A few different ports

1994 Gehrig Family Estate Vintage Port 17.5%
Barnawatha, on the outskirts of Rutherglen (Victoria). A recent very smart $25 auction buy. Although the cork failed to survive the corkscrew and ah-so, all was OK after the usual filtration. From “low-yielding old Shiraz vines”, it’s still a deep ruby colour with blackberry, bramble and sweet brandy vanilla. The palate is mellow and cuddly. There is fruity plum, blackberry and fig to satisfy the most fastidious with enough weight and tannin to maintain interest throughout.  Absolutely at its peak with cork gods indulgence. Terrific, and insanely delicious from a less-well-known producer.

1994 gehrig vp

Drink to 2026, and 91 points

1985 Warres Vintage Port 20%
Three different corkscrews failed to remove the cork cleanly, and plentiful sediment was successfully filtered out.

Ruby with some bricking, but the colour was still  flattering for a 36 year old Portuguese Vintage Port.. The wine is very stylish with fragrant mocha, fig, ripe red and black fruits and smart integrated mellow spirit. The palate adds almond notes, spices and the fresh as well as dried fruit flavours persist.

Drinking dramatically well now – and up to say 2030, and 95 points

1991 Seppeltsfield Para (21 year old) 21%
A single vintage tawny style, purchased last year at auction for $70. Around 40 y/o seems to be my preference in tawny styles; older wines can show extremes, meaning they are impressive but not entirely pleasurable; younger wines don’t achieve all the complexities the style is capable of. But 21 years is enough!

Seppelts (and Seppeltsfield) have unparalleled experience in this style with Para appearing in many guises. Mainly made from Grenache, there is the typical Seppelt khaki colour with a green tint. Beautifully assembled; there are all sorts of nut – almond and brazil with whispers of olive.  Toffee, caramel, mocha, hints of malt, salinity; clean spirit integrated and the end result in is a lush triumph. Rich with depth and acidy preventing any cloying. From a terrific red year in the Barossa

Drink now, and 93 points.

One sweet, one fortified

2011 Donnafugata Passita di Pantelleria Ben Ryé 14.5%
Half-bottle. From Sicily, Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria) air-dried, ending up with 203 g/l of residual sugar. On this island off Siciy, old bush vines are protected from the prevailing winds by terraces. The drying process means the grape-juice loss of perhaps 30%, with lots of manual handing (selecting, and de-stemming) with a flow-on to pricing. This is a super-refreshing dessert wine – no botrytis, no fortification, so there are – merely – the usual sweet wine production hazards of VA, lengthy fermentation and reduced yield. The air drying on mats or racks can add its own special dangers with humidity, insects and wildlife.  Further information from the producer is here. The wine will be hard to find in Australia, but one retailer sells a half-bottle for $80 (vintage not known).

This is a wine with distinctive character – narrow to some but mesmerising.

The colour was deep gold; scents came through with peppermint, vermouth-like herb and spices, and an overwhelming sense of apricots and other stonefruit, peaches, nectarine – a halfway house between over-ripe and tinned fruit. It’s a full-bodied wine of power and intensity. The exotically fragrant Muscat of Alexandria grape is expressed – winemaking here has been expert at preserving fruit vigour over artefact.

Drink to 2025, but it’s ready and will awaken jaded palates, so 93 points

NV Orlando Commemoration (tawny) Port
Another speculative auction purchase for just over $30, again from Barossa Shiraz, Carignan and Mataro, matured in small French oak with an average age of 15 years. So this “old liqueur port” is somewhat more than a generic commercial release, and probably hit the market in 1981 or 1982. Made in a deliberately oxidative style, any improvement in the bottle is marginal, and runs the usual risks of improper storage, cork failure, and potential loss of freshness. Decanting not only avoids sediment, but can alleviate initial aromatic oddities.

The contents have rested in a bottle for 40 years, and the cork broke when I tried to remove it. The art of blending this style is trying to ensure the blend is better than its components, getting depth and flavour complexity from older material, gaining the vibrancy from more youthful material.

I admire the squat bottle, black wax remnants and the charmingly retro label.

The colour is a amber, khaki and a lighter amber-tinted rim. Fresh and strong. The palate is a rich, smooth amalgam of mocha and light caramel, with vanilla present but not obtrusive, dried and stewed fruits, citrus peel., mixed spices- an assembly of passion. Everything sits smoothly,   

Drink now, 90 points

NV McWilliams Show reserve Limited release Tawny 19.5%

nv mcwilliams 25 tawny

Humble Australian Riverina fruit (Shiraz, Touriga, Grenache) with a minimum average age of 25 years. Screwcap, and in a 500ml bottle. Amber in colour with a touch of khaki. Toffee, vanilla, mixed salted nuts. The palate is ultra-smooth, with dried fruits, jersey caramels and fig. Clean, fresh, crisp, supple, soothing – light on its feet. It’s one of those wines that sneaks up. It has all the benefits of extended ageing, without the eccentricities that can accumulate. A classy, complete fortified wine.

Drink in good company, otherwise with a film noir and an open fire.

Drink now, 93 points.

NV Saltram Mr Pickwicks Particular Tawny 19.5%

The label looks fussy and old-fashioned with its portraits of old men in the period costume of the 1830’s. The back label alludes to Charles Dicken’s (first novel) character the Mr Pickwick, founder of the Pickwick Club and his (light) adventures.

Dickens always has memorable characters (albeit often “flat”) Here’s a nice quote…
“’I assure you, my good friend, I have more money than I can ever need; far more than a man at my age can ever live to spend,” said Mr. Pickwick.
“No man knows how much he can spend, till he tries,’ observed Mr. Weller.

There’s a conflict between this homage, and the need to find a market, not easy with a fortified, and becoming even more difficult. I can’t believe I’m begging for label tweak, since this wine is readily available, retailing around $60, and represents such very good value for its quality.

nv saltram mr pickwick tawny

With an average age somewhere between 21 and 25 years (internet searches vary), this is old material – assume its Shiraz-based and from the Barossa Valley.

Amber colour with a khaki rim, its packed full of all the Christmas cake dried fruits, nuts and peel imaginable; fig, citrus, toffee, spices. Exquisite brandy spirit plays its part, and it ends with vanilla and lusciousness. There is obviously old material here, but it’s but amazingly fresh, smooth and decadent.

Oak, and vanilla presence makes a greater contribution than I would prefer in a perfect world, but there is no denying the concentration, power and grace that make it difficult to resist reaching for more.

Drink now (it will happily last a few weeks after the cork is removed), and 93 points.

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.

nv-dp90

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.

NV Penfolds Father (Grand) Tawny 18.5%

Its not always easy to adapt existing brands to cater for the fairly recent Australian classifications of “grand “and “rare” that have – at last- infiltrated Australian fortified wines.

Penfolds had a flagship “Grandfather”, now labelled and classified as “rare tawny” (the label Port has been thankfully dropped).

This left an interesting problem for the newly badged (and cheaper) “Father” which has the classification of “Grand”. All clear now?? This wine probably is a smarter version of the Penfolds Bluestone. Penfolds also produces a Great Grandfather- probably labelled as “museum”.

penfolds father

Its colour is amber/pale ruby with some orange tinting on the rim, bright and clear. It’s a class act for a minimum age 10 year material; with vanilla, light jersey caramel and hazelnut prominent. Its superbly balanced on the palate with clean rancio (label states low-strength spirit was used). Its immaculately constructed with a flavours that linger. Even though I paid just over $30, its terrific VFM for this standard. Its not too rich; its not too sweet, and goodness it compels more sipping.

One of my theories is that large companies try harder when they launch a new label; this fits!

Drink now, score 93.