wines have a long history in Australia, where wines in this style have been made for centuries.
However, the production of these wines in Australia has decreased significantly
since the 1960’s when European immigrants started to bring their culture of
drinking still wines.
Today, Australia mainly produces still wines, with fortified wines representing a very small amount of total production, and only around 2% of Australian wines sold globally. Despite this, however, producers in Australia tend to focus on high end fortified wines, and get great results for their efforts.
Australian fortified wines have been highly successful in global competitions, winning wine awards around the world. At the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards, 10 out of 66 (approx. 15%) gold or above medals were awarded to Australian fortified wines. In fact one of the most expensive Australian wines is a fortified wine made by Seppeltsfield winery, their 1879 Para Tawny. This bottle retails for AUD $9,500 at Le Clos, an online shop in Dubai.
Australia produces different styles of fortified wines: Tawny, Vintage, Topaque, Apera plus the most famous, Muscat from the Rutherglen wine region.
Rutherglen is located in Victoria, and Muscat made here is unique - considered a true treasure of the region. There are many factors that contribute to why the Muscat Rouge à Petits Grains grape (or simply ‘Muscat’, for most of us) grows so well in Rutherglen. The climate is mild, sunny and stable - ideal conditions that allow the grapes extra “hangtime” on the vines, concentrating the sugar. The region has two main types of soils: sandy soils, which produce more aromatic, delicate wines, and; deep alluvial red loam, which produces the richer, full-bodied styles.
Rutherglen has four classifications for their Muscat.
Wines with an average age of 3 to 5 years. These wines are aromatic, light and fresh.
Classic Rutherglen Muscat
Wines with an average age of 6 to 10 years. These wines start to show a range of different flavours, with the oak’s influence on the wine beginning to come through.
Grand Rutherglen Muscat
Wines with an average age of 11 to 19 years. These wines are intense, concentrated and exhibit a depth of flavours.
Rare Rutherglen Muscat
Wines with an average age of over 20 years. The finest, most complex and persistent wines from the range, also the most expensive.
I haven’t been to the Rutherglen region yet, but it’s next on my “Wine Regions to Explore” list. Hahaha. There are still wines in the region, too, very interesting wines, often made from the Durif grape.