Revisiting two fortifieds (blind tasting)

Ideally, I make my tasting notes over several days, noticing nuances and changes. But in a blind tasting there is much more emphasis on speed. Its challenging to see how accurately (or not)  I have described the wine, its age and origins after it’s unmasked. Here were two wines that I have previously reviewed on this site – my descriptions and conclusions were (gratifyingly) consistent – with one important exception.

nv mcwilliams 25 tawny

McWilliams Show reserve Tawny limited release 25 years old 19.5%
Riverina, NSW. 500ml, bottled in 2015. Also reviewed in June 2020.

Khaki/olive colour with an orange rim. There is a lot of vanilla here, with sweet fruit and a savoury finish. Luscious, and convincing with dried citrus fruits, brazil nuts, jersey caramel. Australian for sure, and a tawny style.  South Australia or Rutherglen, and 20 years old (or more). Well I cannot be faulted for not getting the region correct. Made from Grenache, Touriga and Shiraz. Enjoy the decadence!

Drink now, 93 points.

h&h 20 terrantez

Henriques and Henriques 20 y/o terrantez 20%
Madeira. Also reviewed in January 2019

Pale orange/khaki, with a clear rim. Sea-spray, green olives, citrus peel. Tawny port style. Palate is savoury, crisp and prolonged. Acidity is pronounced, massive. Beautiful wine. Madeira? Verdelho? Palate sings with freshness, citrus, nuts, fruitcake- the works. Terrantez is rare, and fits between Verdelho and Bual in sweetness. This wine was 74 g/l residual sugar, but swamped by the acidity, that propels further tasting investigation.

Last time, due to some staleness I found, I gave 88 points. This time no problems, and rather than a life of weeks after opening, a life of months is possible- except in my household.

Drink to 2050, 94 points


Henriques and Henriques Terrantez 20% (Madeira)

I am well out of my comfort zone here, as respectable Madeiras are not easy to find, or affordable in Australia, so my tasting experience is limited. This wine was an opportunity to increase my knowledge; although retail at around $125, an extravagant exercise.

Madeira is an island of Portugal, but lies roughly 1000k south-west of the mainland, and has a Mediterranean climate.

The main variety used in making (cheaper) Madeira is Tinta Negra Mole; the higher quality varieties are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malvasia (Malmsey), in order of increasing sweetness.  Terrantez is another quality variety, but an outlier – due to its rarity. Cheaper, earlier drinking madeiras are made by heating, and cooling the wines; higher-quality wines rely on barrel aging and associated oxidation, so these wines are “sherry-like”. Once opened, they can be consumed – very slightly chilled- over several weeks.

There is more extensive detail on the internet than I expected; an excellent resource on Madeira wine is here, another from Nicks is here and a blog from a mad-keen devotee here.

h&h 20 terrantez

It’s amber in colour with a clear, almost green rim; bouquet has spices, walnut, fruitcake, curry powder, dried fruits/fruitcake, but there is a stale note too. The palate is better; medium-dry, lively with fresh almond, citrus peel, fig, coffee , abundant acidity and a dry crisp finish.

The wine will not improve after bottling, but will hold for a long time; the touch of staleness (real, or unappreciated with my naivety at the style) restricts my score to 88 points.