You may not have seen it yet, but we've just released our first ever Old Tawny!
We're pretty excited about it as not only is it our first Tawny and only the second Tawny to be released by Naked Wines (love your work Rock It Like a Redhead Jen), but it's also honouring the purchase we made last year of our historic c1868 cottage in Milton in the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales - aka 'The Gatehouse at Milton’.
Just to give you a little background, our modest little cottage was originally the Gatekeeper's cottage for the first Mayor of Ulladulla and Milton. The mayor lived at Mount Airlie. A property of significant historical importance about a kilometre up the road. For those history buffs out there, or just those interested in old houses, (like us!) you can learn about Mount Airlie if you watch Restoration Australia Season 4, Episode 3 and our cottage is on Instagram.
Our beautiful little cottage is cute as a button and has been lovingly restored. When we first viewed it, we fell in love with the rich local history and character, the original brickwork and the feeling you get when in the cottage. This feeling is best described as similar to a warm hug. We also saw the opportunity to plant a vineyard (which you all know about!), olive grove and orchard.
So, you can see why we wanted to produce a fortified wine that would do it justice and commemorate the importance of our little cottage for what we hope will be another 150 years (but you might not want to wait that long to drink it)!
Australia has a rich history of producing high quality fortified wine going way back to the 1870's. This is a known fact amongst the wine industry, that we are now sharing with you and truly fitting if you think about when our cottage was built - c1868. In fact, if we go back to the year 2017, we would see Australia winning ten out of the total 66 gold medals awarded at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
Fortified wines accounted for only 2% of the Australian wine sold globally in recent years, but as little ago as the 1950's, the figure was a huge 86%! By the 1960's, Australians had switched to table wines. However, McLaren Vale's climate is ideally suited to continue production of high-quality fortified wines. So, happily for all, our fortifieds are enjoying something of a renaissance in recent times. Their production is still an important part of our winemaking heritage (and now the heritage of our cottage), continuing to this day!
Wines previously named as "Port" are now known as "Vintage", "Ruby" or "Tawny Fortified" under a 2009 agreement between Australia and the European Union. Ruby is so named because of its youthful Ruby colour and fresh fruity flavours. The term "Vintage", however, describes a wine made from one single year or "vintage". These wines are made similarly to dry red table wines but have strong residual sweetness. We endeavour to make them with good, strong skin tannins. Built to last for decades improving in the cellar, these have recently become national treasures.
Tawny fortifieds, on the other hand, are blends of many different vintages and are matured in barrel, sometimes for decades. They will not necessarily improve with bottle age, unlike their 'vintage' cousins which reward many years ageing. Those great old fortifieds we used to label "Sherry" are now called "Apera", and "Tokay" now labelled as “Topaque”.
Fortified wines are made via the traditional fermentation of the grape juice, when it reaches the desired sweetness level, we ‘fortify’ or make it stronger, by adding grape spirit. This allows the wine to have a long life, free of concern that any residual sweetness will undergo a second ferment in bottle. This control is made possible because the spirit renders any yeasts inactive. This is part of the magic of these styles as the winemaker can 'set and forget', knowing the wine will not radically change in character as it ages either in barrel or bottle.
The current resurgence in drinking our fortifieds is reflected in the sales figures since 2017. This rise in demand makes it a strong market segment, growing 14% in value and 7% in volume over the previous five years. People new to fortifieds are experimenting with them in Foocktails, as mixers, or just as a late nightcap.
The story of our cottage started over 150 years ago and its rich tapestry continues today as we launch this Tawny with you, our every faithful Naked Angels.
So, I urge you to try my Fortified Tawny which has been aged in sweet Bourbon Whiskey barrels and become part of the story, our story.