2015 Brown Brothers Patricia Noble Riesling 10.5%

Produced in most years by Brown Brothers – a well-known Australian producer – back to the 1970s, from the King Valley, Victoria.

2015-bb-patricia

Bright gold/orange in colour; this luxurious wine overdelivers for its price ($35-$40 per half bottle).

Ripe apricot, orange peel, obvious botrytis. It has a massive 193 g/l residual sugar, but the palate floats with the necessarily high balancing acidity; silk, honey, ripe citrus fruits, and a faint hazelnut nuttiness. The Riesling characters of fresh apple and lime-like citrus remain, with the botrytis providing intensity, viscosity, and adding complexity. This is a really decadent wine which will overwhelm desserts and provoke contemplation of its attributes – a terrific achievement.

To 2028, and 93 points

1993 Stanton and Killeen Vintage Port 18.6%

90% Shiraz, 5% Durif, 5% Touriga. Rutherglen, Victoria
This vintage was rated very highly by the late master winemaker Chris Killeen from Stanton and Killeen – it won 5 trophies and 13 gold medals when these were hard to come by. “Will mature and improve in bottle for up to 25 years” claims the label – accurately!

1993 S&K vp

Deep ruby with some bricking. Aromatic, violets and a hint of mint, wafts of sweet mixed spices. Mellow, rich and lush – camphor, raspberry jam, sweet dark fruit – mulberry, blackberry, raspberry and excellent brandy spirit. With more time, greater red fruit characters emerge – red cherry and red licorice; this renewed complexity and the wine’s memorable flavours linger, forcing a score upgrade!

Altogether integrated and delicious, on a lovely plateau. Outstanding.

To 2025 (or longer), 95 points

An Australian Topaque and a Pedro Ximenez

Lindemans Classic  Tokay (topaque)  solera WH2 18%
Lindeman’s is a well-established Australian wine label, whose wines have lost lustre and market credibility over the years, with short-term accountancy driving the brand backwards. The Hunter River Semillons and Shiraz are almost invisible – and of lesser renown; the Coonawarra wines (St George, Limestone Ridge and Pyrus) still exist as the flagship, and the Leo Buring Rieslings – Leonay excepted – are a shadow of their antecedents.

Lindemans ran a Classic release program; my paper archives record that the Tokay solera WH1 was released in 1996 with an RRP of $64.95 – serious money 20 years ago! From Corowa and Rutherglen, it was based on an old Rutherglen Tokay parcel purchased in the late 1950’s. The WH2 was a later release that picked up 1 trophy and 20 gold medals.

nv lindemans tokay

It’s another historic fortified wine that is a seriously dark khaki colour with amber tints. Varietal malt, smoothness and density attest to serious average age. Malt, honey, espresso mocha and the clean acid grip of barrel-age impresses, but it still displays wonderful sweetness, balance and refreshment. More please!

Drink now, 94 points.

Buller Pedro X 18%
Buller is based in Rutherglen, Victoria and their bird park was a delight for my children that compensated partly for the long road-trip. Occasional sparkling reds, fortifieds and even a botrytis Semillon (from Swan Hill) were greatly enjoyed. The family has moved on, but this wine is still available (full-bottle) on their website for $29.

In Spain, Pedro Ximenez is often air dried before being used to either bolster sweeter sherry styles, or on its own as a powerfully sweet fortified wine packed with raisin and coffee liqueur traits. In Australia, several brave souls have made PX into a -typically undistinguished- dry white wine, but it has more often been blended with palomino to make sherry-styles.

NV buller px

This wine does not possess an attractive label, and the bottle is another regrettably heavy dreadnought. The cork is pristine, and the back label claims the base wines date back to 1976, with brandy spirit used in the fortification.

Surprisingly, this Buller wine is entirely in the style of Topaque; the colour is a lovely khaki; an absolute paradigm of malt, mocha and honey are in play; the palate is rich and sensual, malt, toffee and caramel combine, with a supple, all-too-easy dark and light honeyed palate. This is an exceptionally smooth, luscious (albeit not the oldest) fortified wine that is utterly delicious.

At the price, it’s worth a food match with a range of cheeses, and after-dinner conviviality.

Drink now, 92 points – and extra merit for great value.

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!

2003 Pondalowie Vintage Port 19.5%

50/50 Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Shiraz; 500ml bottle “fortified with selected grape spirit”, and only two barrels made- cork stained about 1/3 through.

Domenic and Krystina Morris have ample experience in Australia , and overseas, with workplace Quinta do Crasto in Portugal being perhaps an inspiration for their only fortified – so far. The Bendigo-based  Pondalowie wines are fruit-driven with oak as a complement; the reserve wines are vintage and variety-dependent. Prices are very fair.

2003-pondalowie-vpFrom a hot, low-yielding drought year in Victoria, the colour of this wine is a dense black red, with minor bricking;  Fruit-powered, with aromatics of  exuberant dark liqueur Morello cherry and some red liquorice; the palate mirrors this with some plum too, and fine, lingering chalky tannins; spirit is a bit hot to start but resolving.

Lovely drinking to 2023 and 91 points, but certainly requires a decant to remove the sediment.

 

 

NV Pondalowie special release sparkling shiraz 14%

From near Bendigo in Central Victoria. Goldfields areas, so often a portent of wines of amazing colour and depth of flavours. Appropriately I opened this bottle on Australia’s “spurgle” (sparkling red) day. While this style is not – quite- unique to Australia, we’ve given it a home, and when I’ve shown examples to some European tasters they have been baffled. Generally made from Shiraz, but sometimes other varieties are used- Cabernet Sauvignon, Durif, even Merlot. Like other sparkling wines, time on yeast lees really makes a difference, as does ripeness, as does time in oak. A bit of sweetness is necessary to balance the tannins- anywhere from 10-50 g/l, but I think less successfully when over 30g/l. And they can age very well, under cork or increasingly common crown seal (think of the seal on a beer bottle…).

pondalowie

Enough preamble- the Pondalowie is a blend of several vintages. It’s a very dense blood red/black colour. The bubbles are not very persistent, but thankfully the wine is at the drier end of the spectrum – my guess is about 15g/l. incidentally the label depicts a stylised dog – not barbed wire as I once suspected, and is sealed with a diam cork. Its all about intense ripe blackberry, fruitcake spices, other dark fruits including cherry. It walks the line of combining long savoury notes and the creaminess of the palate. How could anyone not enjoy this? Score 91, Drink now- 2020

This wine is currently available on the Pondalowie website for $40. If you enjoy this wine style – which matches extremely well with duck, and other red meat roasts, – try the 2012 Seppelt or if you are not constrained by cash or availability, the Primo estate “Joseph” in its extraordinary tall bottle, or the NV Rockford Black Shiraz, or sparkling reds from Anderson’s in Rutherglen.