Region: Barossa Valley
Tonight I look at something different, it’s not quite wine. But then, it is…
So what do yo need to know about fortified wine?
- It’s sweet – Unlike your normal wine, this one has a higher sugar content then your run of the mill wines.
- You don’t need much of it – Unlike normal wine, you only need to pour out about 30mls into a glass and that is ample.
- You don’t need as much because it has a higher alcohol content – Around 20-25%
- It can be dirt cheap, or more expensive than gold per gram – Some are made to be consumed straight away. Others are rare and display such refined characters and are smooth and dense. Others may be 100 years old and are a rare treat indeed. I have only encountered one of these 100 year old fortified’s in my life and it was intense! Like a little ball of drinkable mercury rolling around in your mouth refusing to separate.
Now onto the actual wine.
This one has been aged for 20 years and in that time, the Shiraz fruit of the Barossa region that we so commonly know for its rich plum and stewed red/purple fruit flavors have somewhat diminished behind years in an oak barrel. We now start to identify this aged wine by flavors generated by oak and sugar.
Caramel/toffee, coffee, nuts like hazelnut, walnuts and almonds start to take over. The smell of fruit now becomes that of fruit mince, and we so often refer to wines like this like “liquid Christmas.” With those associated spices of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves all coming into play.
What we get from this wine is a smell of raisins and sultana, mixed with caramel and fruit spices. Even a little hint of almond mill.
On to the palate and it is raisin blended in with caramel toffee with a dry flavor bought around by a little bit of oak tannin. Referred to as “rancio” to stop it becoming a sugar raisin drink. Moving on to the finish, and you may pick up a dried citrus peel. Working in with fruit spice and a lingering raisin caramel finish that seems to be there from start to end. It finishes dryer then it starts, with oak and fruit finding harmony with one another.
This wine was not made to be drunk by itself; so I recommend you to find something to drink it with. Now that is it winter here in Australia, I suggest matching it up with the likes of plum or sticky date pudding and custard. Or even just snapping off a bit of good quality dark chocolate. This wine is kind of is like good quality dark chocolate. The characters are similar. Sweet enough to be a little bit bad, then dry and bitter enough to keep it from becoming generic off the shelf cheap eating kid chocolate. And you might remember me saying that wine is ruined by cheese, however, this is able to stand up to big cheese flavor. Unlike general wine you can pair this one up with a nice blue cheese and you will be sitting outside the gates of heaven.
So, give in to your dark side, and try a glass of fortified wine next time you are out having a dense or chocolate based dessert or a slab of blue cheese. You can’t go wrong.
Drink now. It has aged all it can, so it will not mature in the bottle. It will also last for your lifetime if kept in a dark semi cool place.
The SA Wine Guy