Australia, like most of the New World (South Africa, New Zealand, USA, South America etc…), has a relavatively short history in winemaking compared to the Old World (Europe). Whereas regions of Europe have had centuries to perfect the ‘styles’ of wines they produce (e.g. the Ports of Oport, Portugal, or the reds of Bordeaux, or Champagne, or the Chianti of Tuscany), the New World has sent much of its time trying to emulate the great wines of Europe. So while we may produce distinctive varietal wines, it is rare that a “style” of wine is created and nutured such that it evolves into a world renowned “style” unique and synomous to a region.
The Muscats and Tokays of Rutherglen are one such example of the birth of a regional style in the New World.
So what makes them special?…then again what makes them at all?
Both Rutherglen Muscat and Tokay are the result of the aging process enforce upon the fortified wines made from Muscat Rouge a Petits Grains (the red skinned variety that produces Muscat) and Muscadelle (the white skinned variety that produces Tokay). Once made these wines are aged in old oak casks and allowed to concentrate as the evaporation takes away the “angel’s share”. This concetration leaves a lusicous, vicous orange/brown (Muscat) of golden yellow (Tokay) wine with exposive richness in the mouth.
Blending then takes place once the wines have reached the required age and the resultant wine is given one of the following classifications according to the average age and the richness. All true Rutherglen Muscats and Tokays are branded with the oval logo containing an ‘R’ and a bunch of grapes and are label one of the following (from lightest to richest); Rutherglen Muscat/Tokay, Classic Rutherglen Muscat/Tokay, Grand Rutherglen Muscat/Tokay or Rare Rutherglen Muscat/Tokay. Prices vary from around $15-$25 for a Rutherglen to about $80-$500 for a Rare Rutherglen.
Rutherglen Muscat and Tokay does not improve with age in the bottle as the exposure to the air/oxygen is part and parcel of its development in the barrel.
Some top producers of Rutherglen Muscats and Tokays are Morris, Stanton & Killeen, Seppelt, Chambers Rosewood, All Saints, Pfeiffer, Bullers Calliope, St Leonards and Campbells.