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.


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

Recent drinking

2006 MF Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese AP #7 8%
Mosel, 91 g/l residual sugar.

Bright deep gold colour, showing red apple, a hint of pineapple and spices. The palate is ripe, creamy, with similar ripe red  apple, citrus and a touch of nut puree on the finish.

It’s sweet for the style (2006 in the Mosel was a heavy botrytis year) but retains plenty of acidity. I cannot imagine additional improvement- it’s in the holding zone, and I suggest drinking rather than keeping.

To 2024, and 90 points

1973 Kaiser Stuhl Vintage Port
Shiraz, Barossa Valley. The company no longer exists – corporate shenanigans.

From an average year, the surprise is the longevity. It’s not the most complex wine, but it shows the stylistic sweet, ripe liquorice and blackberry fruit, suggestions of mocha, raisin and camphor, and warming brandy spirit. A surprise that this humble wine from an average vintage still provides pleasure after 47 years!

Drink now, 87 points.

1998 Chateau Reynella Vintage Port 19% bottle #04293

McLaren Vale, South Australia.
When presented with what seemed like an Australian vintage fortified wine, the usual option question often resolved to “McLaren Vale (Hardy’s or Reynella) or North-east Victoria (Baileys, or Rutherglen candidates)”.

Selecting the McLaren Vale option involved dissection of the ripeness and extent of strident blackberry – sometimes with success. Another clue was the calibre of the spirit. Choosing between Hardy’s or Reynella fell outside my expertise.|

The previous bottle of this wine was in hindsight – oxidised.  This wine is youthful, despite the label helpfully suggesting “excellent drinking at ten to twenty years of age”. Many (Australian) wine show gold medals attest to its inherent quality. The cork was short but adequate, and its fine sediment merited decanting,

1998 ch reynella vp

Black red in colour, the wine displays overt ripe Shiraz – blackberry- nearly into jam territory – high-quality brandy spirit, and fresh sweet spices. Altogether this amounts to a special wine. Not overblown, not overripe, its dark fruits, concentration, ultra- fine tannins, and extended finish is manicured, and immaculately composed.

We have easy, slightly old-fashioned, delectable hedonism. It’s a model example of the Reynella style.

Drink to 2030, and 94 points

Unrelated wines – catching up

1983 orlando vp july 2020

1983 Orlando Vintage Port 19.8%
Barossa Valley (South Australia) Shiraz. Solid ruby colour with minor bricking.  aromatic – sweet, fine brandy spirit; fig, plum, stewed rhubarb, blueberry; fruitcake spices. Later, red liquorice, cherry liqueur, and a touch of almond. Lingering fine tannins meshed with that superb spirit.

Delicious drinking but without the magic of the previous bottle (on this blog Dec 2019) albeit similar notes. No complaints at 37 years!

Drink to 2030, 91 points

2008 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett AP#3 7.5%
Mosel, Screwcap, and 48g/l residual sugar. Bright gold; citrus and Jonathon apple lead with brown spices and minerals; the palate shows juicy yellow-flesh peach, wrapped up with zingy acidity. The mineral influence shines through. The wine is easy to drink, but is not as expressive as most of the wines from one of my favourite Mosel producers.

Drink to 2025, 90 points.


2015 O’Leary Walker “Wyatt Earp” Fortified Shiraz 18.5%

This is not my typical review, but features detours galore – that I hope will stimulate research by my readers.

Australia produced many “series” of fortified “ports” with racehorses, greyhounds, Prime ministers – and more – adorning labels. “Wyatt Earp” immediately seems to lack any Australian heritage but was a brand launched by Quelltaler, and now this vintage appears from O’Leary Walker.

Wyatt Earp was the gambler and lawman famed for the “shootout at the OK Corral”. He was portrayed by Henry Fonda  in John Ford’s excellent western movie “My Darling Clementine”. Parts of this movie – and many more – were shot in the indelibly scenic Monument Valley – (Utah/Arizona)- which I visited in October 2014 and recently in April 2019. I am a monster fan of these westerns, with Ford’s “Searchers”, “She Wore a yellow Ribbon”, “Stagecoach”, “Fort Apache”, “Rio Grande”,  “Wagon Master”, “Sergeant Rutledge” “Liberty Vallance”, plus more westerns by other directors such as “Red River”, “Shane”, “True Grit” and “Unforgiven” supremely recommended.  A further diversion is that “My Darling Clementine” also features one of my favourite character actors –  Walter Brennan, charismatically irresistible here,as well as in “The Westerner” and with Humphrey Bogart in “To have and have not”.

Google revealed the antipodean connection to Dodge City and Tombstone’s marshall. American explorer Lincoln Ellsworth converted a boat for polar use in 1929 and named it “Wyatt Earp”, after one of his heroes. The boat made several voyages (from Adelaide) to Antarctica until the Australian navy acquired the vessel in 1939 – renaming it “Wongala”.  Several more names changes occurred until the boat ran aground in 1959. A Quelltaler box claimed that the boat’s skipper developed a firm friendship, and made regular copious vintage port purchases for the crew. The fortified was then branded as “Wyatt Earp” in celebration. The earliest Wyatt Earp vintage I found references to was from 1947, with the latest from 1977. But I’m glad it was revived!

It may seem odd to be tasting a fortified Shiraz that is so youthful, with many years before its most rewarding drinking window. The winemaker has to aim a long, long way into the future. However, this drinking decision was inspired by Andrew Jefford’s extraordinarily stimulating column in Decanter, where he describes the winemaking process as  “fruit is pummeled to annihilation as quickly as possible during a break-neck vinification period of extreme if carefully controlled violence (perhaps cage-fighting would be the best metaphor of all)”. Jefford then adds a riveting tasting note, in support of early – and later- drinking of this fascinating wine style.

After these digressions, (finally) I turn to the 2015 O’Leary Walker Fortified Shiraz (screwcap, 500ml, Clare Valley – South Australia, available from the O’Leary Walker website). The back label asserts it’s made from 80y/o Shiraz vines and fortified with brandy spirit.

2015 o'leary walker fortified

It’s a luscious, youthful purple/crimson colour; its perfumed meld includes blackcurrant, dark cherry, plum, light cocoa, and delicious fine, sweet brandy spirit; the palate adds blackberry, blueberry and the emergence of some fig and dark cocoa. By no means a blockbuster, it’s ultra supple, with fine tannins supporting the fruit weight. This wine is surprisingly delicious already, although another 20 years is easily achievable and will increase the variety of characters detectable. I’m very glad Jefford tempted me into trying this youthful wine!

Drink to 2040 and 92 points.

1990 Craiglee Shiraz

“selected and bottled at Craiglee exclusively for Walter’s wine bar”

Apparently a few barrels were kept in oak for a few months longer while the standard Craiglee Shiraz went on to win 27 gold medals and a clutch of trophies (is there another Australian non-fortified wine with a better show record?). I extricated this remnant bottle during a cleanup of the Craiglee stocks, and had no clue that it was ever made (1990-1993 apparently).

I never got to Walters, even when located first in Rathdowne Street Carlton as “Maria and Walters”, but have been very fortunate to taste the 1990 Craiglee Shiraz many times, most recently in mid-January. I cannot discern the difference in the Walter’s selection. Its a 26 year-old wine from Sunbury Victoria, in stunning condition made by long-time winemaker Pat Carmody.

1990 craiglee shiraz

I broke the cork, but it had performed its duty.

The deep colour is more ruby than garnet; while there is clearly bottle development, the wine in still vibrant and fresh (and I would have guessed late 90’s). Its magically balanced, with sweet ripe raspberry and dark cherry aromatics and flavours swamping faint dusty oak. Yet this fruit-centred con concentrated medium- bodied wine is savoury and succulent with faint gamey nuances., and mingled peppers and spices. Long, long finish (>18 seconds).

An astonishing achievement and an eye-opener for those more familiar with traditional South Australian Shiraz; you can have depth of flavour without jamminess. Its more akin to a Northern Rhone wine in style. An utterly delicious drinking privilege, with the evidence pointing to at least another 10 years of life, cork permitting.

Drink to 2025, 96 points

Grampians masterclass

Grampians (Western Victoria), centred around Stawell and Ararat is less known for its Rieslings than its Shiraz, – probably overshadowed by the Rieslings from Henty (Seppelt Drumborg and Crawford River). However the Grampians can produce long-living, floral and mineral styles. Judicious use of low levels of residual sugar seems to help. The wines below are firmly in the “fruity” camp, not sweet.

Seppelt Great Western Riesling 2014

Varietal bath-salts, talc, mineral tang, zippy, delicious (14 g r/s) balanced, versatile

Drink now-2020, Score 92

Mt Langi Ghiran Langi Riesling 2010

Geisenheim clone of Riesling. Some bottle age-characters, honey and limes, but is on the austere side

Drink now- 2020, Score 88

Halls Gap Estate Riesling 2015

Obviously very youthful, residual sugar (8 g/l) is subdued by the beautifully judged.acidity, Fruit tingles. A producer new to me, although winemaker Duncan Buchanon is well known

Drink now- 2025, score 94

Best’s Great Western ‘Foudre ferment’ Riesling, 2014

Alsace-inspired, but thankfully at 11% not overblown as Alsace can be. Moderately soft, with some musk, citrus peel and florals, but the reward is the palate- slippery, slinky, textured, rounded.

Drink now- 2022, score 91

Jamsheed Garden Gully Riesling 2013

Skin contact, some barrel ferment. unfined, unfiltered, Looked a bit cloudy, and had some sour/bitter characters. Full on, very determined winemaking, very individual, but definitely didn’t appeal to me.

Not recommended

The Story Westgate Vineyard Marsanne Roussanne Viognier 2014

OK its not a Riesling, but was included in the bracket. There’s only a few rows of these varieties around in the district, and it’s a field blend. Bright, clear, tell-tale citrus and honeysuckle with a rounded palate. Comfortable rich wine, but I think some extra acidity would be my preference.

Drink now-2017, Score 86


Grampians shiraz is the “hero” wine; like many of the red wines grown in alluvial areas, it’s robust in flavours while being only medium bodied – likely benefitting from old vines, and restrained yields. The array of exotic spices and pepper integrated with natural acidity means the wines are long-lived, savoury and food-friendly. A move to whole bunches in the ferment means care has to be taken in techniques and judgement to avoid green characters and the technical composition including pH of finished wines.

2013 was a warm vintage with the added issue of varieties ripening together, complicating the typical vintage task of matching capacities of the right kind of vessel and picking best blocks at right times while crossing fingers and toes for the rest. All colours of wines tasted below were very youthful, with oak and tannins just beginning to really integrate. Alcohol levels were generally around 14%. Patience will be rewarded, as they are a pretty bracing now, with their best well ahead, as demonstrated with the bracket of wines following.

I feel that maybe it was not the best season to be brash on whole bunch inclusions.

Seppelt St. Peter’s Grampians Shiraz 2013

A riot of mixed spices matched with fine mocha-oak. Mix of black and red berries. Balanced but possibly lacking the usual concentration of this marque. Whole bunch used as “blend-in” material. Curiously disappointing after recalling the quality of the VFM Seppelt 2013 Chalambar Shiraz.

Drink 2018 – 2030, score 91

Bests Bin 0 Great Western Shiraz 2013

No “Thompson” made in 2013, so this wine has benefited from the “trickle-down”. A very health rude purple colour, there is upfront oak, but built in over savoury, clove-y, cocoa notes. I find the Bests Bin 0 often not especially varietal except via elimination, but this is a splendid wine regardless.

Drink 2016-2030, score 94

Jamsheed Garden Gully Vineyard Syrah 2013

80% whole bunch – high pH, high TA (a curious combination). I found the tannins here hard and green, Time may help, and I may be entirely wrong.

Drink 2015-2019, score 82

Halls Gap Estate Shiraz 2013

Seems, rawer and sweeter-fruited than other wines in the bracket. Tannins make their presence felt, but ultimately seems a bit straightforward – although keenly priced.

Drink 2016-2020, score 86

The Story Westgate Vineyard Grampians Shiraz 2013

Crisp, savoury, smooth, slinky, classy wine. There is some hardness in the tannins here too. I’m a fence-sitter on this one

Drink now-2020, score 89

Mt Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz 2013

Slightly medicinal bouquet (forgiveable) which dissipated over time, oak is prominent, acid is poking through and this wine looks entirely backward; hard to describe which means it is “right”, with all in place; best course is to revisit in a few months

Drink 2017 – 2027, score 91

Now we get to look at the time capsule; older wines as a pointer to how the 2013’s could develop. Most of these wines are lower alcohol.

Seppelt Great Western Hermitage 1971

A wine I have agonised over on previous occasions; is it a bit of TCA, or is it a combination of some hay/straw and some garlicky sulphides and varietal mushroom? It resuscitates on the palate as a fully mature, generously flavoured old wine with tremendous now-vinous fruit concentration. Remember its 44 years old, and deserves respect.

Drink now, Score 87

Bests Bin 0 Shiraz 1984

Chewy, some Ribena-like characters, and dark cherries. No rush!

Drink now-2020, score 86

Bests Bin 0 Shiraz 1998

Vibrant, beautiful medium bodied wine of length, charm and finesse. Astounding.

Drink now- 2025, Score 95

Mt Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz 1998

Also very alive, with some sweet toasty oak, a decent wine but wouldn’t place it as Victorian

Drink now – 2018, score 87

Mt Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz 2004

Colour seems to show its been in a deep freezer; ultra youthful. But it seems a bit “stretched”, and I cannot see improvement with further maturation.

Drink up 84

Jamsheed Shiraz 2006 (magnum)

Colour is a bright bomb; there is some slight reduction on the bouquet, but the wine is dense, and flavour packed. Very happy here, and future is extensive.

Drink now- 2022, Score 93

Seppelt Show Sparkling Shiraz 1986

Disgorged in last week or so, there are some unattractive decayed elements on the bouquet, and the degree of bubbliness is subdued; BUT the fruit power remaining on the palate is extra-ordinary; full ripe plums, and blackberries, a wine at peace with itself.

Drink now, score 90