Why is it Called Australian Tawny?
Until the 1960s, the Australian winemaking landscape was very much dominated by the production of Australian fortified wine products.
Preceding that date, more than 80% of wine production in the country was centred around fortified wines, making it one of the longest and most successful stories in Australian winemaking history.
Whilst bottles of Australian tawny are made in the same style as their counterparts from Portugal and, until the 1990s, were labelled the same too, many will note that they are now no longer called “Port”.
This is due to the Port Regulatory Council deciding that only those bottles of Port wine produced in Portugal were allowed to be bottled with that name, resulting in the producers of these styles of wine in Australia referring to their products as just “tawny” instead.
With this being explained, it is important to note that bottles of Australian tawny are made in a very similar fashion to those bottles of tawny Port found in Portugal, with many of the wines having spent years, sometimes decades, in oak barrels prior to being bottled and ready for release.
How do Australian Tawny Wines Taste?
Irrespective of the regulatory and naming issues, Australian tawnies are made in basically the same style as the Ports of that name produced in Portugal, meaning that they are often blends of different grapes from various vintages that have each been aged for some time in oak barrels prior to bottling.
Australian tawny differs slightly, however, in that it is often produced from shiraz, grenache, mataro, or touriga grapes, as opposed to the indigenous grape varietals used in Portugese Port.
Flavourwise, these wines are almost the same, with many featuring notes of dried fruits, exotic spices, nuts, caramel, and butterscotch, with slightly more complex flavour profiles developing as the wine is aged for longer in oak before release.
Overall, Australian tawnies are known for their medium to full bodied character and moderate to high levels of sweetness, with them often being best served slightly chilled so as to bring out the lively berry, spice, and dried fruit notes.
Where is Australian Tawny Produced?
As the grape varietals that are most commonly used in the production of Australian tawny wines thrive best in warmer climate regions, some of the best bottles on the market usually come from many of these hotter regions of the Australian winemaking landscape.
Prominent mentions include the Rutherglen region in Victoria and the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale regions in South Australia.
That being said, there are no restrictions placed upon where tawny wines can be produced in Australia, making it possible to find bottles of tawny made by winemakers across the country.
See our map below of the Rutherglen region in Victoria, where some of the best examples of Australian muscat dessert wine are produced alongside premier examples of Australian tawny.