June 20, 2019
It may be something to do with the growing popularity of hand-crafted, small-batch spirits like gin, rum and vermouth, but ‘Port’ too is making a comeback.
It’s now trendy to have a splash in a cocktail or savour it with ice and elegantly finish the night.
One of the joys of being Australia’s most historic family owned winery is our cellar of fortified time capsules – barrels of aged Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvédre, Muscadelle, Touriga, Tinta Cao and Tinta Molle made in the 1960s, 70s and 80s - that we have drawn on to blend and craft our new collection of 21, 30 and 50 year old Aged Tawnies.
But where did the Tawny journey begin? And why do we no longer call our Tawny wines “Port’ at Yalumba?
Port was named after ‘Porto’, the Portuguese wine region of Douro.
During one of many wars with the French in the 1700s, English wine merchants came to Douro seeking out alternative red wine supplies for their thirsty customers. They discovered that the locals added a splash of brandy spirit to their reds to fortify (or preserve) them, something that was welcomed by the merchants who had always struggled with the impact sea transport and warehousing had on their imported wines.
And so, a 300-year love affair between the English and Port began.
The process of fortification requires the addition of spirit halfway through fermentation while the wine is still brimming with alcohol and sweet fruitiness. The spirit kills the yeast, stopping the wine’s development in its tracks. The wine can then age for multiple decades, gradually evolving to a deep brown, yellow tawny colour and developing a leathery, nutty, spicy unctuousness.
Australia’s first wineries, including our forefathers here at Yalumba, adopted the practice of fortification because our export wines had an even longer way to go across the equator. They knew that barrels of Barossa Shiraz would delight the palates of the Mother Country if preserved with Yalumba brandy spirit.
Before long, countless bottles of Yalumba Port were enjoyed by the British Raj in India in the late 1800s and by Sir Douglas Mawson on his Antarctic exploration in 1929.
Port has always been a versatile refreshment – for much of last century opening a bottle of Port at the end of a dinner was a tradition to be enjoyed with Stilton cheese, walnuts and a cigar. It was prescribed as a blood tonic and restorative by many 19th and 20th century doctors. Here in the Barossa, a flagon at the end of a vineyard row warmed up vintage workers on a bleak winter’s day.
In the 1990s, regulations were introduced that restricted countries outside of Portugal to label this style of wine as ‘Port’. At Yalumba we call our fortified red wine ‘Tawny’, reflecting its age and golden-yellow-brown colour.
While many Australian wine drinkers enjoy dry red and white table wines with their meals, opening a bottle of Yalumba Aged Tawny is a totally different experience – a complex sensory history lesson in a glass.
Discover our three Aged Tawnys below and tips on how best to enjoy them.
This Tawny is deep in colour with a distinctive yellow-green edge indicating its extended wood maturation. The aroma is multi-layered with intense raisin fruits, fruitcake, anise, roasted nuts, and caramelised toffee, all seamlessly wound together.
The palate is richly flavoured, sweet, round and luscious, also revealing dried fruits and caramelised toffee, with a persistent lingering finish. It’s perfect on its own or as a post-dinner aperitif, or the more adventurous may enjoy adding a splash to The Suburban.
The Suburban is classic cocktail straight from the chesterfield-clad clubs of a bygone era. Combining, whiskey, run, bitters and port it’s not for the faint hearted.
This outstanding aged fortified wine has a deep tawny colour and a seductive complex aroma of wood aged characters and elegant brandy spirit featuring sweet spices, caramelised toffee and praline with fig, raisins, quince and roasted nuts.
The palate is richly flavoured with dark fruitcake, dark chocolate and toffee, with a persistent aftertaste of honey and dried fruits lingering on the finish. Its richness and weight is held together in harmony by the spirit and acid balance, delivering the long finish.
This one is also perfect on its own, with a vintage cheddar or blue cheese, but for a refreshing twist, try it chilled.
The essence of this wine is its sheer age, resulting in enormous richness and concentration from a life spent maturing in small oak casks. It’s also very special, as it is the oldest fortified wine to be released, the final remaining relic.
Deep golden tawny in colour with pronounced green edges indicating exceptional wood age. The aroma exudes spicy aged characters from extensive maturation in small oak casks. It is still vibrant and fresh, yet complex, with vanilla and burnt toffee, dark chocolate and Christmas pudding aromas.
The palate exhibits enormous richness and concentration with fruit cake, caramel and honey with dried fruit and nuts. It is very luscious.
It would be a shame to mix anything with such a marvel, so this wine is best served on its own.