Two worthy Oz VP styles

1996 Chateau Reynella Vintage port 19%
Shiraz, McLaren Vale, bottle #00534 “should offer excellent drinking at ten to twenty years of age”

1996 reynella vp

The photo is of bottle #500, which was rejected as being slightly dull. That’s cork!

Deep ruby in colour, with some bricking. Camphor, red berry and cherry, with a slight confectionary character, and definite sweet spices. Served blind, my conclusion was that the wine was Australian, and predominantly Shiraz, with some Portuguese varieties present. With hindsight, I attributed its plentiful spice notes to Portuguese varieties such as Touriga rather than to the high-quality brandy spirit – so there’s another factor to watch for. The palate was fresh, with mixed spices, Swiss milk chocolate, and some creaminess.

Chateau Reynella – now Reynella-  was renowned for the blackberry characteristic of its VP styles (battling with the “rounder” plate of  neighbour Hardys). However, the absence of blackberry pushed my assumption (wrongly)  to a Victorian base. Altogether, the wine was in excellent condition, and passed the “more please” test.

Drink to 2030, and 92 points.

2003 Morris Vintage Port 19%
Rutherglen, 51% Shiraz, 28% Touriga, 21% Durif.

2003 morris vp

A $22 auction purchase last year. Its label shows gold medals at four different shows across five years, a super- impressive result.

Adequate cork. Deep black with some trivial bricking on the rim. Cherry ripe meets blueberry and violets. Sweetness with wafer-fine tannins. Spirit folded in. Seductive, sensuous texture. Concentration with elegance. Supple, bright and fresh, with a lot of time left to mellow. Bargain.

Drink to 2035, 93+ points

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Three wines, at least two learnings

1982 S&K VP

1982 Stanton and Killeen Vintage Port 19%
Rutherglen Shiraz, from a vintage rated as 9/10 by the winemaker.

Forty years old , and the cork has held up. Bricky colour, but nothing out of order.
Black fruits, mocha, fresh red liquorice, and vanilla bean; almond and clove spices join in. Light milk chocolate, soft palate. Easy to ask for more.

Drink to 2025, and a resounding 91 points

Warre’s Optima 20 Year old Tawny Port 20%
Portugal, bottled in 2013 (and served blind)

Light khaki colour, and packed with toffee, caramel, vanilla, fruit peel, and citrus. Light on its feet, lingering, everything in its place…except one sensitive taster mentioned mousiness.

This is – fortunately for me-not easy to detect (it depends on mouth pH and other factors), else it would ruin my enjoyment of many fortified wines. Mousiness can occur in non-fortified wines, seemingly more prevalent with no-early-SO2 wines (hello, natural wines again). A brief article by Jamie Goode is here.

I can find mousiness via the “skin test”, smearing it over my wrist and waiting for evaporation. The result can be horrific – I liken it to burnt bacon, corn chips and popcorn with a bitter, harsh and unfortunately persistent flavour. Once detected, it’s impossible to overlook –  I’ve had worse than this wine, but…

Avoid. No score.

2008 Ca’ d’gal vite vecchia Moscato d’asti 5%
Piedmont, Italy (served blind)

Partiallly obvious what this was – the frizzante, slightly sparkling style (around 1.5 atmospheres – Champagne is 4.5-6), the sweetness (90-100 g/l) and obvious grapey muscat aromatic. However, instead of merely the usual refreshing sherbetty and “fun” approach, this wine had much more complexity – chamomile, lime, beeswax/candlewax, a spice-bucket with mandarin citrus. Flavours mirrored this, and while still bracingly vibrant, bonus merit for its surprising cellarability and the exotic souk perfumes, Aged for 5 years in bottle, and look at the meagre alcohol level! Obvious ageing potential here. The producer makes a range; this is the old-vine flagship, No surprise its> $120.

Scoring presents a conundrum – Moscato d’asti is user-friendly, but this was well beyond my expectations of the style. It startled me, and led to some research.

Drink now, and 95 points

1972 – a fifty-year-old Australian fortified

1972 yalumba vp

1972 Yalumba Vintage Port
Barossa Valley, South Australia, and assumed to be mostly Shiraz.

Excellent level, and an intact, well-stained cork.
Deep brick-red colour; sweet brandy notes, liquorice and fruitcake spices. The palate is rich, mellow and rounded with brandy, mocha and bright dark plum fruits, a touch of almond, again with some spices. Clean, lingering, balanced and refreshing. Its enjoyment quotient was enormous.

For a fifty-year-old wine (purchased at auction only six months ago for a speculative $35), this is remarkable.  Australian vintage fortifieds don’t drink any better than this.

Drink now, and this spectacular bottle – at a key anniversary age -deserves 95 points.

Recent misses (and hits)

1968 Moulin Touchais (Coteaux du Layon) Loire Valley
Chenin blanc. A bit of dried apple, but this oxidised bottle provided no pleasure.
1979 Moulin Touchais (Coteaux du Layon) Loire Valley
Similar, but worse. Pretty dead.

These “fails” could not be scored. But Cellartracker shows there are better bottles around.

2004 fonseca
2004 Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port
Portugal. Ruby colour with some bricking; dark red fruits and plum, dried fruitcake and spices, almond meal, clean spirit, savoury, grippy, chalky. Maybe a tad light, but very smashable at the end of a long night! Not a generally declared year, and in this year Fonseca also produced a Panascal. The single quinta wines can be excellent value.

Drink to 2030, 92 points

2005 Zind-humbrecht Turkheim Riesling 13%
Alsace. Advanced mandarine colour; apricot and tropicals run riot. Palate is off-dry, waxy, with lime marmalade, and  22 g/l residual sugar. Great fun, but drink up. Alsace is so inconsistent, but when they get it right. Zind-humbrecht sometimes seem alcohol-heavy; this hit the spot.

Drink now, 90 points

2000 Chambers botrytis tokay
Rutherglen, Victoria. Its colour was almost mahogany, but it was still kicking sweetly with orange, toffee, quince,  and dried fruits. It was very grapey, spicy, and varietally not Riesling nor Sauterne-like. I was pondering Frontignac, or something unusual.

Botrytis tokay (muscadelle) is uncommon, but not unique. Chambers in Rutherglen released thi style from 1996, 2000 and 2011. Pfeiffer has also made the style.

Drink now, and 90 points-  as a wine that was difficult to define, but worth the effort.

1977 taylors VP
1977 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port
Portugal. Memories came flooding back after this wine was unmasked; it was the first Portuguese VP I ever tasted, and I instantly purchased one bottle despite my meagre salary. That bottle was opened in mid-2005 – “rose-petal & raisin & Turkish delight, high alcohol, huge power- another 20 years”.

Sixteen years later…. ruby with some brick, not the deepest, but with a mix of red, blue, black, purple fruits; fresh, fleshy, ultra-supple, clean spirit, almond notes, spices and rich dark chocolate. Its owner informed that a three-hour decant did the trick. This wine looks indestructible, and its complexity was a delight.

Drink to 2040, and 95 points

Two different Port styles, two countries

2000 graham's vp

2000 Graham’s Vintage Port 20%
Cork in great condition, and the wine has a youthful deep crimson colour; bracingly fresh and floral raspberry and faint musk; palate with rich cherry liqueur and blue fruits ; terrific calibre of spirit, chalks and almond; has entered a decent drinking stage of a long, long, life. Graham’s reputed to be at the sweeter end of Portuguese VPs- but there were no complaints at the table.

Drink to 2040, 93 points – with more to come.

1933 para

1933 Seppelt Para Liqueur Port
1933 merely represents the oldest material in this barrel-matured tawny blend, which was released around 1962. At that tender time, there was no requirement to list alcohol, and its composition is likely to be some mix of grenache, shiraz and Mataro, with an average age guessed at 25 years.

There is the unmistakable squat bottle; but the colour did not show the tell-tale Seppelt khaki/green. It revealed more vanilla characters than expected for this style. However, it was fresher than several previous examples, and showed an array of dried fruits, almond and caramel, with a touch of mocha. Aged Barossa Valley material, and it’s always a treat to look at some history.

Drink now, 92 points.

Two from Brown Brothers

Victorians will haves scores of memories about the Brown Brothers cellar door at Milawa. For many, it was a welcome stopover on the way to the snowfields, or Rutherglen, with nearby cheese, olive, and mustard diversions. A cycling trip many years ago introduced me to the delights of blueberries. The cellar door boasted more than fifty wines available to try, with many obscurities. Brown Brothers played a key part in the wine education of thousands.  Their “Kindergarten” winery also provided a licence for winemakers to make microbatches of trial varieties, and experiment with exotic techniques.

The expanding, efficient, friendly cellar-door provided a wealth of real-life consumer and instant focus-group-like research on likes, tastes and experimentation with prices, with rapid feedback. I was cheerfully allowed to taste the more expensive wines – even after I explained these were beyond my budget.

I recall Graciano, Mondeuse in various blends, the Noble Riesling, and names like Koombahla, Banksdale, Whitlands, Everton; sometimes even the grower’s name was highlighted.

Arguably, there was often competence rather than highlights, but it was almost impossible to avoid a few surprising purchases, and some increase in knowledge.

Brown Brothers took their educational role seriously, not just at cellar door, but at events like Expovin and the Exhibition of Victorian Winemakers.

Their wings have spread, and they continue to source grapes widely; the “Patricia” range is their flagship, with the sparkling wine and the Noble Riesling typically standouts (plus the NV sparkling is ridiculous value, and an easy recommendation). I must return!

brown brothers vp's

1986 Brown Brothers late-bottled Vintage Port 18.5%
Cellar-door release, yet another recent auction purchase
Excellent level and cork; This is a mature colour with a fair degree of bricking; mocha, fudge,  and sweet fruits; a lovely mellow wine- no doubt better ten years ago, bit there is still grace here. The sweet brandy spirit is holding the wine together and this is unbelievably easy to consume, with a bonus for the recollections.

Drink now, 90 points.

1991 Brown Brothers Vintage Port 18.5%
Auction again, and “it will continue to develop in flavour and richness when cellared correctly”. But we have here a wine where nothing moves from its slumber – whether it’s had unfortunate cellaring or has merely had better times. There’s remnants of dark berry fruit, acid and tannin, but a wow-factor of zero.

Drink now, and 85 points for being sound and drinkable, but no more.

Two inexpensive mature wines

richter s&k

2006 MF Richter Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett AP #35 9.5%
Mosel, and this bottle was found in a mini-stocktake. Few Kabinetts should be kept this long, so I was nervous. Cork was fine, and the colour was developed but not alarming.

Deep gold, but bright. Apple pie, sultana and raisin, citrus peel, sweet spices and mango. It’s full-on for a Kabinett, with 83 g/l residual sugar. On the palate, the mixed sweet spices are prominent, with redcurrant fruits, honeyed peach, mineral and citrus. The wine is surprisingly fresh, with excellent depth of flavour. Fully mature, it’s honest and a welcome surprise. My previous impression was posted on 15 July 2020 – and a relatively consistent note.

Drink up (it may have been better in the past) and 90 points.

1990 Stanton and Killeen Jack’s block (vintage) Port 18.5%
Rutherglen, Victoria 100% Shiraz. A recent – bargain – $33 auction purchase; rated 9.5/10 by the producer, it has assorted trophies and gold medals while the back label modestly proclaims, “optimum drinking around the year 2010”. A note on its sibling – the 1990  Moodemere –  was posted on 19 November 2018 with a similar note; this wine is slightly better!

Cork broke. The colour is developed ruby with bricking on the meniscus, mocha, camphor, floral, blackberry and sweet well-integrated spirit. Dark and dense, blackberry and red liquorice, mixed nuts, lavender, fine chalky tannins and light coffee. Lots of different aromas and intermittent flavours = complexity, and explain the score, I have many bottles from this producer, but can’t resist purchase when reasonable opportunities arise. Mature, but still vibrant and utterly delicious.

Drink to 2030, 94 points

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

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.