Two from Australia

1975 Yalumba Vintage Port 18%


Plenty of colour here- quink ink; then comes dark fruits, violet, mocha, almond notes and clean spirit. The palate is deep and voluptuous, relatively dry with an array of mixed fruit; blueberry, fresh plum, red cherry, spice notes and light coffee.  Fine chalky tannins, and a persistent aftertaste filled out the picture – delicious! This wine presented a conundrum – the colour was un-Portuguese, as was the mocha and faint liquorice- yet the complexity of flavour components and dryness pulled me in that direction. My first guess on its age was 1985, but I revised this to 1994 based on fruit vibrancy, Wrong on all counts, but this is a triumph for Barossa Shiraz from Australia. Two bottles were opened, the second was very slightly better, and fresher than the bottle I described!

Drink now, and 94 points.

NV Wynns Pedro Ximenez 17%
Coonawarra, South Australia. Bottle # 9053

Fortified, and light gold in colour, with exotic floral scents of spices and Cointreau, with vanilla and marzipan. The palate is sweet with the cardamon, dried green herbs and raisin notes powering through. Very smooth with vibrant clean spirit – unctuous and just a little cloying, but altogether satisfying with its honeyed richness.  The raisin and light malt notes pointed me to the variety, despite this being different to the air-dried Spanish PX. Perhaps I learned something from the Bullers PX tasted in 2019!

It’s a blend across vintages, with an average age of five years – one surprise to see a young fresh example, and another to find the wine is available (albeit with some hunting) for around $60 for the 500ml bottle.

Drink now, 90 points

Bodegas Alvear Pedro Ximinez 1927 solera 16%

From Spain, in the Montilla-Moriles region. Pedro Ximinez (commonly referred to as PX) is a thin-skinned white grape variety with some minor plantings in Australia (Campbells and Buller’s come to mind).

In Spain, it is often air-dried on  mats, concentrating the sugars, placed into barrel, and fortified to produce an unctuous, dessert wine, often using a solera system to keep the blends fairly consistent.

This wine (served blind and shared with a group) was a very dark khaki/espresso coffee colour with an amber rim. It was bursting with vitality, with ripe raisin and some black tea characters. While people were having mental debates about whether this wine was a muscat or a topaque (formerly tokay)  – of considerable age), I confidently asserted that the wine was an excellent PX example.

The palate was incredibly lush, with raisin, mocha and toffee notes; the flavours lingered, and while I guessed that the wine had >300 g/l of residual sugar, their website confirmed 405 g/l. The intensity assisted my score, the freshness also assisted, but the wine was relatively straightforward. Its alcohol level made the wine very easy to drink!  Despite being an excellent example of an old PX, it lacked the savoury bite, mouthfeel and layers of myriad flavours of old and rare Rutherglen fortifieds.

The bottle shows 1927 as the start date of the solera,and it undoubtedly contains some very old material, but I find it’s very difficult to assess an average age for this wine – as does the producer– but warmly encourage people to give this wine style a try.

Drink now, and 92 points

NV Lustau Pedro Ximenez “San Emilio” 17%

Amber in colour, this fortified, sherry wine from Jerez (spain) pours with honeyed viscosity.  The grapes have been sun-dried, concentrating the sugar to an amazing degree- perhaps 400 g/l. And for around $65 (full bottle), it was worth a try.

nv lustau PX

Pedro Ximenez -often shortened to just PX – can make a fairly neutral dry white wine, or via botrytis, something very sweet.  Labour costs in Australia make the mat-drying approach uneconomical.

This wine  has voluminous scents of raisin, white rum, fig, cocoa, and a pleasant touch of cough mixture. Its lush flavours include raisin, prune, fruitcake and slightly bitter mocha, and thankfully there is enough acidity to keep this wine tasting vibrant. The texture is dense.

It’s similar in some ways to Australian fortified muscats, with comparable flavour descriptors, and made in a similar solera-blended fashion.

While this style and its incredible balance between sugar and acid is highly appealing, without extended barrel aging, it can look very straightforward.

Drink now, and due to this wine’s relative simplicity, 88 points.