”.

The best way to revitalise old fortifieds is to decant. Not only does this remove the sediment, it coaxes out the aromatic vibrancy that prolonged bottle-age can diminish.


The colour is a bright khaki; malt, mocha, almond and walnut, VA is evident- perhaps a little prominent for this style – and some dusty oak on the bouquet; these are also present on the concentrated palate, with obvious rancio from barrel age, plus light caramels and vanilla, It’s a rich mouthfilling wine, with bright acidity to help sustain tasting interest. It’s an enjoyable wine that encourages contemplation.

Drink now, and 91 points.

Seppelt Port siblings

Seppelt Commemoration Port (Oscar Benno Seppelt) 20%

Blended from selected reserves of – Barossa – Para liqueur 1933 to 1980.

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of OBS’s birth in 1873, this is one of the series (there was a large family) and I gather this bottle was released around 1990, as a “premium” release. Internet searches have not been illuminating!

It was unusually sealed with a normal cork (not a stopper) and has thrown a very heavy crust. It’s a recent auction purchase. After bottling, this tawny style will change very little, but certainly needs aeration after its extended time in bottle, and a very careful decant.

In the Seppelt Para house vein, the colour is a brilliant glowing amber with a khaki rim. Myriad flavours; coffee bean, vanilla bean, nuts (more almond than walnut, but both are present).

nv seppelt ob

It seems relatively dry, a marvel of blending old material with fresher wines “selected by the directors”; savoury and delectable on a gloomy winter night. The inherent acidity makes another taste inevitable.

Drink now (but will not collapse); 90 points as a drink, more if history is valued.


Seppelt Commemoration Port (Leo Renato Seppelt) 21.5%

Blended from Para liqueur port vintages 1933 to 1972.

Not unexpectedly, there is little difference in colour, aromatics and flavours. This wine tastes slightly “brighter” with its fruit profile displaying some citrus peel nuances as well as those mentioned above, and perhaps the weightier mouthfeel of the marginally higher alcohol -but we are well into the realm of variation between individual bottles

This wine nudges up to a score of 92 points, with the key word “yum”.


1930 Seppelt Para Liqueur Port

1930 seppelt para

This wine is available through auction, and is in a squat bottle.

Its believed to be bottled around 1955 from stocks at least 21 years old, predominantly from the 1930 vintage, and Grenache dominant. This was part of the series that included 1927, 1930, 1933, 1939, 1944, and 1947. (There was another series bearing the names of separate members of the very extended Seppelt family).

The prevailing wisdom is that Seppelt reverted to calling later blends 101, 102, up to 127, resuming with a 1976 when perhaps their records were such that they could amply demonstrate the vintage nature of the base.

These wines are matured in barrels, and the gradual oxidation (and evaporation) over time increases the sugar, the alcohol, and the VA. The wines do vary, despite their prolonged aging. The winemaker has numerous blending decisions as there may be varying sizes of barrels (and their location on top, outside, or middle of stack), plus the amount freshening required.  I had a very educational tasting a few years ago at Seppeltsfield where I tried a mini-vertical of 1989, 1990 and my preferred 1991.

Naturally the 1930 wine has thrown a crust, so the 2 cautions are –the wine needs some decant time to breathe, and some filtering to remove the worst of the sediment. In the glass it has the absolutely typical Seppelt khaki/green colour. It’s rich, vibrant and long in the mouth, with a welcome cleansing alcohol and acid kick (perhaps 22%). It’s a treat to drink these venerable wines, remembering that most of those involved are no longer alive.