Australian Fortified Wines
Part One – Muscat and Tokay
Barry Weinman: 24th July 2016
Whilst Australia has a very long association with fortified wine production, popularity has waned over a number of decades, as table wine consumption increased. This has been a mixed blessing for consumers.
The lack of demand has seen stocks of aged materials increase. This has allowed the inclusion of older materials in blend. This may have contributed to the introduction of a qualification system to give an indication of the relative age of the wine.
The down side is that it has impinged on the viability of many wineries. Just last week, the owners of Morris wines announced that they will be closing the winery (though keeping the brand).
In regards to the qualification system, there are four levels that have been established to give consumers an indication of the age and quality of the wines.
Confusingly, there is significant variation from one winery to the next as to how old these should be. The Angove “Rare” for example, would only qualify for the classic designation if it was produced by All Saints. Indeed, All Saints has the strictest criteria of all wineries reviewed.
In the tastings, this translated into a situation where the base level wines from All Saints scored higher than several of the Classics and even a Grand from other producers.
Another cause for confusion is the introduction of labelling laws that prohibit the use of certain names. For example, Sherry, Port and Tokay are all required to be phased out.
Over the coming weeks, I will review a number of different styles/grapes. The focus will be on the sweeter styles, suitable for drinking on a cold night in front of a warm fire!
Muscat and Tokay
When sourcing wines for this tasting, I was surprised that there were not more examples of Tokay (Topaque). 15 years ago, I am sure that there was a fairly even split between Tokay and Muscat availability, but a trip to Dan Murphy provided only a few examples. In contrast, there was a large selection of Muscats, of varying qualities.
My recollection was that the Tokays tended to be slightly less sweet, with great balance. Perhaps the richness of the Muscats has won over consumers’ palates…
In this group, the designated quality level did not always correlate with the preference of the panel. The base wines from All Saints were brilliant, proving that the age of the wine alone does not always correlate with quality. In these wines, the balance and harmony more than made up for the relatively youthful base wines. They are wines to drink and enjoy.
As the wines moved up the quality ladder, and the base material increased in age, there was an obvious increase in the intensity of the wines on the palate. In the best examples, this was matched by brilliantly judged acidity, ensuring that the wines were full of life and avoided becoming cloying. Wines for sipping and savouring, as well as drinking.
The age and quality of many of these wines, combined with the fact that a small taste is often enough, makes them excellent value in my opinion. The style also keeps well once open, allowing the wine to be consumed over a number of days/weeks. But only if you are disciplined enough…
All Saints – Muscadelle – Rutherglen (18.2pts – $22). Amber, tending to green on the rim. Not overly complex nose, with raisin/fruit cake aromas. The palate is viscous and mouth coating, with honey-like fruit tending to caramel sauce. Youthful, yet delicious and quite fine and elegant, with a long, supple finish complemented by cleansing acidity. Great combination of old and new material and a joy to drink. 375mls
Buller – Tokay – Fine Old Tokay – NV (17.9pts – $25). Colour is amber, tending to burnt orange. Toffee, caramel and some aged aromas over fresh raisins. Viscous, thick, dense, long and intense, yet shows lovely acid balance with enough freshness to add life. The addition of some old material adds depth. A tremendous bargain! 750mls
Seppeltsfield – Tokay – Grand – DP57 (18+ pts – $38). Olive-green rimmed. Very intense, with a significant amount of aged material. The flavours evolve on the palate for some time in turn showing dusty notes, raisin, caramel and orange rind. Rancio notes and balancing acidity makes this rich and powerful wine a joy to drink. 500mls.
Morris – Tokay – Classic – Liqueur (17.7pts – $21.25). Lighter colour, yet still in the amber spectrum. Heady aromas of malted barley, with some aged, Rancio notes adding depth. There is also a fresh spirit lift. The palate is viscous and sweet with an almost orange liqueur flavour. Perfect with a rich fruit cake or just poured over ice-cream. Delicious! 500mls.
All Saints – Muscat – Rutherglen (18.3pts – $22). Burnt orange, tending to amber colour. This is sweet and perfumed, with musk, caramel and hints of honey. Whilst sweet, this is not cloying as the blend of aged and young material and excellent acidity makes this absolutely delicious. A lighter style and a great drink! 375mls.
Morris – Muscat – Classic – Liqueur (17.8 – $21.25). The colour is burnt orange all the way to the meniscus. A fragrant Muscat nose with hints of orange, spice, treacle and toffee aromas over fresh spirit notes. The palate is sweet and relatively straightforward, with fresh material adding life. Good acid balance. Uncomplicated and moreish. 500mls
Lamont’s – Muscat (18pts – $30). Olive/khaki colour. Opens with rum & raisin ice-cream and herbal notes. There is decent complexity too. The palate is thick and dense; one of the more viscous examples. The balance is key here, with fresh acidity adding life to the sweet fruit. Excellent length and a drying finish reminiscent of oloroso sherry. Very old material blended in. Great on its own, or with a crème caramel. 375mls.
Morris – Muscat – Grand – Liqueur Muscat – Cellar Reserve (18.7pts – $50). The colour here is several shades darker – almost opaque dark brown. Incredibly intense and complex nose that is oh-so-enticing. Rancio characters to the fore on both the nose and palate suggesting the inclusion of very old material. The palate is thick and almost chewy, the flavours coming in waves along the palate. Think burnt toffee/caramel, with coffee and dark chocolate notes. The finish is remarkable for the freshness and life. Unctuous liqueur style. 500mls.
De Bortoli – Muscat – Show Liqueur – NV (18.5pts – $25). Lighter colour – tawny and crystal clear. Fresh orange and cinnamon notes on both the nose and palate, with caramel, toffee and fruit cake. Excellent length and mouth-feel. Not as thick or viscous as some, with more fresh material. Possesses a lovely balance aided by a drying finish. Intense and very long. A brilliant value wine for drinking as well as sipping. 500mls.