Proctor : February 2018
57 PROCTOR | February 2018 Australian port now offers some of the best value around for the discerning drinker. From age-old tradition and blending comes some sweet choices. Port is a simple but much maligned form of wine. It doesn’t deserve the bad rap it’s received thanks to oversupply, overproduction and clever marketing to more sophisticated consumers by dry wines since the 1970s. From then, at least two generations of wine drinkers have carried the misapprehension that port is staid and old fashioned. But today, some things old are new again. Gin is making a resurgence as cool, following a long while of ‘mother’s ruin’ being nothing to request in polite company. So, too, is it time for Australian port to make a comeback and there are some very good reasons for this: • First, Australia is very good at making port, with the perfect hot climate to fully ripen the fruit. • Second, Australia has been making fortified wines for a long time and there are significant stocks of aged material to blend. • Finally, being less fashionable, Australian port is sold at lower price points, making it generally a bargain for the age and quality of the wine. The word ‘port’ is an Anglicisation of the Portuguese city of Oporto, from where the fortified wines of the Douro River Valley would be landed, stored and shipped to England. Port came to the English-speaking world largely as a result of the 1703 Methuen Treaty between England and Portugal to provide a thirsty England with wine in times of war and blockade with France. Favourable customs tax treatment ensured the wine from Oporto became a favourite at English upper-class tables. English port shipping houses introduced familiar names to the domestic market: Dow, Osborne, Cockburn, Sandeman and Taylor. In the new colonies of Australia, producing port-style wine for export to old England was a lucrative trade. Houses such as Seppelts, Yalumba and Penfolds laid down new wines year after year to build up soleras filled with liquid gold and history. Seppeltsfield, for example, has released a tawny every year since 1878 and is the only winery in the world to release a 100-year-old vintage wine (the old Para Tawny) each year. Most port makers have a blend of at least 10 or 20 years age which includes older material. This wine is held at the maker’s cost for many years to be enjoyed by the consumer. On shelves in shops, however, you will seldom see the word port used on an Australian wine these days. Australia signed up to a labelling treaty for geographic indications which was implemented domestically for port in September 2011. From that time on, makers have used the words Tawny or Vintage Fortified wine to describe their products. Despite the name, the soul of the product in the glass remains the same and today is great value for discerning drinkers. The first was the Penfolds Father 10-year-old tawny. The colour was a light caramel brown. The nose was deep and raisins in a glass with some aged savoury complexity. The palate was smooth and sweet but mellow with generous age, nuts and rich fruit. The second was the Penfolds Grandfather 20-year-old tawny. The colour was a deep red and caramel brown. The nose was a tour de force of sweet fruit and rich nutty rancio flavours. The palate was a symphony of sweet mellow rich ripe fruit with a note of savoury tannin. The last was the Seppeltsfield Para Grand Tawny non- vintage, which was the colour of teak and burnt orange. The nose was raisins and a short burst of heat from the alcohol. The palate was spice, sweet fruit and a firm backbone to carry it through. Verdict: The preferred tasting was the Grandfather tawny for its depth, but the Father tawny showed up very highly for great flavour and great value. The tasting Matt Dunn is acting chief executive officer at Queensland Law Society and government relations advisor. Wine Tawny and friends make a comeback with Matthew Dunn Three tasty tawnys were subjected to scrutiny.