Chambers Rosewood Vineyards Grand Muscat NV

After indulging in so many fine wines over Christmas, the challenge isn’t finding wines to write about but choosing which to spend time on! A particularly good small grower Champagne was tempting, but the best wine of the period was this one, a spectacularly lovely Rutherglen Muscat. The wine is so good, and the style so terminally daggy, I feel some Full Pour attention is deserved.

Those unfamiliar with the wide variation between house styles may be surprised to learn how different a wine this is from, say, the same grade of Muscat from Morris. Whereas the latter pursues a rich, treacled expression of the style, the Chambers wines are always at the light, delicate end of the spectrum. There is no sacrifice in intensity or complexity, however. These are just less full bodied styles, arguably allowing nuances of flavour to more clearly express themselves. Certainly, the Chambers Muscats and Tokays Topaques Muscadelles are amongst my favourites of the region.

To the wine, then, this presents complex, floral aromas that surprise with their freshness and vivacity. Plum pudding, spice, fresh berries – the list of flavours goes on, and is less interesting than their tight integration and subtle expression. There’s just a lot going on here but, aside from its complexity, there does not at first seem much to differentiate the aroma from some of the lesser Muscats made with younger material.

It’s only on the palate that the wine’s quality becomes fully apparent. The nose’s complex flavours are articulated with utmost clarity and impressive impact, making sense of the aroma profile in retrospect while adding whole dimensions of interest. This has the thrust and drive of all the upper echelon Rutherglen fortifieds, but its charm lies in its transparency. This seems totally effortless; it simply unfolds in the mouth and does its impressive thing. No cloying sweetness, nor sticky mouthfeel, nor distracting alcohol, nor roughness. It might be the closest these wines come to elegance, and indeed that may be off putting to some. For me, it’s just one more reason to love both this house and the regional style.

At $50 or so for a half bottle, this isn’t cheap. But it’s several times cheaper than its Rare stablemate ($250 for 375mL) and about as good a wine as one could reasonably want.

Chambers Rosewood
Price: $A50 (375mL)
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

McWilliam's Show Reserve Liqueur Muscat NV

Uncharacteristically, I didn’t feel like any wine tonight. Well, nothing I had lying around, anyway. So I reached for the only known antidote for such vinous ennui: Muscat. This one is McWilliam’s top Liqueur Muscat, and has won about a million medals and trophies, for what that’s worth. It’s made from grapes grown in the Riverina district, a region not known for premium quality wine. Another bit of useless trivia: this bottle is number 01156 of the “limited release.”

Initially, this was unapproachably hot on the nose, to the point where it was difficult to discern any flavours as such. A few minutes’ swirling made all the difference. Now, the wine is showing mind-blowingly complex flavours that keep changing with each smell. First there are earthy, almost scorched flavours of mushroom and dirt. Then, it shifts to deep oak notes. Still further on to a spectrum of dried fruits. Then burnt sugar. And so on. Usually I don’t get caught up in too many descriptors, but it’s hard not to with this wine, as it throws so much at you. I should add that all these flavours are basically seamless in presentation, moving from one to the next with grace.

The wine’s entry reveals its next trick: the silkiest, most luxurious mouthfeel one could imagine. This wine practically caresses the tongue in a very physical sense. In fact, it’s so striking that it takes a few moments to realise that a whole range of intense flavours have slipped on to the middle palate. I would describe this wine’s flavour profile as relatively “high toned,” in the sense that we’re not dealing with deep, heavy dried fruits so much as aromatic citrus peel, the scent of plum pudding, dried flowers, etc. There’s depth too, with profound vanilla-oak notes underpinning the rest of the wine. The point is, it’s quite light footed without ever suggesting it’s anything but an old fortified wine (a component of this wine dates back to 1964). Line and length are impeccable, as the wine is basically one continuous experience from nose to oh-so-lengthy finish. I’m sitting here a good minute after taking a sip, and I can still taste it all through my mouth. 

This is a truly superb wine. It makes an interesting comparison with another fortified recently tasted, the Chambers Grand Liqueur Muscat. Whereas the Chambers is all about concentration and balanced power, this wine is more elegant and presents even greater complexity of flavour. Quite different in character, but both beautiful wines.

Price: $70 (500ml)
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: December 2007

Chambers Rosewood Vineyard Grand Muscat NV

I love our fortified wines — in particular, Muscats and Tokays from North-Eastern Victoria. So when I saw this on offer, it was hard to resist. Material in this wine dates back to the 1950s. Consumed in lieu of dessert.

A brilliant deep brown, sparkling yet dense and rich-looking. The nose captured my attention for several minutes before I moved on to tasting this wine, so surprising is its mix of aged characters and fresh vitality. It’s one of the ironies of this type of wine that these older, concentrated versions simultaneously present a greater degree of both aged complexity and freshness than their younger, simpler and often more cloying siblings. In the case of the Chambers, a lovely floral note, slightly tea-like, but more exotically fragrant, sat prominently alongside intense aromas of dried fruits, plum pudding, etc. So balanced, such elegance and singularity.

In the mouth, the first thing that strikes one is the mouthfeel. The wine is so viscous that it doesn’t immediately unfold in the mouth upon entry. Instead, the wine seems to exist as a bubble for a moment or two, before collapsing and flooding the middle palate with flavour. The first sip I had of this wine shocked my palate with its concentrated flavour, and had the effect of drawing saliva from my mouth, in the manner of eating something tasty when very hungry. Amazingly, and as with the nose, the wine shows a floral dimension that adds lightness to the palate. This is aided by a surprisingly firm acid backbone which drives the wine’s line and helps it to be, ultimately, quite cleansing. The finish just goes on and on.

This is probably one of the best fortifieds I’ve ever tasted and, although it’s not cheap, it’s one of the best value wines I can think of. If you wanted to finish off a special dinner party in style, you could do a lot worse than pull out a bottle of this.

Price: $A60 (375ml)
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: November 2007