Sticky business in the Swan Valley

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Published on 06 April 2021

by Alf Bock 

The Swan Valley is home to many outstanding wines – red, white, rosé and sparkling – but the most glorious you will find are the “stickies” – Fortified wines of a uniquely-Australian style. Brandy spirit added to the wine during the fermentation of late picked grapes results in wines of extraordinary character – sweet, unctuous and multi-layered. 

Many are made in the solera style where each year’s release is a blend of wine which has been matured over half a century or more. Others are single year vintages – and the grapes used may be white or red – the most common being Muscat, Pedro Ximenez, Muscadelle, Verdelho, Frontignac and Shiraz. 

These wines have intensely seductive aromatics and a luscious opulence on the palate that has to be tasted to be believed. They are multi-award winning wines of great finesse that every wine lover should try. 

Talijancich Wines in Herne Hill is a good starting point – they are something of Fortified specialists, with simply stunning wines. The 1961 Julian James Reserve Muscat, carefully blended from wine over 50 years old, has a fragrance of dried raisins and chocolate, while the palate is reminiscent of Christmas cake, nuts and allspice. The 1978 Rare Pedro Solera – blended from the best vintages from 1978 to 2001 is another wine of great complexity – treacly and oozing flavours of honey, toffee and dried fruit.

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Olive Farm Wines was established in South Guildford in 1829 and has been in the Yurisich family since 1933. The winery relocated to Millendon in 2007 and is home to one of the most dazzling of the Valley’s fortified – Stari 4 Generations – with wine made by four generations of the family using a blend of Muscat, Verdelho, Muscadelle and Pedro Ximenez. This Fortified has intense aromas of golden syrup, toffee and raisins, the rich, concentrated palate alive with flavours of honey, chocolate, liquorice, caramel and nuts. Olive Farm have a great array of fortified wines – and the presentation in beautifully designed bottles is special, indeed.

John Kosovich Wines in Baskerville, established in 1922, and the third oldest winery in the Valley, produces the prized Rare Muscat – a blend of vintages from 1974 to 1996. Try this in their underground tasting cellar and experience something outstanding – toffee, honey, dried raisins, vanilla, liquorice, chocolate, coffee – all of these aromas and flavours, and more, are present. 

Windy Creek in Herne Hill, with a lovely new cellar door, are a must with an excellent range of very affordable wines – the Golden Tawny with its superb honey apricot flavours is a standout, while never pass up the opportunity to try Toffee Topaz – all coffee, caramello koala, dried raisins and liquorice. 

Nielson Estate in Millendon don’t have a cellar door but a call will get you in for a taste and a yarn with Jim Neilson – try his Muscat Frontignac blend – very fragrant with hints of Turkish Delight, the palate showing honey, raisins and chocolate.

This has been but a taster - many more wineries have magnificent examples of this celebrated Swan Valley style –so go exploring, discover something extraordinary.

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