IF YOU’RE looking for that little something special that will give you that warm fuzzy feeling, then a bottle of fortified wine is satisfaction guaranteed!
Rutherglen, located in north-east Victoria, is the undisputed home of some of Australia’s finest fortified wines, and is steeped in history. Its first vines were planted back in the 1850s, with many of those there then still there today. Names such as Chambers Rosewood, Campbells, and Stanton & Killeen.
World class by any standards, Rutherglen is a mecca for lovers of Tawny (Port), Muscat or Topaque (Tokay). Muscat and Topaque can be labelled as uniquely Australian – no other fortified wines can offer the richness of these two fortified wines, with their extended ageing in barrels over many years, they adopt a flavour that must be tasted to be believed.
There are four tiers of classification associated with the Muscats and Topaques – Rutherglen, Classic, Grand and Rare – all four levels marking a progression in quality relating to richness, intensity and complexity.
Rutherglen is the initial entry level, Classic introduces some rancio character from time spent in oak, while Grand is where intensity, complexity and luscious richness flex their muscle with beautiful grandeur – the fruit, oak and spirit interplay is utterly seamlessness. Of course, at the top of the tree is where we reach rarefied air, the Rare category is aptly named for its sheer power of flavour, complexity, richness, persistence and concentration – the aged components used for the base wine containing amazing energy and drive.
The Muscats are mainly made from the Brown Muscat variety or “Muscat au Petit Grains Rouge” to give it its correct name.
It’s fermented, then fortified with brandy spirit, then aged in old oak barrels, which results in the evaporation of the moisture content of the wine leaving behind a rich, raisiny dark syrupy liquid we know as liqueur Muscat – fantastic with coffee and chocolates after dinner.
Topaque (formerly known as Tokay), is another unique wine style we associate with Rutherglen.
Initially misnamed after the Hungarian variety that makes the famous “Tokaji” wines, it is produced in the same manner as Muscat, yet is not as dark in colour as it is made from the white “Muscadelle” grape. But it’s a powerfully rich wine that exudes deep dark toffee/liquorice characteristics that come with extended barrel ageing, even a slight whiff of tobacco or a coffee like flavour can be noted in older examples.
To serve, cake or pudding would be an ideal accompaniment, but Topaque is especially best served with chocolate puddings, chocolate cakes you name it – as long as it’s chocolate!
You can find the following bulk fortified wines at Chas Cole Cellars, Geelong.
CAMPBELLS RUTHERGLEN BULK MUSCAT ($23.99 PER LITRE)
Established in 1870, and with a cellar boasting century old barrels full of delicious nectar, Campbells is one of the icons of the region with their top tier wines among the best in the world. Their Muscat at any quality level always offers more than most and this entry level is loaded with raisiny richness and good length.
BULLERS RUTHERGLEN BULK TOPAQUE ($12.99 PER LITRE)
Everyone knows Bullers, they produce a many and varied array of wines that certainly RICH REWARDS FROM RUTHERGLEN stand proudly among their peers, with their top flight Muscat and Topaque certainly renowned for their concentration and complexity. This example offers subtle toffee and honey aromas on the nose that carry through to the lusciously sweet, flavoursome palate. CHAMBERS BULK LIQUEUR MUSCAT ($26.99 PER LITRE)
Chambers Rosewood is a special producer for a number of reasons. Not only do they produce amazing fortifieds but the winery, that was first established in 1858 by pioneer William Chambers, reeks of history. With six generations now involved, the quality has been and always is stunning, even described as National Treasures.
This liqueur Muscat is a full, fresh, more modern style that has lovely rich raisiny fruit notes and good length of flavour on the finish.
STANTON & KILLEEN RUTHERGLEN BULK WHITE FORT ($24.99 PER LITRE)
Another renowned name in Rutherglen, first established back in 1864 that produces first class Muscats and Topaques. Here we see a blend of Muscadelle and Chardonnay grapes that is light and fresh boasting an array of deliciously delicate floral flavours – think honeysuckle and bottlebrush with a background of walnuts.