From £11.99, $18.67, Aus$14.20
As I pointed out in Treacly treasure from Barossa and Rutherglen late last year, the historic old Seppeltsfield winery (pictured) is currently undergoing transformation under new ownership now that it has been sold by Foster's. It is famous for its strong and sweet wines, and the current winemaker James Godfrey who lectured Julia and others during last week's Landmark Australia tutorial in the Barossa, is Australia's most celebrated maker and curator of fortified wines.
I tasted a range of Seppeltsfield's wines, including some extraordinary century-old treasures, in Hong Kong last year, as detailed in Ancient sticky tasting notes, but it was a great pleasure last month, as outlined in Top Australians in London, to come across the fantastic value bottling that is Seppeltsfield, Cellar No 8/9 Muscat NV Rutherglen. The prices given above are, almost incredibly, for a full 75cl bottle. Yet just one spoonful of this super-sweet, pale tawny liquid with its suggestion of molten demerara sugar and more than a hint of rancio, that special tang that alcoholic drinkers get from prolonged ageing in wood, would make a huge impact on any palate.
In fact there is still quite a bit of tannin in this wine, suggesting it has already been concentrated somewhat by age. I could imagine enormously enjoying sipping it while nibbling walnuts, or possibly some very hard, salty cheese - manchego perhaps. It should be quite flexible about serving temperature.Chill it in hot weather; serve it at just below room temperature when it's cold.
I'm delighted to see via winesearcher.com that this bargain is really quite well distributed in the US and Australia, and that there are several stockists in the UK too.
Note that this particular blend is called Cellar No 8 in Australia and Cellar No 9 everywhere else (it's also available in New Zealand). Is this the inflationary effect of exporting? No. According to Nathan Waks of Seppeltsfield, 'we had to call it no 9 for export as Foster’s has something called Cellar No 8 in the US - the joys of “brand co-existence”. We are considering renaming in Oz!'
I asked him how come this Barossa Valley producer could offer such good wine from north east Victoria and this is his response: 'As Seppelts grew, they went wherever the best fortifieds were (I just found a great little booklet in which they claim to be the world’s largest winery - seems about early C20). In 1914 they acquired Hamilton Clydeside Cellars (est 1861) apparently the oldest Rutherglen winery. Vineyards were sold in the 1980s and all stock brought back to Seppeltsfield. We still contract Rutherglen fruit and, because of phylloxera it has to be processed there (by Pfeiffer’s) with our spirit being added, before returning to Seppeltsfield to age gracefully. James Godfrey has very strict requirements as to growing, crop levels and Baume etc, which may help explain why our young Muscat (cellar no 8/9) is such good value...'