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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
5 Feb 2008

Find the tawny

Yalumba%20Museum%20Tawny.jpgThe Australians are devilishly versatile, as last week's marathon Australian tasting in London proved. They may have been showing some of the sleek, fine-boned products of some of their newer cooler regions about which I shall be writing a week on Saturday, but there was also no shortage of evidence of good stuff from the more stereotypical warm - and currently all too dry - wine regions. Dense, dark Shiraz from the likes of Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale may be the most obvious examples but I was reminded just how good Australia's stronger, sweeter wines can be by this underpriced marvel.

It's not often I write "too cheap!" in my tasting notes but I do believe it to be true of this dark, treacly 19 per center that could be used as a textbook example of what rancio smells like, the heady, tangy, hugely attractive pong that comes from extended ageing of strong wine, or brandy, in oak casks. (Here's the rancio entry in your online Oxford Companion to Wine.)

This wine, made from the likes of Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvèdre and more recently some port varieties too, all grown in the Barossa Valley's warmer subregions, has spent an average of 15 years in hogsheads in Yalumba's family winery in Angaston above the valley. What value! The Hill Smith family who own Yalumba have been making fortified wines for 150 years and wines of this particular 'tawny' style for over 40 years. It would be fair to say that although they have a reputation for a wide range of wines, including being pioneers of Viognier in Australia and some of the most faithful supporters of Riesling, their prowess at fortified wines within Australia is legendary.

At one stage they would have put the P-word on the label of a wine like this but not now that we Europeans and Australians are all part of one happy wine exporting family. You might justifiably ask how it would compare to a tawny port at the same price. While it does not have the mellifluous smoothness of the finest tawny ports from the Douro Valley, it has far more zest, concentration and character than many tawny ports at this price level.

Yalumba Museum Reserve Antique Tawny NV Barossa comes in politically correct clear glass (see Name and shame heavy bottles) half-bottles as you really don't need much of this extremely powerful wine at a time. Nor need you worry about a half-full bottle, mind you. It should last in the fridge for weeks. The wine has been concentrated to such an extent that it has great refreshing acidity (not always the case with these Australian stickies) as well as nutty but not overpowering sweetness. I'd serve it with cheese - good hard cheese such as parmesan or cheddar or manchego - rather than with something very sweet.

Yalumba Museum Muscat NV is the thing to serve with very sweet food for it's a dentist's delight - a massive syrup almost - all marzipan and molten brown sugar, and 18 per cent alcohol.

In the UK you can find this Antique Tawny at Churchill Vintners, The Grapevine, Harrods, Oz Wines, Nidderdale Fine Wines, Oz Wines, Premier Vintners and Vin Du Van, all of which are listed in our online directory of UK wine merchants.

It is also widely available in the US and of course Australia. Using the winesearcher link below you will have to use some discretion to work out exactly which this wine is of all the Yalumba tawnies. Price should be the best guide but none should disappoint.

Find the tawny