RL Buller Calliope Muscat (half-bottle)
-Hugh Johnson, The World Atlas of Wine
Since the first grapes were harvested at Rutherglen in the 1850's, connoisseurs of fine fortified wines in Australia and the United Kingdom have recognized the Muscats of the region as wines of unsurpassed richness. Today, wine merchants, writers and consumers around the globe acclaim the fortified Muscats of Rutherglen as truly the world's richest wines.
The Muscats of Rutherglen are a unique product of the climate, soil, and skill of the region's winemakers. On the gently undulating country around the township of Rutherglen in North East Victoria, in the south east corner of the Australia, Brown Muscat (or Muscat a petit grains Rouge) grapes super ripen into raisined berries high in natural sugars. From these grapes the region's winemakers extract wines of extraordinary power, complexity and depth of flavor.
Today Andrew is winemaker/manager of RL Buller & Son's Rutherglen vineyard and winery operation. He is a member of the Winemaker's of Rutherglen, the Rutherglen Muscat Network, the Rutherglen export group and the Vignerons Association.
Since 1921, the Buller family has produced heavyweight Muscats from their "Calliope" Vineyard - using the age-old techniques of basket presses and open fermenters, to make the Muscats they call their 'sleeping giants'. Found 4km East of Rutherglen this non irrigated is 32 Ha and is the source of the most premium Muscat's and Tokay's from RL Buller.
A large, climatically diverse country with incredibly diverse terrain, producing just about every wine style imaginable, Australia has a grand winemaking history and some of the oldest vines on the planet. Most regions are concentrated in the south of the country with those inland experiencing warm, dry conditions and those in coastal areas receiving tropical, maritime or Mediterranean weather patterns. Australia has for several decades been at the forefront of winemaking technology and has widely adopted the use of screwcaps, even for some premium and ultra-premium bottles. Thanks to the country’s relatively agreeable climate throughout and the openness of its people, experimentation is common and ongoing.
Shiraz is indeed Australia’s most celebrated and widely planted variety; Barossa Valley leads the way, producing exceptionally bold and supple versions. Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia's second most planted variety, can be blended with Shiraz but also shines on its own particularly in Coonawarra and Margaret River. Grenache and Mourvèdre are also popular, both on their own and alongside Shiraz in Rhône Blends. Chardonnay is common throughout the country and made in a wide range of styles. Sauvignon Blanc has recently surged in popularity to compete with New Zealand’s distinctive version and Semillon is often blended in Margaret River or shines on its own in the Hunter Valley. Riesling thrives in the cool-climate Clare and Eden Valleys. Sticky-sweet fortified wine Rutherglen is a beloved regional specialty of Victoria.
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.