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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 producing just about every wine style imaginable, Australia is often misunderstood by consumers. It is not just a source of blockbuster Shiraz or inexpensive wine with cute critters on the label, though both can certainly be found here. It is impossible to make generalizations about a country this physically massive, but most regions are concentrated in the south of the country and experience either warm, dry weather, or more humid, tropical influence. 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.
Shiraz is indeed Australia’s most celebrated and widely planted variety, typically producing bold, supple reds with sweet, jammy fruit and performing best in the Barossa and Hunter Valleys. Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Shiraz, and also shines on its own particularly in Coonawarra and Margaret River. Grenache and Mourvèdre (often locally referred to as Mataro) 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 utilized as its blending partner, or in the Hunter Valley, on its own to make complex, age-worthy whites. Riesling thrives in the cool-climate Clare and Eden Valleys. Sticky-sweet fortified wine Rutherglen Muscat is a beloved regional specialty of Victoria. Thanks to the country’s relatively agreeable climate throughout and the openness of its people, experimentation is common and ongoing and there is a vast array of intriguing varieties to be found.
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.