A Winery Walkabout in Historic Rutherglen
Our first wine feature of June is the Pfeiffer Wines Rutherglen Topaque, a fortified wine from the Rutherglen region in Australia. If you haven’t heard of a Topaque before, you’re not alone - the style is very rare, and this is the only Rutherglen Topaque in all of Alberta at the moment!
The Rutherglen Winery Walkabout happens the second Monday of June to coincide with the Queen’s birthday (June 6 in 2020). Since 1974, thousands of people have descended on Rutherglen for one of the biggest wine festivals in the country. This year, the festival has gone virtual, so play along with our virtual walkabout of this historic wine region, learn about uncommon grapes and get to know this truly unique wine style so you have a story to share when you serve the Rutherglen Topaque for dessert at your next dinner.
A wide variety of grapes grow in the Rutherglen region, thanks to its sunny and dry climate, including Muscadelle, the key grape varietal in the Rutherglen Topaque. Though similar in name to “Muscat”, Muscadelle is unrelated, and is actually a rare cross between Gouais blanc and an unidentified grape variety.
Originally from the Bordeaux region, Muscadelle is a minor component of Bordeaux’s dry and sweet wines such as Sauternes, but makes up for less than 10% of the total wine. In Australia’s Rutherglen region, which is particularly noted for its sweet fortified wines, the grape is planted to make the fortified “Topaque” wine, originally called “Tokay.” Cool nights, warm days and a dry, lingering autumn allow Muscat and Tokay grapes to achieve high levels of sweetness and flavour.
Rutherglen is a small town in northeastern Victoria, Australia. In the 1800s, it was a gold-mining town, but since the gold rush has evolved to a major wine-producing region with 150 years of wine-making history. The region’s unique climate has allowed winemakers to make their mark on Australia’s wine heritage by creating celebrated, world renowned wines.
Vineyard planting began in the late 1850s and soon found strong favour in the colony. By the 1880s, the industry had expanded to 3,000 acres of vineyards, making it responsible for one third of Australia’s wine production. Success as a major world wine power followed with wines from Rutherglen winning awards at exhibitions in Bordeaux, Paris and London. Many of these wineries that were established at that time are still around today, managed by fourth, fifth or sixth generation descendants.
The Winemakers of Rutherglen formed into a membership based incorporated association in 1992 to cooperate on a deeper level, and now has nineteen wineries as members. These wineries are all a short drive from the charming, historic town centre, making it a special place for travellers from around the world to visit.
Pfeiffer Wines is a passionate father and daughter winemaking family in Rutherglen. The winery and vineyard was built and planted in 1895, but current owners Chris and Robyn Pfeiffer opened their tasting room in 1985. The historic cellars and century-old timber bridge of the Pfeiffer Winery are situated in a tranquil, natural setting on the banks of Sunday Creek – an anabranch of the Murray River in Rutherglen.
Pfeiffer Wines produce premium, handcrafted wines of elegance - crisp whites, full-bodied reds and the internationally heralded Muscats and Topaques such as the Rutherglen Topaque. These luscious, intense fortified wines are the heritage of the Australian Wine Industry. Their diverse range of premium award-winning wines that have won over 30 trophies and more than 400 medals.
A perfect pairing
The Pfeiffer Rutherglen Topaque has a silky, luscious palate with flavours of apricot and toffee and a nose of honey, caramel and malt. It is a truly unique wine that can give you an excellent introduction to this historic region in Australia. And though it may be on the sweeter side, it’s perfect after dinner in place of dessert, or you can pour a little on vanilla ice cream.
But don’t take our word for it - pick up a bottle from us to find out for yourself!