Fortify your resolve, by Sally Evans

You’ve had a tough day. More like a tough few years. You need to take a deep breath, pour yourself something special and launch back into life. Think of the cool Italians sipping afternoon aperitivo in the piazza or the tweedy English nursing tiny port glasses by the library fireside after dinner. A restorative treat, fortified wines are many and varied in style, but all share the addition of a neutral spirit to stop fermentation, retain sweetness and increase shelf life. They were the backbone of the Valley for decades, with many a cellar door visitor jumping off the tour bus in search of a nice sweet white port. While times have changed, these delicious wines are often surprise delights full of history and humour.

Ivanhoe King’s Ransom Liqueur Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Another evocative title with impressive heraldic packaging to match. Ivanhoe was established by fifth-generation member of the famous winemaking Drayton family, Stephen Drayton and his wife Tracy in 1996. The sixth generation is now actively involved in the family business, continuing a legacy that stretches back to 1855 when vines were first planted on the rich volcanic slopes of Ivanhoe Hill in Pokolbin. Known for their gutsy reds, Ivanhoe’s other speciality is their personalised engraving service, turning your purchase into a one-of-a-kind gift. Pick up a bottle of this rich, ripe and fruity port-style Cabernet and turn it into a special memento of your visit. And you won’t need a King’s Ransom to pay for it.
RRP – $30 (500ml) |

Mount Pleasant Aged Liqueur Verdelho

The Portuguese island of Madeira is the home of the iconic fortified wine of the same name, made from Verdelho. Verdelho has been grown in the Valley since the early 1800s and is still widely planted, so it’s no surprise that a Hunter version of madeira has been made at Mount Pleasant for over a century. This incredible beauty contains a portion of the “mother blend” created by Maurice O’Shea in the 1920s. Rich, treacly and nutty, this highly-awarded wine abounds with fragrant citrus and fig, and retains astonishing freshness and zing. A very special tasting experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

RRP – $60 (500ml) |

Emma’s Cottage Pirates Treasure – Liqueur Shiraz 2011

Conjuring up a swashbuckling past when old barques laden with aged barrels of port risked the crossing from Portugal to England, this is a hearty drop indeed. Rich and sweet, it will warm the cockles of your heart. From one of the smallest vineyards in the Valley, romance and history abound at Emma’s Cottage, which is part of the original “Wilderness” estate in Lovedale and the location of an historic Anglican cemetery with headstones dating back
to 1851.

RRP – $22 (375ml) |

Margan 2018 Off-Sweet Vermouth 2018

After spending many happy hours drinking Vermut in Spain, the Margan family pioneered a local version, creating a vintaged blend from their estate-grown Hunter Valley Semillon. The spicy, herbaceous aromats used to bring life to this stylish drop were mainly grown in the Margan kitchen garden. Even the distilled spirit, used to steep the botanicals, comes from the same old vine Semillon. A lick of honey from the Margan beehives and a dash of botrytised semillon has resulted in an interestingly red, off-sweet vermouth best enjoyed straight, with some orange slices and a few olives.

RRP – $50 (700ml) |

Tulloch’s Limited Release – Crème De Vin NV

Another madeira style with a romantic heritage, made by the First Family of Verdelho. Tulloch started making this treasure back in the early 1900s, which explains this gorgeous retro name, and part of the current blend dates back to 1974. Full of Christmas joy, this wine drips with almond, citrus peel, dried fruit and caramel. The luscious palate is balanced by fresh acidity, with a long, lingering finish that makes it the perfect pal for a rich chocolate dessert.

RRP – $35 (375ml) |