Australia’s fortified winemakers are scandalously overlooked. To show solidarity with them, we should have a fortified wine dinner at least once a winter.
With winter coming on, it’s time to put in a store of winter warmers: fortified and sweet wines to finish off those cosy dinners and long winter evenings.
The Hunter Valley gets its name from Captain John Hunter who was Governor of the British colony in New South Wales at the time (1797). The region had been occupied by Aboriginal tribes at least 30,000 years before European settlement. The sprawling valley extends from 120 km to 310 km north of Sydney. It’s an easy two hour drive from Sydney giving weekend access to Sydney-siders wishing to change the fast pace of city life for tranquil, verdant countryside. Coal mining, wine growing and tourism fuel the economic growth of the region.
An aromatic wine is one made from a white grape variety that belongs to the aromatic family of grapes. Aromatic grapes contain high levels of terpenes which sounds like something you might clean paint brushes with but is in fact a compound that gives the wine a distinctive floral-like aroma.
Chocolate Orange Mud Cakes and the Flourless Chocolate Cake will both transform a big, gutsy red such as Cabernet/Merlot into a deliciously smooth and seductively mellow wine. The transformation is amazing and has to be tasted to be believed. Grasshopper Pie (one of my favourite
Not only do Rutherglen’s winemakers produce the world’s most luscious and complex fortified muscat and topaque (muscadelle), they have a unique system of classifying them. There are four levels of quality which loosely correlate with age, but most importantly, style. The older the blended age of these non-vintage wines, the more rich, complex and profound they are in bouquet and flavour.
Wine glass designer par excellence Georg Riedel last week conducted a tasting in Rutherglen in his quest to find a suitable design for a special Rutherglen Muscat glass. A group of wine writers and local winemakers tasted a number of muscats in 14 different Riedel
I can’t imagine living in the tropics, where there’s no real summer or winter and seasonal weather changes are minimal. I enjoy the winter chill, which gives us the opportunity to rug up, to sit in front of an open fire, snow-ski, listen to the drumming of rain on the roof etc. It also brings different foods to celebrate and enjoy at only that time of year: chestnuts, quinces, rhubarb, Brussels sprouts… It’s also a time to break open different kinds of wines that we might never feel like drinking in warmer weather. Hearty reds, yes, but also fortified wines in their many hues and styles. I love a glass of chilled champagne as an aperitif almost any day, but sherry before dinner is real alternative, a time-honoured habit that deserves to be revived. A chilled glass of fino is a year-round pleasure, it’s great even on the hottest summer evening, but a more complex amontillado or a rich and hearty oloroso is a soul-warming drink: a symbol of winter as potent as a red-breasted robin on an frosty fence-post.
Imagine three glasses of wine. The first is pale with just a shot of yellow. It’s chilled to accentuate the wine’s exuberant freshness but it’s not cold enough to suppress a pure, almost ethereal nutty flavour with floral nuances. It could be the drink of angels.
There’s something magical about great sweet wines. I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill, sugary, supermarket specials but the hand-made heavyweights in half-bottles that will set you back at least $30. That may seem like a lot of money for a syrupy 375mls but I suspect few winemakers make a profit on their stickies.