MW Fortified Wine Tasting 2016
Like the heady aromas of the wines on offer, an almost palpable air of discovery permeated the inaugural MW Fortified Wine Tasting, held in the shadow of the Flatiron Building in New York on October 26th. Wine professionals and serious collectors traveled from around the country to taste over 130 different fortified wines. The walk-around, self-serve format and the well-managed flow of tasters throughout both two-hour sessions allowed serious reflection of the rich array of wines. Jerez was particularly well-represented, but Port, Madeira, the Roussillon, and Australia all showed exceptional wines.
Organized alphabetically by producer within established categories, the tasting began with Manzanilla and ended with the rich wines from Rutherglen and elsewhere in Australia. On the Manzanilla table, the bright, salty freshness of the traditional Manzanillas like the Solear from Barbadillo and Lustau’s Papirusa were crisply refreshing, while the silky, softer texture of the Manzanilla Pasadas such as the Pastrana from Hidalgo and the “La Kika” bottling from Bodegas Yuste seduced in a more understated manner.
In the Fino category, there were several “en rama” offerings that showed extremely well. The Fino del Puerto de Santa Maria from Lustau was a standout, while the seldom-seen “Electrico”, a Montilla-Morilles from Toro Albala was absolutely delightful.
The Palo Cortados were almost uniformly excellent. Bodegas Osborne had two swoon-worthy offerings here with the Solera PAP (1911) bottling from the Rare Collection and the VORS “Capuchino” both showing very well. Another VORS from Bodegas Tradicion was also superb, and the Dos Cortados from Williams & Humbert showed a dark figgy pudding spice and coffee aroma that led well into the denser offerings further down the line-up.
By comparison, the Amontillados seemed a bit soft, although the lush character of the Del Duque from Gonzalez Byass and the slightly fresher, more lively VORS from Bodegas Tradicion charmed with pronounced citrus notes.
There were a number of noteworthy wines in the Oloroso category, including the Emperatriz Eugenia from Lustau, the Oloroso 1/14 from Bodegas El Maestro, and the Sibarita VORS from Osborne all deserving of special mention.
The wines on the PX table were surprising in their range and nuance. Those who walked in thinking that PX was all molasses and treacle had to recalibrate their expectations sharply, as wines such as the Gonzalez Byass Noe demonstrated the range of this grape. Other producers, hewing to the rich, toffee-like model more commonly seen, still delivered up incredible depth, with notes of coffee, chocolate, bitter caramel and a delightful rancio edge. The finest examples in this vein included the Bodegas Osborne Pedro Ximenez Viejo from the RARE Collection, the Toro Albala 1986 Gran Reserva and the Don Guido 20-year-old PX from Williams & Humbert.
The final category from Jerez was the slightly quirky catch-all of “Sweeter Styles”. This table featured a delightful (and not too sweet) VOS Cream Sherry from Bodegas Tradicion and the Moscatel Emilin Solera Reserva from Lustau that demonstrated a pronounced grapey Muscat aroma deepened with an edge of earthy rancio. There were also intriguing outliers such as the Garnaxta de Emporda from Espodol (fortified Granache in a Banyuls style from Northern Spain).
Two tables of Madeira showed a range of well-made wines. The Tinta Negra table was enlivened with a number of interesting Colheita offerings made from this grape, while the Noble Varieties table boasted an absolutely spectacular 1912 Verdelho and an equally delightful 1969 Sercial and 1993 Bual, all from d’Oliveiras, as well as the very rewarding blends from the Rare Wine Company and some interesting offerings from Henriques & Henriques.
There were also two tables of Port, which included an exemplary 20-year tawny from Taylor and a particularly lovely 2003 Colheita from Quinta do Noval, although it was hard not to linger over the vintage selections, particularly the 2000 Graham’s, the spectacular 2011 Croft, and the absolutely stunning 2004 Nacional bottling from Noval, which was the wine of the tasting for many.
Selections from France included both red and white vins doux naturels. In the former category there were a number of interesting Banyuls and Maurys, including the Mas Amiel 1985 and three standout offerings from Domaine de Mas Blanc: a 1986 Rimage, a 1996 Rimage La Coume, and a particularly nuanced 1985 Vieilles Vignes. White offerings included the 1997 Rivesaltes from Cazes and several wonderful Grenache Blanc-based offerings from Terrasous, with the 1974 vintage showing a stunning depth of flavor.
At the final table, there were a number of surprising and delightful Australian wines, highlighting the extraordinary diversity of the fortified offer from this region. The table began with an exemplary array from Buller, culminating in the Calliopoe Rare Muscat and went on to showcase wines as diverse as a delicious 30-year-old PX from Dandelion vineyards, the brooding Grandfather Tawny from Penfolds, and three delightful offerings from Seppeltsfield, culminating in the simply extraordinary Solera DP38 Rich Apera