It has always been an interesting comparison: the style and preferences for genuine Port wine from the Duoro in Portugal, or the imposter that imitates but doesn’t quite replicate the real thing from Australia. There are a number of technical reasons why the styles are the same but taste different, though both have been labelled ‘Port’ in the past. Nowadays, the name ‘Port’ is protected. In Australia, the new name for ‘Sherry’ is ‘Apera’ and for ‘Tokay’ it’s ‘Topaque’, and for ‘Port’ it is Vintage, Ruby or Tawny ‘Fortified’. In simple terms, the Portuguese wines are drier and more textured with the taste of the earth, whereas the Australians are sweeter and stickier, softer and taste of fruit. Both have the ability to age extremely well and develop considerable complexities, even at pretty basic levels.
As a finale to the A’Prentice’s party, out came the classical port comparison, one from Portugal and one from Australia, both of approximately the same age. The 1975 Rebello Valente Vintage Port (bottled in 1977 by Robertsons) was indeed amber orange in colour, but with faded roses. On the nose that curious blend of faded roses, warm nutty fruits and a suggestion of toffee, all tied up with a flourish of earth and minerals. Savoury to a degree, but balance by lovely sweetness. Very little tannin to resolve, a hint of corruption, but with fruit and earth to burn. And the spirit clean with a touch of burn and cut. A lighter wine for sure in comparison with the big names, and not quite the complexities, but thoroughly balanced and still a delightful fortified wine.
Then the 1975 Seppeltsfield ‘GR104’ Vintage Port, made mainly from Malbec, probably South Australian fruit. Darker colour with mahogany and orange, with the aromas of raisins, ripe grapes caramel and toffee. Much sweeter on palate, more unctuous and rounded. Complexing dried wood and nutty notes, but no rancio. A touch decrepit and beginning to dry somewhat. The spirit soaked up by the sweetness and a decidedly more consumer friendly wine for sure. But for the aficionados it was not in as good condition. However, with both bottles around four decades old, there were no complaints.