Premium-aged fortitude wines seem to have fallen out of favour in Australia over the past decade or so. This is despite fortified wines holding court for much of Australia’s winemaking history, seeing as before the 1960s more than 80% of wine production in the country was centred around fortified wines. While the country has obviously come a long way since then, there’s clearly still a market for those sweeter profiles, which is probably why a newly reinvigorated McWilliam’s Wines are taking a big step towards a Tawny renaissance by releasing a new-look Tawny Hanwood Estate range comprising four aged expressions of the rich dessert-style wine – the Classic (5-year), Grand (10-year), Rare (20-year) and Very Rare (30-year).
If you’ve paid attention to the Australian wine industry over the past couple of years, you’d know that McWilliam’s Wines entered into voluntary administration early 2020, leading to numerous attempts to resurrect the historic winemaking label. It wasn’t until Calabria Family Wines swooped in with a reported $40 million to buy the McWilliam’s brands that one of Australia’s oldest winemakers was considered saved.
While the McWilliam’s single vineyard wines are arguably much more popular than the label’s tawny as of late, it seems the new owners are banking big on the resurrection with the new Handwood Estate range said to showcase some of the label’s finest and most distinctive fortified releases since the Riverina winery was first established back in 1913.
The winemaker has been using carefully selected parcels of aged stock from the winery’s barrel collection for these new releases, aiming to reiterate McWilliam’s positioned at the forefront of premium fortitude wines to elevate the space.
McWilliam’s Wines Assistant Winemaker Mel McWilliam says the new Hanwood Estate Tawny collection takes a step down in price and rarity from the Show Reserve selection to highlight a bit more diversity in the space. The effects of multiple lengths of barrel ageing will be highlighted, from as little as five years to as much as 30 years. Obviously, the latter will be the most sought of the bunch and a bottle of the Very Rare will set you back a toasty $175.
“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,” said Russell Cody, Senior Winemaker at McWilliam’s.
“Our new selection of Aged Tawny is an exciting opportunity to experience this shift in style across multiple generations, with the Rare and Very Rare wines showing the big, full-flavoured Australian style while the Classic and Grand wines demonstrating [sic] a more modern, savoury style.”
The new Handwood Estate labelling certainly looks a bit more elegant and minimal than the aesthetic we’ve come to expect from McWilliam’s. The Grand, Rare and Very Rare Tawny releases also come packaged in ornate gift boxes which will apparently mirror a similar approach taken to aged varieties of Muscat, Topaque and Apera to be released later this year.
The new collection of McWilliam’s Wines Tawny bottles is now available from select retailers starting from $20.