McWilliam’s is synonymous with premium fortified wines and this month saw the release of its exceptional selection of aged Tawnies under a new-look Hanwood Estate Range. Leading the programme at the winery is senior winemaker, Russell Cody alongside sixth-generation assistant winemaker, Mel McWilliam
Establishing their vineyards in 1877, the McWilliam family were among the first pioneers of Australian fortified wines. While ever changing tastes have seen fewer producers of premium Australian fortified over the years, McWilliam’s has continued working with carefully selected parcels of aged stock from the winery’s barrel collection for these new releases.
The new selection of specifically aged releases is a marked evolution of the winery’s past while demonstrating McWilliam’s position at the forefront of the fortified industry.
Russell Cody, senior winemaker at McWilliam’s, considers himself a ‘custodian’ of the fortified barrel collection at the Hanwood Winery – particularly with the 30-year material, regarded as Very Rare.
“There has been a resurgence in the last five years for fortified wines, especially as producers explore a broader range of styles versus what we were making 20 years ago,” Mr Cody said. “Much of that interest is in the older examples of these wines. People see the value. When a company puts a wine away for ten years, they are putting a lot of work into the wine. The consumer is getting absolute bargains at $30 or $35 for a ten year-old wine.”
“Our new selection of Aged Tawny is an exciting opportunity to experience this shift in style across multiple generations. The Rare and Very Rare wines show the big, full-flavoured Australian style while the Classic and Grand wines demonstrate a more modern, savoury style.”
When asked about Australia’s position in fortified winemaking (globally), Mr Cody responded with pride.
“Absolutely, we have to be up there with the best Muscats in the world. The Hungarians make great examples of Topaques, but we’d have to be up there alongside them. Our Tawny is sweeter than the Portuguese and has a lot more flavour. We are starting to develop a more savoury style to help us utilise these beautiful wines,” he said.
“The climate means we can ripen Muscats and Topaques, but I also think it’s the winemaking talent. When Australians make wine, we are happy to go to school and learn how it’s done. We are not set in our ways and feel like we have to make wine as our great grandfather did. Australians can try something and work out whether it does or doesn’t work and are more likely to try something different.
“I think the Australian winemakers are at the forefront of making different styles of wines. We work closely in our community around what we are all doing, and we can learn from each other.”
Mel McWilliam, sixth-generation assistant winemaker, said, “There is over a century’s worth of history behind our fortified wines at our Hanwood Estate in the Riverina. Our mission with these new releases is to elevate the fortified space, as we’ve done since establishing the winery site in 1913. While our limited releases, like the Show Reserve selection, are highly acclaimed and demonstrate our ability to release rare, aged fortifieds, the new Hanwood Estate Tawny collection is an exciting step toward showcasing the diversity of Tawny across multiple lengths of barrel ageing.”
In addition to the new selection of aged releases, McWilliam’s has refreshed the look of the entire range, choosing a proprietary bottle featuring the classic McWilliam’s logo and elegant, rich black design features. The outer packaging becomes more ornate as the wines increase in age, with separate gift boxes for the Grand, Rare, and Very Rare releases.
In addition to the new Tawny selection, McWilliam’s will be refreshing the entire Hanwood Estate range, with newly packaged and generously aged varieties of Muscat, Topaque, and Apera to be released later this year.
“This is the first step for McWilliam’s Wines to demonstrate the craftsmanship of premium aged fortified wines to new consumers. There are some exciting plans underway, from bespoke tastings at the Hanwood Estate to other premium tasting events and experiences that we are looking forward to unveiling in the future,” Mr McWilliam said.
Mr Cody left us with these final thoughts, “These are magnificent, old wines– crafted to last. They will be a fantastic gift for someone to savour and enjoy a glass of Australian wine history.”
McWilliam’s Very Rare 30-Year Aged Tawny Tasting Note
Here is a glimpse into McWilliam’s Very Rare 30-Year Aged Tawny. Made by Russell Cody (Senior Winemaker) and Mel McWilliam (Assistant Winemaker).
- Region: Hanwood, NSW
- Varietal/style: Tawny
- ABV: 19.5 per cent
- RRP: $175
Tasting note: Intense and complex with classic rancio aged oak characters very apparent. The nose is powerful with raisined fruit, toffee, malt and hints of maple syrup. The palate explodes with flavours of Christmas cake, malt, toffee with hints of dark chocolate. The palate is deliciously luscious, however luscious it may be, it is also wonderfully elegant and refined.