Highlights from yesterday’s The Big Fortified Tasting, London

It’s great that this “does what it says on the tin” trade tasting looks set to become a permanent annual fixture.  My only problem with The Big Fortified Tasting is resisting temptation which, this year, took the intriguing form of of nine Pineau des Charentes from Chateau de Beaulon, which I’m reliably informed were terrific – next time! 

I’ll post tasting notes of my highlights soon but for my areas of focus, Australia, South Africa and Portugal, here are my standouts from a very well spent afternoon:


Last year I tasted wines from individual Rutherglen producers’ stands (Campbells, Stanton & Killeen and Buller Wines), which I’m very sure once more featured some delicious wines but, avoiding temptation (again), instead I made a selection from Wine Australia’s multi-producer stand.  Rutherglen’s producers still stood out.  Pfeiffer Rutherglen Topaque NV and Pfeiffer Muscat NV were both nuanced and delicate examples, while Chambers Rosewood Vineyard Rutheglen Muscat NV and Chambers Rosewood Vineyard Rutheglen Grand Muscat showed terrific intensity, complexity and balance.

Portugal, Madeira

Though I rounded off the day with Madeira  and didn’t taste as many as I’d like, I found four terrific examples in Barbeito Malvasia 20 Year Old Lote 10929, D’Oliveira Resereva Verdelho 1966, Blandy’s Malmsey 1985 and Blandy’s Bual 1980.

Portugal, Port 

Lots to choose from here, with a particularly impressive show of young vintage Ports from 2008 and 2009, both of which years  have not been generally declared.  Top of the pile was Niepoort Bioma 2008 (the new name for Pisca vintage Port, first made in 2007), closely followed by Warre’s 2009 (yes you read that right – a very special 500 case limited edition wine, more details to follow), also from the Symingtons Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira 2009 and Quinta do Vesuvio 2009, Wine & Soul Pintas Vintage Port 2009 and Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha Vintage 2009.

South Africa

I’m not familiar with Cape fortified wines at all and, on this occasion, I found them either a little too sweet or fiery for my taste with one notable exception – Robertson’s Reitvallei 1908 Muscadel. Made from Muscat a Petits Grains, as it happens, it was the only wine I’d tasted before and, once again, it impressed with its balance and finesse.

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  1. Catherine Chetwynd

    Deeply envious of your madeira tastings, especially the verdelho, for which I have a great passion

    • sarah

      I’ll be heading out there in October so will let you know of any great finds and, not that I want to make you greener (!) but watch this space for a vertical tasting in honour of Blandy’s Madeira Bicentennial Year which I’m due to attend next week.

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