Monday, 10 June 2013

Sticky heaven - a vertical of Stanton & Killeen Muscats and Topaques

This is a report that I have been meaning to publish for a number of weeks now, but I never actually got around to writing my tasting notes until a few days ago. Which in itself is not a problem, since the wines I am going to tell you about can last for weeks, months or probably even years after opening, without any change or deterioration in quality - they really are built to last!
This was a tasting for the Nottingham Wine Circle, organised in conjunction with Richard Kelley MW (in his capacity as buyer for the importers Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies) and presented by myself and Wendy Killeen, CEO for Stanton & Killeen Wines. Although many of us present were already to some extent quite familiar with the Muscats and Topaques (actually Muscadelle and formerly known as Liqueur Tokay) of Rutherglen, Wendy was a mine of information and enthusiasm, answering questions as we went along. She suggested that we taste the wines in 2 flights - the Topaques, followed by the Muscats, moving up the quality ladder in each flight. And it was definitely the right call, for the difference between the levels (and indeed the 2 grapes/styles) was marked, with the level of intensity and lusciousness being ramped up with each successive wine.
The delightful Wendy Killeen, CEO of Stanton & Killeen Wines
Briefly, the Rutherglen classification, introduced around 10 years ago, comprises 4 different levels that mark a progression in age, richness, complexity and intensity of flavour (and I quote from the printed information given to us during the tasting);

The foundation of the style: displaying fresh fruit aromas, rich fruit on the palate, clean grape spirit and great length of flavour.

A maturing style imparting greater levels of richness and complexity; exhibiting the beginnings of 'rancio' characters produced from prolonged maturation in oak.

A mature style with greater intensity and mouth-filling depth of flavour, complexity and viscosity; producing layers of texture and flavour with seamless integration of the flavours of fruit, grape spirit, and mature oak.

The pinnacle of Rutherglen Muscats and Topaques, the richest and most complete wines – displaying deep colour, intense fruit and ‘rancio’ characters, rich viscous texture and extraordinary depth of mellowed complex flavours.

And so to the wines - I've used a basic 3-star system to indicate my favourites..........

Stanton & Killeen Rutherglen Topaque
Medium golden brown. Apricot and burnt peach, orange marmalade, molasses, polished wood and damp earth. Even a touch of salinity/savouriness. Rich, unctious, warming and super-sweet, but with a delightful streak of tangy orange peel acidity. Earthy and surprisingly complex. **

Stanton & Killeen Classic Rutherglen Topaque
A deeper colour, more orange-brown. Musky/earthy nose. Burnt Seville orange, fig, molasses, hints of mocha and chocolate. Rich and gloopy, with yet more residual sugar, more damp earth, but again with lovely tangy acidity. There's an interestingvegetal/savoury note in both this and the one above, which is hard to put my finger on, but it makes the wines all the more attractive. This is almost a meal in itself. **+

Stanton & Killeen Grand Rutherglen Topaque
Deeper still - the colour of treacle toffee! Smells like treacle toffe, too, or a super-rich Christmas cake, again with those lovely earthy, damp, musky aromas and a whiff of fine eau de vie. The flavours are ramped-up another couple of notches - intense, rich, tangy, almost reminiscent of (say) a 6 putt Tokaji, with acidity to match. Immense flavours, with those rich fruitcake flavours augmented by notes of ginger, cinnamon and all manner of exotic spices. Immense length, too. A superb wine. ***

Stanton & Killeen Rare Rutherglen Topaque
How deep can you go? This one looks almost like black treacle! The nose is redolent of fine Armagnac, with aromas of damp earth, peat, burnt toffee apple, dark chocolate, fig and curry spices. Amazingly complex and worthy of lengthy contemplation. Indeed, the angels must have taken more than their fair share of this one, such is the almost painful level of intensity and concentration. And yet pain never felt so pleasurable! The flavours go all the way from A to Z (not to mention all the way to 11!) with all of the sweet, sour, savoury, salty, earthy and tangy elements in complete harmony, and a finish that goes on forever. Heavenly wine. ***+

Stanton & Killeen Rutherglen Muscat
Quite a dark orange/brown colour, with a definite red-ish hue. Roses, violets and turkish delight leap from the glass, with notes of redcurrant jam, orange marmalade and milk chocolate. A really lovely nose - earthy, but at the same time floral and grapey. The palate is rich, with flavours of fresh grapes and figs, with an intense dark muscavado sugar sweetness and just enough tangy acidity to keep it from cloying. One for pouring on the ice cream. *

Stanton & Killeen Classic Rutherglen Muscat
Like the above, only darker and redder. A lovely waft of freshly-baked sourdough bread and rich, dark fruitcake emanates from the glass - doughy, almost donutty, with notes of flowers, spiced dried fruits, molasses, figs, ginger, with hints of mint and balsam.The palate is uber-rich and sweet, but this time has all the acidity required to give it real lift. A bundle of soft, sweet, tangy loveliness. **

Stanton & Killeen Grand Rutherglen Muscat
Deep tawny colour, almost like an aged, dark red wine. Amazingly, it almost smells like a perfectly aged red wine, too, with delicate aromas of redcurrant and spiced bramble, with hints of dried orange peel, incense, damp earth and mocha, all steeped in the finest eau de vie. The flavours are just so intense, so riveting and mouth-filling, with burnt chocolate, candied peel, coffee grounds, parma violets and a gently saline, savoury, meaty and smoky quality. Wave upon wave of spices and herbs, dried exotic fruits (mango, papaya) and black syrup, with an almost tannic grip , all countered by the most wonderfully tangy orange acidity. Another heavenly wine. ***

Stanton & Killeen Rare Rutherglen Muscat
Almost coffee-coloured, and again with a distinct red hue, this one is so viscous, so thick, it almost prevents the aromas from escaping. It isn't muted, but the aromas are hard to describe. The palate, though, is a different matter. The texture is immense, almost like treacle, and completely coats the mouth with flavours of muscavado, laced with orange oil, curry spices, soy and dark chocolate, yet shot through with a streak of tangy acidity, and hardly a sign of anything spiritous or warm. A completely contrary and compelling wine, with massive length. Sheer ambrosia in a glass! ***

On the night, I marginally preferred the Muscats, but tasting through all of the wines again, several weeks later, my allegiance was with the Topaques, which overall seemed to possess just a little more complexity and depth. But it is a close call - and there wasn't a wine in there that I wouldn't choose to drink at the drop of a hat.

Thanks Wendy - and let's hope we can do it all again when you are next in the UK!

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