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Chambers Rosewood Rutherglen Muscat (375ML half-bottle)
While these wines are seen as after dinner drinks, try serving them as an aperitif, particularly in winter. A small glass goes a very long way, warming the mind as well as the stomach. And remember that a bottle, once opened, will keep for some months without deteriorating, providing it is recorked after each serving.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Located in the warm and dry northeastern corner of the state of Victoria, bordering the southern side of the Murray River, the Rutherglen region bears a long history of fortified wine production.
Rutherglen's main variety, Muscat blanc à Petits Grains (also known as Brown Muscat or Muscat à Petit Grains Rouge for its often pink- or red-tinged berries) flourishes in the region’s deep, moisture retaining, alluvial red loam soils. To make the distinguished and aptly named fortified, "Rutherglen," these Muscat grapes are harvested after left to semi-raisin on the vine. Fermentation only reaches a few degrees alcohol before the juice is fortified with grape spirit and aged in a barrel system resembling a cross between a Sherry solera and a Madeira estufagem. Rutherglen wines boast great concentration and fine aromas hinting at orange flowers and spice, and are capable of astounding quality.
The Rutherglen region grows second grape, called Muscadelle (confusingly unrelated to any Muscat clone), which also produces a quality fortified wine. Historically Australians called the grape “Tokay” and believed it to have Hungarian ancestry but when the French ampelographer, Paul Truel, identified it as Muscadelle in 1976, the name had to be changed. Today varietal wines made from Muscadelle can be called, “Topaque.”
Apart from the classics, we find many regional gems of different styles.
Late harvest wines are probably the easiest to understand. Grapes are picked so late that the sugars build up and residual sugar remains after the fermentation process. Ice wine, a style founded in Germany and there referred to as eiswein, is an extreme late harvest wine, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. It is becoming a specialty of Canada as well, where it takes on the English name of ice wine.
Vin Santo, literally “holy wine,” is a Tuscan sweet wine made from drying the local white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia in the winery and not pressing until somewhere between November and March.