“Whether you think it’s blasphemy or not, muscat cocktails are a thing,” says winemaker David Whyte. “Pouring our Victoria Muscat over ice or even ice cream is mint in summer because of the front-end fruit in that wine, and there are some interesting cocktail recipes out there that allow you to take fortifieds in a new direction,” he adds.
As custodian of a near-century-old winery, David is a passionate advocate for the status of Rutherglen fortifieds “among the great wines of the world”, but that does not mean he is afraid to innovate. Buller Wines’ old vine Nine Muses Grenache Rosé and NV King Valley Prosecco have sold so well this year, for example, that the team will be producing a whole lot more in 2018.
The 2015 Petit Verdot is another in-house favourite outside of the brand’s highly regarded fortifieds, and when it comes to Christmas gifting picks the 2001 Calliope Sparkling Shiraz is getting up there with the “extremely intense and complex” Rare Muscat and “pure magic” Rare Tokay.
One of the bonuses of a fortified wine, explains David, is that you are not confined to finishing the bottle within a few days, though the wine will no longer be at its best a few months down the line. Even if you keep the open bottle longer, there is nothing to stop you using it in your Christmas pudding the following year.
He continues: “I recommend you save our Grand or Rare Muscat for after dinner to give those wines the time and space for reflection that they deserve, but a Victoria or Fine Old Muscat is a great lunchtime option, as their popularity in our Ripe restaurant proves.”
The precious barrels at Buller Wines, some of them in use since 1940, are carefully maintained and topped up on a regular basis to safeguard the integrity of the wines that David says “never cease to bring a smile” when people visit for a barrel tasting or cellar door tasting flight. Perhaps the ultimate gifting wine is due to hit (very limited) shelves next year in the form of a 1968 Rare Frontignac. “We’ll only have 1500 bottles so it’s rare both in age and quantity, and perfect if you know anyone turning 50 in 2018,” says David.
Another wine to watch, particularly for those new to the world of fortifieds, is the Pedro Ximenez. David explains: “Since it was featured in the Masterchef final and on My Kitchen Rules there has been a real resurgence of interest in Pedro X, and that’s really exciting to us as producers and lovers of fortified wines – as you can tell by our waistlines!”
For those seeking further culinary inspiration, the Buller Wines end-of-year party will see oysters matched with Sparkling Rosé, lamb with the 2015 Balladeer Cabernet Sauvignon and a coconut and lime brulée with the 2010 Beverford Botrytis Semillon.
To book in for lunch at Ripe, or find out more about fortifieds for the different personalities around your table this festive season, visit the new-look bullerwines.com.au website now.