Stickie wicket

Yet another lovely wine evening in Cork, thanks mainly to a superb contribution by Australian Chris Pfeiffer. The renowned and deservedly much honoured Rutherglen winemaker was on his favourite subject: Australian stickies (fortified and dessert wines), and the Vine Wine Cellar in the Hayfield Manor was an excellent venue for the tasting, delivered with an abundance of intimate knowledge and no little humour.

Chris, as is his wont, was representing his neighbours’ as well as his own wines, and started us off with a NV Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato. This inviting 5.5% ABV carbonated effort “is taking the country (Australia) by storm” and certainly went down well at our table. Distributed by Liberty Wines, it is widely available here.

Then came the 2010 Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora, weighing in at 11.5% or so, and also widely available. The Brown family are neighbours of Chris: “Forty five miles away but that’s neighbours in Australia. It is easy drinking, full of flavour and freshness and simple to enjoy.”

Now for the first of the true stickies: a 2009 Pete Lehmann Botrytis Semillon (Barossa Valley). This was the “..more classic, European style..complex..more persistent..with a delicious lusciousness on the middle palate..” Available from O’Donovan’s, Molloys and independent Off Licences.

Chris Pfeiffer

“Grant Burge is passionate about fortified wines” said Chris as he introduced the 10 Year Old Tawny (Barossa Valley). “The brandy spirit here plays an important additional role by adding flavour. Australian wines tend to be sweeter than the Douro.” This beauty, available from O’Donovan’s, Cellars, and Sweeney’s of Glasnevin, went down well.

I preferred the Tawny as did quite a few but the next wine, available through and at Curious Wines, also had many advocates including John McDonnell of Wine Australia Ireland who was helping Chris on the night. This was the 2006 Woodstock Vintage Shiraz from the McLaren Vale, “plum pudding and mince in a glass”.

Chris had lots of anecdotes about the wine industry and  let us know at this point that the table wines “pay” for the fortified wines which are regarded as “an accountant’s nightmare, because they tie up so much capital”. Fortunately, thanks to people like Chris, the accountants don't always have their way. “Fortified wines are undervalued...they deliver great punch for your pound!”

The next three wines were all by Chris, all from Rutherglen. The first was the Pfeiffer Topaque (previously called Tokay). “This is 100% Moscatel. No Botrytis here but it is well ripened and the last grape we pick (in June). There is plenty of accumulated sugar but we don't lose the fruit.” And this luscious flavour-full wine was well liked at our table.

Like the Topaque, the Pfeiffer Muscat spends five years in wood. The grapes have been harvested at high sugar levels and then the different parcels are blended to produce a youthful fresh wine. Sweet yes, Christmas pudding was mentioned, but not cloying.

Then we had the most fantastic bonus: Pfeiffer Grand Muscat. This expensive wine is not available in Ireland so I made the most of our taster, taking it tiny sip by tiny sip. It is twenty years old and has spent most of that time in barrel. “It is a very special occasion wine (like old Cognac). It is very complex and you don't need much.”

Ballymaloe's Colm McCan and yours truly

Yes indeed. And, believe it or not, Pfeiffer also do a Rare Muscat, four years older than the Grand. Like to get a  sip or two of that sometime.

And so this lovely stickie tasting came to an end but we weren't quite finished yet as Chris also had some of his bread and butter table wines to show us. Indeed, we had started on entry with a very attractive 2008 Pfeiffer Carlyle Chardonnay Marsanne. Up to 45% is Marsanne and 6 months contact with the lees also helps round it off. As the evening closed, we had some very tasty nibbles from the Hayfield and sampled two excellent easy drinking reds: the 2008 Carlyle Shiraz and the 2008 Carlyle Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Rutherglen wines, table, fortified and dessert, are available at and distributed by Karwig Wines. Worth a  call before Christmas!