Sparkling shiraz – they must be crazy!

For a European it almost sounds like a joke bordering on madness. If you take one of the worlds most full bodied, deep coloured and potent red grapes and make a sparkling red wine out of it – then you just can’t be sane! Can you!?

Those were the sentiments and thoughts of many european wine snobs not so long ago (and it is still quite common). But as always – the truth is in the glass!

Okey – I must admit – that most sparkling shiraz that I have come across has been rather… eh uninspiring. And definitely more interesting than good. But this wine might change that perception for ever. For Seppelts Show Sparkling Shiraz 1990 (Great Western, Victoria) is just awesome!

It is single vineyard and begins it’s life as a red wine that gets 18 monts in big old oak. Second fermentation in bottle and six and a half years on the lees before it is discorged. 26 g/l residual sugar and only 5,0 g/l in total acidity (and therefore often a bit “funky” in style).

The colour is orange-red almost brick. The nose is evolved and funky with a lot of secondary fruitaromas, dried fruits and farmyard notes. Spicy and stunning.
On the palate light to medium bodied with great mousse. Notes of leather, tobacco, herbs and dried fruits. Definitely funky  – but in a good way. Complex finish with loads of fruits (strawberries), herbs and spices.

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Australias liquid gold – the “stickies”

The “stickies” – the fortified black liqueur muscats and “ports” – has been called the Australias liquid gold. It’s where or by what it all started and even though the style is hopelessly unfashionable in a modern world ruled by table wines – it is probably one of the most egocentric and underrated wines in the world. And quite often a real bargain!

Personally I have always loved the liqueur muscats since I first tested a Morris Liqueur Muscat in the early 90’s. And I have hyped Seppeltsfield No 9 Muscat (strangely called so in Europe and called No 8 in Australia) in my swedish blog.

This last weekend I had a chance to retest Seppeltsfield No 9 against two other fortified icons: Yalumba Museum Reserve and Penfolds Grandfather. The scene was a Master Class on Australia with Justin Knock MW at Gustibus Wine And Spirit Academy in Malmo, Sweden.

These are my notes! For my notes in swedish – see Uppkorkat!

Seppeltsfield no 9 Muscat (Rutherglen/Victoria) 16,5%
Nice light orange/brown almost golden amber colour in the glass.
On the nose quite developed with muscovado sugar, raisins, dried fruits (apricots) and chocolate. A touch of orange, mint and dried herbs.
Full bodied almost oily concentrated taste with dried fruits (apricots again). muscovado sugar and raisins. Hints of chocolate, herbs and prunes. I just love it!

Comment: Almost ridiculously high levels of residual sugar – 326g/l. Made by late harvested raisined brown muscat grapes (a clone of mucat à petite grains). Fortified by grape spirit soon after the start of fermentation (at a level of 2-3% alcohol). Long ageing in large oak casks!

Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat (Rutherglen/Victoria) 18%
Somewhat darker i colour – orange/amber.
Quite developed nose with burnt sugar, hazelnuts, muscovado sugar, raisins and other dried fruits. Just a whiff of citrus and leather.
Medium bodied, fresh and sweet taste with a burnt nutty tone. Lots of dried fruits – prunes, citrusmarmelade, apricots and raisins. Definitely more fruity in style. Not as sweet as Seppeltsfield and with a more delicate finish with just a hint of burnt sugar.

Comment: Made from red and pink muscat (à petite grains). This wine is also fortified early in the fermentationprocess.  243 g/l residual sugar and quite a low total acidity with 4,6 g/l. Museum has been aged for 7 years in large oak puncheons.

Penfolds Grandfather Tawny (South Eastern Australia) 19%
Brown orange amber in colour.
A lot of herbs on the nose with mint/spearmint and oxididative notes of hazelnuts and something vaguely chemical. A bit “funky”.
Mediumbodied, sweet and a bit funky taste of salmiak, liquorice, dried fruits, raisins and salt. Quite a lot of burnt sugar. Definitely more oxidized than the other two with a distinctive rancio-character. But he wine has a lovely freshness as well.

Comment: The wine is normally a blend of shiraz, mourvèdre and cabernet (but Penfolds use other grapes as well). It goes in to large oak puncheons för about 8 years before it is put into a solera system (called Grandfather). There it stays on average for 12 years which gives the wine an average age of 20 years.  About 15og/l i residual sugar and a total acidity of 8,2 g/l.