To wrap up our Yalumba Tasting on Monday 18th Jane Ferrari treated us to a bit of Aussie history, back in the day Australia was the Vineyard of an Empire based in the offshore Island. In fact the vineyard of this Empire was quite successful in the production of fortified wines like Port and Sherry, to names which they cannnot for obvious geograpical reasons use on the bottle.  But Yalumba continues to produce a range of delicious fortified wines which include not only the Museum Muscat and Antinque Tawny but also a 21 year Old Tawny and a 50 Year old Tawny.  Yalumba have been making fortifieds since Samuel Smith, founder of Yalumba, first began making wines at his Angaston winery from the fruit of vines he started planting in 1849. Today, Yalumba maintains its reputation for premium quality fortified wines by occasionally releasing very small parcels of show reserve stocks.

The wines we tried on the night where great and turned a lot of heads from those who doubted the pedigree of Australian fortifieds to those who expect nothing but sugar and alcohol. First up was the Museum Muscat,  made predominantly from the brown, red and black sports of the Muscat grape variety. Fermented on skins very briefly to soften and release the juice and flavours from the shrivelled and partially raisined berries. After draining and pressing off skins,neutral grape spirit is added.  The vintage wines are then put aside into small oak barrels to mature, producing a complexity of raisined and fruit cake flavours. After many years of maturation, a selection of older and younger wines are judiciously blended to produce a complexity and balance of fruit and aged characters. The base blend, from which the Museum Muscat is bottled, is regularly re-blended to perpetuate the consistency and complexity of this classic style from year to year. This was an absolute delight but better was to come in the form of the Antique Tawny.

The original Antique Tawnys, made over five decades ago, were blends of old-vine varieties such as Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre and Muscadelle. But since 1985, Portuguese fortified varieties Touriga, Tinta Coa and Tinta Molle have contributed added complexity to the blend, bringing finesse and elegance to this wine. The grapes are crushed and fermented on skins for several days to extract the fruit flavours and build texture. After draining and pressing off skins, the fermentation is arrested by fortification with brandy spirit, which also adds complexity and enhances the depth of flavour.

The vintage wines are then put aside into small oak barrels to mature, turning into the classic tawny style with classic wood aged nuttiness and chocolate flavours. After many years of maturation, a selection of older and younger wines are judiciously blended to produce a complexity and balance of fruit and aged characters. Each year the Antique Tawny base blend is re-blended to perpetuate the consistency and complexity of this classic tawny style from year to year.

This outstanding old dessert wine is deep tawny in colour, with an aroma featuring wood aged rancio, elegant brandy spirit and hints of dried fruits and spices. The palate has a firm rich texture, with chocolate and caramel flavours and a persistent aftertaste of nuts and rancio characters. The fine spirit characters provide a firm balance to the middle palate and excellent drying finish.