|Geoffrey Dean pays tribute to Australian fortifieds on his tour Down Under|
|Written by Richard Siddle|
|Thursday, 27 December 2012 12:27|
Campbells' top liqueur Muscat (the Prince Merchant Rare) has already been accorded a perfect 100 points by Wine Spectator a couple of years ago, but the extraordinary quality levels reached - greatness in some cases - by so many other Rutherglen fortifieds was clear. Stanton & Killeen's vintage port, comfortably the best in Australia, has been rivalling the leading port houses of the Douro for some time now, while their own liqueur muscats and topaques (formerly known as Tokays before Hungarian objection) are world-class wines. Campbells' Isabella Rare topaque is another. Chambers and Morris are traditional frontrunners of longtime pedigree, while Pfeiffer Wines, relative new kids on the block, are producing some fine examples of sherry (or ‘apera' as the Aussies are obliged to call it).
The real surprise from Rutherglen is how good so many of their table wines are. These, too, will go well with the northern hemisphere's mid-winter cuisine. Some of these wines are quite outstanding, like Stanton & Killeen's The Prince, a red blend of Portuguese varietals, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao and Souzao.
Simon Killeen, whose father Chris died in 2007, takes up the story. "The 2008 was the first time this particular wine was made," he said. "It was named after Dad as his nickname was the ‘the Prince of Port.' He would have hated it as he would have wanted to make a fortified instead!" Instead, Simon, just 22 at the time, crafted a superb table wine with gorgeous fruit, soft tannins and 12.8% abv, using no new oak and giving notice of his potential as a highly talented young winemaker. The Prince 2009 has sold out, but the 2012, is due to be released soon. Definitely a buy.
While Campbells and S&K both date back to the 19th Century, the Pfeiffer winery is a hundred years or so younger. "Our wines are probably some of the prettiest in the district," argues owner, Chris Pfeiffer, whose daughter Jen is winemaker. "S&K have more extract while there's more sweetness in Chambers and Morris."
Across the state border in South Australia, Chris' cousin, Martin Pfeiffer, owns boutique Barossa winery, Whistler, which is making some top quality fortified Merlot. The attractive flat-shaped bottle won the best packaging prize for a small winery this year, 12 months after Whistler winemaker, Troy Kalleske, picked up the same award for his own fortified Shiraz. Both wines are selling like hotcakes.
Domestic consumption of Australian fortifieds has certainly fallen but demand, both local and international, is strong for quality offerings from the land Down Under. The good news is that Aussie producers - from the Rutherglen household names to the likes of Bleasdales in Langhorne Creek and John Kosovic in the Swan Valley - keep hitting highs that should continue to delight global consumers for decades to come.
* Geoffrey Dean is travelling across Australia covering cricket for The Times and touring the wine regions for Harpers as part of his studies for the second year of his Master of Wine.