1997 Stanton and Killeen Vintage Port 19%

The vintage was rated (by this Rutherglen winery) as 10/10, with a suggested drinking window between 2022 and 2026.  Their first vintage fortified to include a healthy proportion of traditional Portuguese port varietes (60% Shiraz, 25% Touriga, 5% each of tinta cao, tinta barocca and Durif), it was awarded 3 trophies and 13 gold medals at Australian wine shows. “Considered as one of the finest ever produced at Stanton and Killeen. Careful cellaring will reward the patient passionate port lover”.

1997 S&K vp

The cork is short, but in excellent condition. The wine has a deep ruby colour with some bricking; decanting removed a modest crust. Initial aromas included rose-petal, blueberry and raspberry  The palate is bright and fresh, showing sweet (but not overly sweet) red cherry, rhubarb and blueberry fruit, light milk chocolate, choc/mint and an occasional tease of plum, with still appropriately assertive tannins. Spirit is well absorbed.

The complexity and sustain makes this an outstanding wine, with a long future.

95 points, and drink anytime to 2032.

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1997 Campbells Vintage Port 18.5%

Rutherglen, 100% Touriga, a terrific year in the district and a very pleasing result.

This a much better bottle than one tried a few months ago. The cork broke, but it was in terrific shape with hardly any travel, and a quick filter did the trick.
1997 campbell's vp
Dark ruby with some amber/bricking on the meniscus, enticing aromas of blueberries, more red berry than dark, some cocoa, spice  and liquorice add to the thrill; the palate is simply lovely, not a sweet one-dimensional style, but (lovely brandy) spirit is integrated, some dense sweet fruit allied with savouriness, fruitcake, nutmeg and intense blue and dark- red fruits. Onto day 3 and there is plenty of life left in this wine, which reveals more with each sip . By no means a blockbuster, the wine has layers of complexity. An excellent result from this grape variety, used in so many of the Portuguese VPs.

Drink to 2030, and 94 points.

1997 Morris VP

An excellent year for this style in Rutherglen- Stanton & Killeen and Pfeiffer made outstanding wines.
IMAG0797
But this is the VP from Morris (correct but clumsily Morris’s on the label). The cork on this 20 year-old has performed its task – the wine (87% Shiraz, 13% Cab Sav) is a vibrant but slightly murky crimson (very little sediment when decanted); camphor, cherries, cocoa and mixed spices; the palate shows more dark fruits, especially plum; powdery tannins; a sneaky, approachable wine that looked better each time around, and positively youthful. The spirit has integrated beautifully. Warm, cuddly and no rush to drink this wine.

This wine that looked absolutely better with each assessment; complexity building – and longevity – becoming more apparent.

Drink to 2032, and 94 points

1972 Gayfer’s (Chiltern) Durif Port

I doubt that the Gayfer’s vineyard still exists; it made way for a highway upgrade. I have not found information on the internet, apart from a passing reference to the “Roscoe’s fortified; I’ll need some serious prowling through my old books unless readers can assist.

Durif makes some very long-living, inky-coloured, robust red table wines in North-east Victoria, and I have examples from All Saints, Anderson, Baileys, Campbells, Morris, and Stanton in & Killeen in my cellar. In recent years, I think there has been more sympathetic winemaking, providing more finesse and complexity in the wines. As well as a standalone varietal wine, its colour and tannins makes Durif a useful blending component in a table wines – usually with Shiraz, and can readily be crafted into a vintage fortified, or a sparkling red. Its use as a varietal fortified is less common now, as more winemakers are enthused by fortifieds incorporating Portuguese grape varieties.

Chiltern is an outlier of Rutherglen, only 20km away, and the wine is an excellent effort from the region. Cork was pretty good – after 45 years, and this bottle had thrown a very heavy tea-leaf-like deposit.

1972 Gayfer'svp

Ruby coloured, with an amber/khaki rim, the aromas are in the mocha plus caramel plus coffee spectrum; sweet spirit is present too. The fruit and spirit combination is quite sweet, and though this wine may seem old-fashioned now, its a charming example of a mature, vintage fortified. The palate smoothly melds the mocha with some vanilla bean, rum and raisin chocolate and sweet brandy spirit- altogether this wine was just the ticket for a winter afternoon with a few ROMEOs (Retired Old Men Eating Out)  – although not everyone fitted this category exactly.

The wine will endure on its plateau for many more years, and I have not added any points for historic interest – even though tempted.

Drink to 2030, 91 points

1986 Morris (rare) Muscat

The Rutherglen quality classifications run upwards through Rutherglen, Classic, Grand and Rare. So what lies beyond? Museum? Icon? Antique?

Brown muscat (muscat a petits grains rouge), picked very ripe, fortified with neutral spirirt, then barrel aged for as long as necessary; slowly oxidising and becoming more concentrated; freshened up with younger material from time to time. Simple? By no means, as the wines are then usually blended, which is an entire mystic art. Each year, the winemaker makes decisions about the presumed destiny (quality level) of batches, conducts blending trials, samples spirits, and much more.

I once asked a Rutherglen winemaker the secret to making decent fortifieds of this style “Start at least 20 years ago…then take your time”.

Vintage muscats are uncommon; Morris released versions from 1982, 1986 and 1988 when aged about 5 years; but this example has been aged 30 years! Morris possesses older materials, eked out into blends where a splash makes a world of difference. A good introduction to the classification of Rutherglen muscat is here.

And a recent, lively and informative article by Sean Mitchell on Rutherglen muscats complete with reviews on wines from multiple producers at the different classification levels is here.

oay morris muscat

Firstly this “money can’t buy” wine requires some coaxing before it weasels out of the bottle.

The colour is a black hole – a dark, dense caramel, and we’re truly into non-wine territory. How can gradual oxidation and concentration make this dense, but still fresh fortified wine? We have concentrated mocha, there is condensed raisin, dried fig, walnut, and a slight sense of coconut oil. The texture is extraordinary – rich and luscious are puny understatements. The (neutral) spirit is fully integrated, just one of the wine’s facets.

It’s an experience to swallow, and then wait minutes to for the flavours to subside. The freshness however insists that further indulgence is necessary. By no means painful, describing this wine is akin to bowling to Bradman in his prime- intimidating. The glass is stained with residue. Remarkable.

Drink now, and 98 points.

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!

Morris Cellar One Classic Liqueur Muscat 17.5%

It’s been a while; juggling two new casual positions has been wearing; and a few intended posts have fallen victim to photographic mishaps, lost notes and wine faults. Hectot Lannibal will return in October with another Stoney Goose Ridge new release.

In the meantime, here’s a tasting note on a wine that is actually available for purchase!

Morris is a longstanding Rutherglen winery, recently offloaded by Pernod Ricard and acquired by Casella. I strongly hope that David Morris can continue to produce the full-bodied red wines including the memorable Durif, the amazing VFM Shiraz and other specialties, plus the plethora of fortified wines – Aperas (sherry styles) , Topaque (Australian tokay styles), Muscats in a range of calibres (and prices) and a vintage fortified.

“Classic” is the 3rd tier of quality hierarchy employed by most Rutherglen fortified makers; entry level is Rutherglen, then Classic, then Grand; “Rare” is the classification at the summit. These have longer barrel aging (generating more concentration) Finally the wines endure the judgement of peers; the wines are assessed for quality and adherence to style parameters, so the higher classifications tend to be older, richer, more concentrated.

More information about the classification system  is here.

A useful opportunity at the Morris cellar door is to taste through the range side-by side from Classic to Rare, then try to exercise purchase restraint. I seldom escape with  less than one dozen mixed bottles each visit.

Given that Morris makes a quality Classic Muscat at a lower price, the Cellar One Classic Liqueur Muscat is an “alternate” higher priced version (500 ml for $35 with a generous 20% discount for Morris wine club members), what is the story? My judgement is it’s a young wine but made from a blend of “better” vintages, and demonstrates alignment of fruit density with freshness, pointing that “classic” is a worthy, and broad-ranging classification level, not a poor relation.

morris cellar one muscat

It’s a clean bright light amber/khaki colour, with visible legs; as well as the typical raisin aromas and other dried fruits, there are voluminous scents of fresh rose petals and jersey caramel, the fortifying spirit seems neutral allowing these varietal characters to shine. Oak is not directly noticeable in this style, although it contributes to the rancio characters and a grainy, finely woody acidity. In this sweet fortified wine, bright flavours dwell in the mouth, coating all parts persistently while the acidity means the wine retains vibrancy and the imperative for further tastes.

Not meant to be cellared; exposure to this style should lead to a legion of new converts; and merits a merry 91 points.