Tawny and its Rich Australian History

A person wearing a blue shirt, presenting a bunch of black grapes with their two hands.Australia might not have the world’s longest viticultural history, but it’s got a strong history nonetheless. And Australian Tawny is an important part of that history.

Consider this: people have been growing wine grapes since 4100 BC and grapes only ended up in Australia in the late 18th century. But since then, we’ve developed a level of mastery envied globally. The Australian fortified wine industry, in particular, has boomed. These wines made up 80% of the industry up until 1960 and are a perennially prominent feature in the Australian wine landscape. Fortified wine is greatly treasured today for its vast history, excellent quality and diversity of styles.

A dark bottle, with a great cap and a green label, the top of which is purple. The label reads "St Anne's Old Oak Tawny".
Our classic Old Oak Tawny, matured in French Oak

Australia’s favourite fortified wine is indisputably Tawny– formerly known as Port. We are now considered to be at the forefront of Tawny production outside of Port’s home in Portugal.

Port’s regulatory body in Portugal ruled that only fortified made in Portugal could be called Port, which led to the name change. This kind of national branding has occurred across many other fortified varieties. Sherry-style wines made outside of Spain are now “Apera”. Tokaji made outside of Hungary is now “Tokay” or “Topaque”. These name changes may make the wines harder to recognise. But they do allow producers a certain degree of freedom and an opportunity to re-brand.

A dark coloured wine bottle with a dark green cap and label. The top of the label is red. The label reads "St Anne's Foundry Australian Fortified Wine"
This Old Tawny is matured in Scotch Whiskey barrels.

Free from the regulatory scrutiny, Australian Tawny producers are able to celebrate the possibilities. Our wines are not simply a mimicry of Portuguese practices– they are a reinvention of a centuries-old wine for a new audience. The new image welcomes new drinkers. There’s a certain image associated with the term ‘Port’. It’s of plush lounges in gentlemen’s clubs, cigars, and pocket watches. In the past, this pompous reputation has tarnished Port by discouraging younger, more adventurous drinkers.

Tawny is much more diverse than this former reputation gives it credit for. And we have a great love for it here at St Anne’s. New and exciting Australian Tawny Wines are now entering the market– view ours here.

At St Anne’s, we are third-generation Tawny producers. Gilbert McLean – the grandfather of Richard, our chief winemaker – was a gifted fortified producer. The history and passion cannot be faked. We may not be the oldest Tawny producers in the world, or even in Australia, but we are a family dedicated to our wines. As much as we love making them and drinking them, we love sharing them.

From our family to yours, we hope to produce something you can enjoy time and time again.

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