13/08/2009 - 00:00

A taste of liquid history

13/08/2009 - 00:00

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WHEN you think of fortified wines your first reaction may be to recall fond memories of your grandma's favourite desserts, dripping with ample amounts of sherry or marsala.

A taste of liquid history

WHEN you think of fortified wines your first reaction may be to recall fond memories of your grandma's favourite desserts, dripping with ample amounts of sherry or marsala.

Or perhaps it was your great-grandfather sipping on a glass of port following a glorious Christmas dinner.

Regardless of the previous experience or childhood memory, this type of wine hasn't ever been prominently featured on the must-have list for Australian wine-lovers.

But in recent times there has been a genuine resurgence of fortified wine sales across Australia.

Leading the way is Barossa producer, Seppeltsfield, with its range of tokays, muscats and ports, which the historic outfit has been making since 1851.

Some of the excitement surrounding these unctuous and heady brews can be laid firmly at the door of wine scribe and industry doyen, James Halliday.

Mr Halliday has again awarded one of these wines the perfect score of 100 points in his latest wine bible, the James Halliday Australian Wine Companion 2010.

So what does a perfect wine taste like? Well, there's only one way to find out.

Last week I made my way to the Barossa to taste Seppeltsfield's latest offering, the 1909 100-year-old Para Port - all in the name of research, of course.

Every year Seppeltsfield releases one barrel (equivalent to about 1,000 bottles) of its flagship wine from its extensive, pokey cellars. It's normally at this point that I would wax lyrical about all the wine's attributes and what dish to match it with, but unfortunately I can't. I realised, with pen poised over paper, that it's not really a wine at all; it's more like liquid history.

This port was put in barrel about the same time Don Bradman was born. It sat there reducing in volume and intensifying in flavours through two world wars, man's first steps on the moon, the inception of the West Coast Eagles football club and every other great moment of the 20th century; travelling that long road to end up in the glass in front of me.

So I don't quite feel qualified to talk to you about why I think it was good. It was very much a one-way conversation, kind of like what I would imagine talking with Nelson Mandela would be like - you just shut up and listen.

Normally the 100-year-old Para is released every year in 375ml bottles, retailing at close to $1,000. This year it has also been released in 100ml bottles, which will retail at about $275, beautifully packaged in custom-made bottles and jarrah casing. The idea is to get people experiencing this slice of Australian history.

At Seppeltsfield I had a 30ml taste of this brooding, black nectar and couldn't finish it; it was too intense. So a 100ml bottle is enough to do a dinner party of 30.

I'm not going to suggest what food to match it with; instead, I think the only essential at that particular dinner table is a collection of very good friends.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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