We count down the ten top-performing samples from db’s Fortified Masters competitions, taking in sensational wines from Australia to Portugal.
While today’s trends may be focused on finding low-calorie and reduced-alcohol options in the world of drinks, those in the wine trade know well that the ultimate in drinking pleasure comes at the opposite end of the spectrum: products that are richly flavoured, often sweet, and with a warming spirit-sourced edge to them. Such drinks are known collectively as fortified wines.
However, as with any category, even if home to some of the globe’s most delicious drinks, there are variations in style and quality, hence the need to asses them, using experience palates.
With this in mind, once again we held a Fortified Masters blind tasting earlier this year, as part of our Global Masters series, taking in key wine styles.
While this competition always sees a high medal count, we have picked out the top performers, those wines with plenty of personality, and a balancing spirit influence, rather than a dominating heat.
We’ve also added to these with a few fortifieds from former tastings to give a greater geographic scope for the following top 10.
So read on to find out which are the best of their types in a range of categories, from Port and Madeira to Sherry, taking in a broad sweep of regions and nations, including France, Spain and Portugal, and not forgetting Australia too.
Fortified Masters medal winners released
The results of db’s inaugural Fortified Masters have been released, highlighting the quality of aged tawny Port, very old Sherries as well as Australia’s best barrel aged fortifieds.
Conducted last month at the offices of the Institute of Masters of Wine in London, the Fortified Masters saw judges taste their way through almost 100 entries from around the world to award a range of medals, from the highest accolade of master, to gold, silver and bronze, based on scores out of 100.
Blind tasting can of course either destroy or confirm prior views of a product or category, but in the case this competition, it managed to do both.
It verified the tasters’ belief in the quality of fortified wines from Spain and Portugal, and it overturned any feeling that Australia and South Africa can’t produce rich and age-worthy fortified wines of a high standard too.
At times the day’s tasting also brought broad grins to the judges’ faces, quite simply because certain submissions were so delicious, it was hard not to hide the pleasure caused just from assessing them.
Those scoring over 95 points – gaining the top title of “master” – were aged tawnies, Sherries and Madeiras. In particular, Barbadillo gained two masters for its 30 year-old Amontillado and Obispo Gascon Palo Cortado, which were both incredibly complex dry Sherries crying out for a bowl of nuts, some bright sun and preferably a deck chair too.
Then there were the tawny Ports, which, with their richly sweet core and lingering dried fruit flavours, scored extremely highly. Two examples, both using wines with over 40 years in cask, were declared Masters, as well as one 20 year-old from the Roederer-owned Ramos Pinto.
A further Master then went to Justino’s, for its Colheita Madeira, which delighted the judges for its caramelised character combined with a refreshing citrus peel freshness.
Fortified Masters 2013: The Masters
|Ramos Pinto Quinta Do Bom Retiro 20 year-old tawny Port||Master|
|Porto Gran Cruz 40 year-old tawny Port||Master|
|Kopke Colheita 1966 tawny Port||Master|
|Barbadillo Amontillado 30 year-old Sherry||Master|
|Barbadillo Obispo Gascon Palo Cortado Sherry||Master|
|Justino’s Madeira Colheita 1996||Master|
Fortified Masters 2016: the results
The latest edition of db’s Fortified Masters showed what great quality wines producers are making across the board, with 20% of entries being awarded Masters and one third of the entrants being given a Gold medal. By Patrick Schmitt MW.
Few drinks deliver as much pleasure for the price as fortified wines. A combination of grapes, brandy and barrels, not forgetting, of course, expert blenders, yields wines that are high in quality and complexity, but, primarily due to their unfashionable status, low in price, particularly if one compares them with the great wines from Bordeaux or Burgundy, or, indeed, the aged malts and Cognacs of Scotland and France respectively. This mix of a fine product at an accessible price makes fortified wine so appealing for professionals – and should make them a major draw for those outside the trade too.
|What did the judges think?|
|MATTHIEU LONGUÈRE MS
“The tasting confirmed the incredible consistency and value of the category as a whole. I really enjoyed the Colheita Port: as a Port style, it was definitely the most consistent with awards for only Silver and above, and really good value for wines that have been aged for so long before release.”SARAH JANE EVANS MW
“The tasting completely opened my eyes to the potential of Rivesaltes, which is a glorious wine that hides its years beautifully. The Gérard Bertrand legend Vintage Rivealtes sang out in the blind tasting. The Osborne AOS Solera VOS was terrific – superbly balanced, gloriously punchy and intense, and the Kopke 1957 was alively treat, full of energy.”EWAN MURRAY “I’m a fan of fortified wines in general, as long as the alcohol doesn’t dominate. It’s a tricky balance for many, but in this tasting the alcohol was almost always warming, rather than burning. I have a penchant for Colheita tawny and for Madeira, and the examples on show were stunning. They are two oftoverlooked categories by those not in the know, providing great pleasure and generally good value for money.”
Proof that this drinks category is home to such outstanding blends was shown in this year’s Fortified Masters, which yielded an exceptional eight Masters, representing a record 20% of the entries. Not only that, but as many as one third of the products assessed blind gained a Gold, and the same amount a Silver, making fortified wine the most highly awarded category in our extensive competition line-up, which includes upmarket areas such as Champagne and expressive grapes like Pinot Noir. As Matthieu Longuère MS commented after the day’s tasting: “The Fortified Masters confirmed the incredible consistency and value of the category as a whole,” adding, “I guess, as these are not the commercial successes they used to be, producers really have to focus on the quality, and it showed – all the wines got a medal.”
Similarly, another judge, Sarah Jane Evans MW, said: “It was a lovely tasting – there’s nothing better than spending a day among fortified treasures.”