A fortified muscat from Gralyn Estate has turned heads with its win at a prestigious international wine competition.
THE Margaret River region has long been synonymous with great cabernets and chardonnays, and a few other mighty good styles and varieties, but its fortified offering has been less championed.
The idiosyncratic Gralyn Estate recently triumphed at the prestigious London Wine Competition, winning wine of the year with, of all things, a fortified muscat.
The small pioneering winery, which sits on Caves Road in the heart of the Wilyabrup dress circle for reds and whites, won the title of best wine of the year by country and best wine of the year by quality for its fortified Artizan Rare Muscat NV.
These awards are a big deal for small and big producers alike.
The Artizan, which beat wines from 36 countries including Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand and other parts of Australia, has won 11 other trophies, including 2021 ANZ Boutique Wine Show and the Global Fine Wine Challenge, cementing it as a leader in Australian fortified winemaking.
Few producers made fortified wines in the early days of Margaret River.
Some even dabbled in a thing called white port, which had little going for it apart from the fact it was wet and alcoholic.
But Gralyn did it authentically and has continued to pursue a style that these days has only a small market share, especially compared to the salad days of the early 1960s.
And of course, the most famous examples of fortified wines in Australia come from Western Australia’s Swan Valley and Rutherglen in north-eastern Victoria.
Fortified wine has been a major focus at Gralyn since Merilyn and Graham Hutton started out in 1975, despite the fact almost no fortified wine is produced in the region.
Gralyn is now run by Scott and Annette Baxter, who took over from Annette’s parents two years ago.
The Baxters said the small production muscat was a blend of fruit from the Swan Valley and a local grower in Margaret River, although Gralyn would be planting its own muscat block later in the year.
The wine is made using the solera system, where young wine is continuously blended with older base wine in old brandy barrels, creating the rich layered complexity for which the style, unique to Australia, is known.
Gralyn wines are made in small volumes and the best thing to do is drop into the cellar door and check them out there.
You will also fine some pretty handy powerhouse cabernets and shiraz.
• Ray Jordan is one of Australia’s most experienced and respected wine journalists, contributing to newspapers and magazines over more than 40 years. In 2017 he co-authored The Way it Was: The History of the early years of the Margaret River Wine Region