Fortified wines continue to offer a touch of joy, says MARYTHÉRÈSE BLAIR.


it’s because it’s positioned at the end of a long couple of days of wine judging or just because judging fortified wines is such a treat, but our judges are practically giddy when it comes time to judging this class. From the ripe fruitiness of the ruby ports through the luscious sweetness of a Pedro Ximénez sherry to the hedonistic joy of tasting a tawny that has spent half a century in a cask waiting to be opened, this is not like any other day at the office.

They say joy shared is joy doubled so it’s with great joy we share Cuisine’s top fortified wine and the final line up of wines for 2023. We hope you are able to pass this joyous selection onto your nearest and dearest this festive season whether it’s wrapped under the tree or shared around the table.


The judges who tasted the Champagne also tasted the fortified wines.


Those wines offering an outstanding mix of quality and price are awarded Best Buy status. Price points differ, depending on the varietal, but if you see the Best Buy sticker you can rest assured you’re getting a great wine at an excellent price. Look out for the sticker on wine bottles at all good wine retailers.


Britain no longer had unlimited access to the great wines of France and for a time they had fallen out of fashion thanks to war and a long-held grudge with the French. In search of wine, England turned to their old ally Portugal. Grapes have been grown in Portugal since antiquity and as a result of the Treaty of Windsor signed in 1386, the two countries had a strong political and economic relationship. Brandy was sometimes added to wine in order to help the wines cope with the rigours of the sea voyage back to Britain and, as it turns out, the British consumer was quite fond of these aromatic, sweet and altogether much stronger wines. Although it wasn’t until the 19th century that the process of fortification became commonplace, there is no doubt that the end product has lasted the test of time.

Taylor’s was established in 1692 as Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman and remains one of the oldest founding port houses. While many port wineries have diversified into table wine, Taylor’s remains entirely dedicated to the production of port wine and port wine only.

This wine shows a deep, deep tawny colour in the glass with intense aromas of dried fig, nuts, dates and caramelised raisins. Incredibly bold despite its 50 years in cask, this port has extraordinary depth of flavour with steely acid and phenomenal length. Rich and graceful, this incredible port has waited half a lifetime to be enjoyed, don’t make it wait a moment longer. (A)

2 / Taylor’s First Estate Reserve Port NV (Douro Valley, Portugal) ★★★★★ - 1 $42

Deeply coloured with a touch of fade on the rim, the savoury nose is also full of bramble fruit and a beguiling smoky cinnamon spice. The harmonious palate is rich and fruited while also vibrant and fresh with fantastic structure and a lingering finish. (A)

3 / Sandeman 40 Year Old Port NV (Douro Valley, Portugal) ★★★★★ - 2 $393

A lovely gentle and well-aged example with vanilla butterscotch and raisined fruit on the nose that lures you into the palate. Despite its average of four decades of age, the palate is bright and fresh with layer upon layer of flavour complexity and infinite length. (A)

4 / Sandeman 20 Year Old Port NV (Douro Valley, Portugal) ★★★★★ - 2 $94

A medium colour in the glass with a tawny rim and lifted aromatics of toasted nuts, polished wood and lovely layered rancio and dried fruits that come through to the comforting and inviting palate. Understated, gentle and oh so long. (A)

5 / Sandeman 30 Year Old Port NV (Douro Valley, Portugal) ★★★★ - 2 $210

A pale tawny amber with aromas of browned apples, caramel and lovely savoury aromas on the nose. The palate is full of character with rich honey, spice and vanilla working in harmony with no one flavour overpowering the others. Gentle, elegant and lengthy. (A)

6 / De Bortoli ‘Old Boys’ 21 Barrel Aged Tawny NV (NSW, Australia) ★★★★ - 5 $54

Surprisingly bold for a 21-year-old tawny, the nose is intense with rich raisins and butterscotch alongside vanilla and mocha aromas. The palate is full and rich with fantastic complexity and drive culminating in a dry and satisfying finish. (A)

7 / De Bortoli Show Liqueur Muscat NV (NSW, Australia) ★★★★ - 2 $38

Tawny-brown in the glass with an olivegreen rim, this delightful muscat is heady and perfumed with ripe citrus, moscatel raisins and toffee-apple aromas on the nose and through the palate. The palate is well weighted and complex with lovely acid driven acidity and length. (A)

8 / Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez Dulce NV (Jerez, Spain) ★★★★ - 4 $22

A deep, dark, mahogany brown, treacly and dense on the swirl with concentrated butterscotch, coffee, chocolate and raisin aromas streaming through the nose and onto the rich, leathery and lusciously sweet palate. (B)

9 / Fonseca Porto Ruby Port NV (Douro Valley, Portugal) ★★★★ - 2 $52

A deep ruby colour with just a touch of fade on the rim, dark and red berries with brambles and smoky spice and tobacco on the nose, alongside a savoury edge and bright plum aromas and flavours and a silky finish. (A)

10 / Fonseca Porto Terra Prima Organic Port Finest Reserve NV (Douro Valley, Portugal) ★★★★ - 2 $82

An organic port is a rare find and this one is heady and rich and still quite youthful with firm tannins and very expressive fruit. Dark baked cherries and peppery spice abound on the bold and voluminous palate. (A)

...from the ripe fruitiness of the ruby ports through the luscious sweetness of a Pedro Ximénez sherry to the hedonistic joy of tasting a tawny that has spent half a century in a cask waiting to be opened...

Bin No. 27 Reserve Port Fonseca Porto NV (Douro Valley, Portugal)

★★★★ - 2 $82 (A)

De Bortoli Fine Tawny 8 Years Old (NSW, Australia)

★★★★ - 1 $42 (A)

Fonseca Porto Aged Tawny Port 20 Year Old (Douro Valley, Portugal) ★★★★ - 2 $130 (A)

Sandeman 10 Year Old Port (Douro Valley, Portugal)

★★★★ - 2 $54 (A)

Sandeman White Porto Beat NV (Douro Valley, Portugal)

★★★★ - 2 $49 (A)

Taylor’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port (Douro Valley, Portugal)

★★★★ - 2 $80 (A)

Taylor’s LBV 2018 (Douro Valley, Portugal) ★★★★ - 1 $64 (A)

Tio Pepe Palomino Fino NV (Jerez, Spain) ★★★★ - 1 $35 (B)

Trinity Hill NV Touriga (Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay)

★★★★ - 3 $50


(A) Hancocks

(B) Negociants





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