Two Seppeltsfield aperas

Here in Melbourne, in light lockdown, we’re unable to meet at restaurants or share wines with friends. It’s especially difficult to open the strong and/or sweet wines I usually write about – because these styles in particular – are meant to be shared. Instead, I have been spending more time on other pleasures – the movies and documentaries on Kanopy, and a set of music videos on bluescluster. A few Zoom meetings about wine, and on guitar have been diverting. I had just one morning picking Shiraz and another day driving collecting buckets of Shiraz.

Anyway, some impressions of a few recent drinks.

Seppeltsfield DP 116 Aged Flor apera 23%
Seppeltsfield DP38 Vera Viola Rich rare oloroso 21.7%
Australia has a long tradition of making sherry styles (now called apera), with notable exponents Seppeltsfield (based in the Barossa Valley), and a group clustered around Rutherglen – Chambers, Morris, Pfeiffer and others. The style is doomed to be niche, but when cellar-doors re-open, the wines will enliven your taste-buds. In the meantime, check out the bottle shops, and buy one!

These two wines were made by the solera method (based on the Palomino grape, and neutral spirit) , with an average minimum age of 15 and 18 years respectively. Bravo to Seppeltsfield chief winemaker Fiona Donald, and all the crew involved over the many years to sustain this style.

The style thrives as a pre-dinner aperitif, yet has the substance to stand up to a charcuterie platter, a rich soup, or tapas – sardines, whitebait or calamari instantly come to mind; the price for these 500ml bottles – retailing around $30 – is a travesty – jump in! I think the style should be served cool, but I see no need to keep them in the fridge for more than a few minutes. Once opened, they will merrily keep for a few weeks without losing appeal.

seppeltsfield aperas

The aged flor is a bright pale orange/amber colour; it exudes candied orange peel, light honey, cashew, incense and salinity. The palate is concentrated, bracingly fresh, and mouthfilling.
Drink now, 91 points.

The oloroso style is similar in colour, slightly darker amber. More dark honey. Mixed dried fruitcake, mixed nuts, sweet spices, darker fruits, more twang. The palate shows greater vanilla, cream and concentration, with even better length than its sibling. Irresistable!
Drink now, 93 points

For some learning, Ruben Luyten has an amazing site at Sherry Notes; there is a wealth of information about flor yeast, biological aging, the classifications, and digressions to the “en ramas”, almacenistas, and lots more! Highly recommended.


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.