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Samizdata quote of the day

At Australian wineries it is possible to buy port in ten litre containers.

Alas, I found the prospect of getting this onto the plane and through British customs a little daunting, so I did not buy one. Which is a shame, as I would have been delighted to have been able to serve port out of a plastic container that looked more suitable for engine oil at my next dinner party.

Michael Jennings

19 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • I'm suffering for my art

    This is true – I sold one recently on the job. The packaging is a little agricultural, however you can purchase excellent quality, world-class Australian port in the good ol’ 10L container. Some port aficionados like them – it’s easier to decant – imagine tipping a couple of dozen bottles into a barrel!

  • Big deal. In the ComBloc era, Russians used to drink the glycol out of radiators and the dextron out of transmissions. (Though I’d recommend the 10L buckets of port, for health reasons – that said, the Dextron has a wonderful bouquet, and a sparkling ruby color that is pleasing to the eye. The texture is somewhat oily, however, being reminiscent of transmission fluid, which it is.)

  • zmollusc

    You forgot screenwash.

  • Yes, the 1967 Dextron was an exceptionally good year, wasn’t it?

  • John J. Coupal

    not to be finicky or anything, but the spelling is Dexron.

  • I just hope Australian “port” is better than (what used to be called) British “sherry”.

  • Hmmm…..didn’t Monty Python have a bit about a vicar installing a 1000 gal. reserve sherry tank in the choirloft?

  • HJHJ

    Of course, it’s not really port (and can’t be sold as such within the EU) because it doesn’t come from Oporto/Porto, although it does use broadly the same production method (i.e. fortification before fermentation is complete) albeit the grape varieties are different.

    The reason they don’t sell it in the UK is that you’d have to use a new name, because the name “port” can’t be used here due to EU wine law which protects names which are related to geographical locations. Therefore it would make it more difficult to sell.

    I once (over 15 years ago) tried a wine in Australia described as Chateau Yaldara Claret Spatlese (sweet). It was made from Shiraz. Bizarre.

    I also remember some of the “sherry” sold there. It was pretty anonymous medium sweet stuff sold in clear versions of those fabric-conditioner type bottles (the ones with integral handles). A travesty of the real thing.

    Fortunately, it can’t be called sherry in Europe (neither can British “sherry” – which is neither sherry nor really British, as it made from concentrated imported grape juice – any more) because it doesn’t come from Jerez (the Moorish form of which gave rise to the world Sherry).

  • “not to be finicky or anything, but the spelling is Dexron.
    Posted by John J. Coupal ”

    Doth your, er, wine snobery know no bounds, sir?

  • I'm suffering for my art

    HJHJ – Time to update your wine knowledge!

    A travesty of the real thing.

    Well, are you surprised? By the description of the bottle, you were drinking a cheap and nasty sherry. Sounds like you got what you paid for in terms of quality. Would you write off the entire French wine industry after sampling a 2 quid bottle of vin ordinaire? If you’re prepared to spend some money, Australian fortified wine is considered by those who know what they’re talking about as the best you can get outside of the Iberian peninsula.

    Contrary to your assertion, Australian port and sherry is identifiably similar to its Iberian cousins – if not the same due to geographical, but also viticultural and oenological differences. However, oenological similarities abound; better Australian fortifieds are made using the traditional Solera method of blending old and young wines. More expensive Australian port is made with a variety we call Touriga (history has forgotten whether this refers to the traditional port varieties of Touriga Nacional or Touriga Francesa) and is usually blended with Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon. The venerable houses of Penfolds and Seppelt make the best known, and arguably the best, ports.

    Good quality Australian sherry is made from Pedro Ximinez, amongst other varieties. Once again, Seppelt arguably make the best Australian sherry, and its offerings compete strongly with similarly priced Spanish products. Morris (no link) is also a strong contender. On the whole, Australian ports and sherries are admittedly not as good as those from Iberia, however, they’re considerably better than what you make out.

    Fortified wine has a longer history in Australia than table wine – its manufacture predates the nation itself. We were also exporting fortified wine to Britain before federation. Although, you’re correct, these days issues regarding appellation control in the EU market make Australian fortified wine sales in Europe difficult. Oh well, more for us.

  • HJHJ

    Why do I need to update my knowledge? I did not “write off” the entire Australian wine industry, much less on the basis of a singe tasting.

    You seem to think that I know little about wine, which is not the case as it has been a lifelong interest and I am professionally qualified in this area – in fact my main reason for being in Australia was to tour the vineyards – something I would hardly have done if I did not appreciate their products. I am also well aware of the history of Australin fortified wines.

    If you had read carefully and not extrapolated wildly you would have noticed that I was not dismissive of Australian “Ports” – many of which are very good although different from the Portuguese product which certainly can’t be replicated by one or two grapes (port typically uses a mixture of numerous types). I was just explaining the (entirely proper) reason why they can’t be sold in Europe as Port and why this (unfortunately) has led to their general unavailability here.

    Got what I paid for with the sweet “sherry”? I didn’t pay, I tried it at a winery out of sheer curiosity. I am just as dismissive about Croft Original, for example, which is a real, although bastardized, sherry. Sherry is one of my wine passions.

    Pedro Ximenez, of course, is the sweetening wine used for sweetening much of the sherry intended for the UK market. Palomino is the primary grape in Sherry and is used to make all the (dry) base wine from fino through oloroso. Despite a long interest in these things, I have never sampled an equivalent of Manzanilla, Fino or dry Oloroso (olorosos are naturally dry) type wine from anywhere other than Spain, which comes anywhere remotely close.

    Oh, and the solera system is not used for all fortified wines (e.g. not Port, although it is often a blend of years).

    Thanks for the links to Seppelt and Penfold. Of course, I had never heard of them before, even though I’ve been to Seppeltsfileld and Penfold and have a stock of 20 year old Grange (not allowed to call it Grange Hermitage any more!) in my cellar.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    HJHJ (MW)*:

    Well, that’s just dandy. Perhaps you should read over your initial post to gather why I assumed much that I did. My comments were hardly “wild extrapolations”, more the natural conclusion to your comments. In fact, it is you who seems to be indulging in wild extrapolations; me linking the Seppelt and Penfolds websites is not an assumption of your ignorance. We’re conversing on a blog and linking to references is somewhat expected when using this medium. More erroneous extrapolation from you – I was certainly not presumptuous enough to suggest that you knew little about wine; though it would seem by your earlier post that your knowledge of this obscure part of the wine world is somewhat patchy. And that’s hardly surprising, what with the world of wine being so enormous. Since I live in Australia, I’m of course better placed to be aware of Australian fortifieds. There’s a very good chance you’d know more about (real) sherries than I would. Then again, I wasn’t making flippant remarks about Spanish sherry on the basis of a single tasting of cheap plonk.

    I’m glad you know that there are plenty of high-quality Australian fortified wines out there. If you knew this, I cannot help but wonder why you presented such an unbalanced snapshot of the product. Incidentally, your vomiting facts at me (many of which I was already aware of, but thanks) isn’t particularly intimidating. I can use this too.

    *Well, you did say you were “professionally qualified”!

  • Personally, I think that the general excellence of Australian fortified (and also sparkling) wines is one of the great secrets of the wine world. (Given that they are barely exported, it is hardly surprising, however). The wine in the ten litre container was perfectly decent (as one expects in a bulk wine like that) but at their best Australian ports are really superb. (I have drunk really nice Australian amontillado sherry from Rutherglen in Victoria, too).

    I have mixed feelings on the relatively new laws that forbid Australian wines from being named after European places, but I will have to explain my feelings on this some other time. I am now back in London and am too jetlagged to continue…

  • HJHJ


    Who said it was a meant to be a snapshot? Some of the things you see at Australian wineries are quite amusing to European eyes and I was merely sharing my experience – I was in no way trying to denigrate Australian wines in general but you obviously have a chip on your shoulder about something. Funny that none of the several professional Australian winemakers I know have ever taken any offence about anything I’ve said to them. The lack of ‘rules’ in Australia is both a strength and occasionally a weakness of the Australian wine scene. I wouldn’t want it to be like France.

    In fact I once hunted down some Australian “ports” in London for a comparative tasting with Port, courtesy of the (very helpful) Australian High Commission. I’m also a big fan of what used to be called liquer muscats, a uniquely Australian style, althoug they’ve become harder to find now possibly becuause they can’t use the word liquer (because they’re not liquers, strictly speaking)

    I take back nothing I said about sherry, because it’s accurate. Croft Original is also a travesty of the real thing – did I just write off sherry because I said that?

    Glad you can use google – but it’s no substitute for a basic knowledge of the subject. There’s no substitute for manners either.

  • HJHJ

    Incidentally, when I worked in Belgium I had a French boss. I took considerable pleasure in buying particularly good examples of Australian wine in England and nonchalantly handing them to him to try.

    I always enquired a few days later about how he liked them. “Not bad” was his usual reply – but we both knew he was very impressed.

    Sorry if that also constitutes being rude about Australian wine – I know you’re somewhat sensitive.

  • MarkL


    Many vineyards also sell their fortifieds in 25l containers, a very economical way to buy them. The family vineyards in particular (Draytons in the Hunter, for example) do this with their entire fortified range, even the vintages, which is just wonderful. This enables you do bottle your own, which is a pleasant pastime.

    Some of the varieties here might be regarded by Europeans as peculiar, the flip side of that is that European attitudes are regarded by some here as hidebound and rather unimaginative. I am a little surprised to note that the style known here are Liquer Muscat is unique to us, though. Are white ports made in Europe? There are some good ones here.

    Some fortifieds in Australia have had, in the past, a very poor reputation because of their association with the Great Depression; alcohol was an escape for many at the time and the cheapest grog to buy was the cheapest, nastiest fortifieds. So fortifieds were what street wino’s drank, which tainted the reputation of some ranges of fortifieds here for decades. (Especially the Muscats)

    We have come a long way since then, and some truly excellent fortifieds are made here. Some rubbish is made here too, which is no surprise to anyone. It tends to be sold in 3 litre glass bottles colloquially known as ‘goonies’.

    I have yet to find any foreign fortified sold here in Australia which meets the price-quality balance of Australian fortifieds. The ones which are significantly better are very, very expensive by comparison, ones in the same prices range are poor to bloody awful by comparison.


  • I'm suffering for my art

    Sorry about the tardiness of my reply. I am currently offline – I’ve changed ISPs and there’s a delay. I’m on a public computer so I’ll make it brief.

    Sensitive? I think you are the sensitive one, especially about what you term “manners”. I see no discernable difference between our two styles in terms of “manners”; still if you feel you need to create a strawman so you can claim the high moral ground, then it’s yours.

    I was commenting on your original post. You didn’t say “I had this awful stuff the winery called sherry. However, I also had some perfectly acceptable fortified in Australia.” If you had have said that, you would have elicited no response from myself. When you mention the former and not the latter it’s perfectly reasonable for the reader to assume you’re discussing the whole segment of the market, especially when it’s the topic of the thread. I think anyone who reads it will agree that what you were writing about (Oz fortifieds) was sneering and dismissive. Okay, you don’t feel that way but that’s how it came across in your first post and that’s what I responded to. So stop trying to backpedal.

    I absolutely agree with Michael on the comparative value of Australian wines (and fortifieds) throughout all price points. Sure, Grange isn’t as good as the best from the Rhone but it’s a fraction of the cost.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Sorry, as I said, I was on a public computer and bashed the above post out without proof reading it. A sentence in it should have run “I think anyone who reads it will agree that the tone of what you were writing about (Oz fortifieds) was sneering and dismissive.”

  • Hmmmm… port. Yummy.

    After wine in a box, why should we be squeamish about port in a plastic jug? As long as the packaging doesn’t influence the taste, who cares?

    Next: French perfume in miniature Zytel bags.

    Oh, the humanity….