Sunday, June 21, 2009


In my opinion fortified wine is the most overlooked of Australian wine styles. Many people don't realise that Australian fortifieds stretch way beyond that of the humble cask/bulk ports. Indeed, we are one of the world's greatest producers of the style.
Australia's most expensive wine is a fortified, the Seppelt 100 Year Old Para Liqueur, which doesn't get released until it's 100 years old (the current vintage is 1909) and retails for around $1000.
South Australia's red regions produce some lovely expressions of fortified wines, but any discussion of Australian styles must surely focus on the heartland of Australia's fortified industry, north-eastern Victoria's Rutherglen region.
The traditional wineries of Rutherglen make some wonderfully rich, old liqueur tokays and muscats, to which
there is barely any equal in the world. These wines are also seriously undervalued, with standard releases being available for $15 and reserve releases of very old wines selling for around $40-$70. The leading producers are Morris, Stanton and Killeen, Campbell's, Chambers Rosewood and All Saints. Their wines make unbeatable after dinner drinks.

For my fortified wine reviews I've selected the Chateau Reynella Vintage Port 1998, Morris Liqueur Muscat, Morris Liqueur Tokay and Oliver's Taranga The Banished. All are current releases, however, I'm unsure where you'd get a bottle of The Banished other than direct from the winery, but it's well worth the effort for fortified lovers.

 - Region: McLaren Vale, SA
 - Price: $20-$35
Hardys rate right up there with Australia's leading makers of vintage port. Their Chateau Reynella is a classic interpretation of the Australian style.
Made from a base of McLaren Vale shiraz fruit (from a very handy vintage), its dark, brooding nose reveals a deeply layered fragrance of prunes, plums, violets, dark chocolate and spice. Thick and heavy, with wonderful concentration of its fruit character, obvious shiraz derived flavours of plum and berries are impeccably balanced with absurdly rich chocolate and spice. The finish is slightly sweet, warm and spirity, just as it should be in a 19% alcohol fortified wine.
üRich, smooth, concentrated and jammy, the 1998 Chateau Reynella is an outstanding vintage port guaranteed to improve for decades. Drink to 2028.
94 points

 - Region: Rutherglen, VIC
 - Price: $14-$20
The Non-Vintage Liqueur Muscats and Tokays of Morris are reliably some of the best value fortified wines in Australia.
Medium-brown in colour with amber hues, the muscat reveals a fragrance of fruitcake, raisins and orange peel, overlying a whiff of nutty complexity. Its smooth, luscious palate delivers flavours of raisins and figs, accentuated by notes of dried fruit emanating throughout its finish. Balance is spot on.
üMorris Liqueur Muscat is a particularly impressive fortified, especially given its price. Picking a favourite between this and the tokay is merely a matter of personal preference. For me though, it's the tokay, just. Drink now.
91 points

 - Region: Rutherglen, VIC
 - Price: $14-$20
Morris is currently under the ownership of French company Pernod Ricard through its links to Orlando. I sincerely hope the French take good care of this Australian national treasure.
A lush golden-brown colour, the Non-Vintage Tokay opens to a fragrant nose of toffee, nuts and tea, supported by strong overtones of fruitcake characters. Luxuriantly smooth and sticky, with pleasing balance , its rich palate shows a myriad of bright, ripe tokay flavours, with notes of honeyed sultanas and toffee in the driver's seat. Of particular note is the fine finish, clean and generously long, with just a hint of spirity warmth which doesn't dominate.
üOutstanding value for money and a great introduction into the world of rich fortified wine. Drink now.
92 points

 - Region: McLaren Vale, SA
 - Price: $30
With barely a weak link in their superlative range, Oliver's Taranga is arguably McLaren Vale's in form winery. Their fortified grenache, The Banished, is made from base wines with an average age of 20 years.
Golden/caramel brown in the glass, it slowly unfolds to rich, honeyed aromas of fruitcake, sweet toffee and gentle spice, with a surprising level of restraint and integration. Thick and buttery in texture, the luscious palate displays a gently understated intensity of its mature caramel mudcake, orange peel and tea flavours, with undertones of stonefruit and dried apricot. It finishes long and persistent with a delicious aftertaste of sweet nuttiness and moderate alcoholic warmth.
üA 20 year old fortified which is fresh as a daisy; The Banished is blessed with incredible balance and cleanliness. Fortified fans should un-banish this, now. Drink now.
95 points

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