If you’re going to drink one 60-year-old wine, let that be an old port. 

Here’s how to finish a dinner party: pull out a bottle of old port. 10-year-old port, 20-year-old port… Or a tawny fortified, as Australian wine made in the tawny port style is called. For some time now, the use of the name ‘port’ has been restricted to that wine made in Portugal’s Duoro Valley. However, Australian port– or rather tawny or ruby– production has a lot of prestige attached to it. And a lot of history. Fortified wines have long been a mainstay of Australian wine production: they accounted for roughly 85% of wine production in Australia before 1960. If you are lucky to get your hands on a wine that has been in the barrel since then, you could be looking at a tawny, worth upwards of $3000.

Old port wine in a glass on a wooden surface.

Old Tawny wine slowly loses its red colour through barrel ageing

Ruby fortifieds are intended to be consumed before much ageing has occurred. For this reason, they are not aged in a barrel, but rather in a cask made of stainless steel. This prevents the oxidation that seeps the colour from wine. It is named for its red tones that are preserved by the process. Most Rubies are not intended or indeed suitable for ageing.

Tawny can be much older. They can spend very many years in an oak barrel– decades, in fact. Most will have spent around 5-10 years in a barrel, have a golden brown hue with rich butterscotch, caramel and savoury notes . But there are some that have spent half a century in the barrel out there, though they may not always be available to market. Tawnies generally have potential for bottle ageing– much more than your average table wine. The age on a tawny bottle does not represent its actual age, rather the amount of years the blend of vintages has spent in a barrel. For example, you may find a 30-year Tawny bottled in 2016: in 2026 it will not be a “40-year-old tawny”. It will be a 30-year-old tawny that has been cellared for ten years.

Tawny might be a great addition to your cellar. But the real gem will be one that has spent more time in a barrel than a cellar. Patience really is the key here.

So stay in touch with St Anne’s to gain access to our wide range of aged Tawny Fortifieds that vary from 5 years to 30 years of age and are available all year round. It really is worth the wait.