Sweet wines tend to be ignored by serious wine aficionados, who have thankfully not gotten caught up in the recent splurge of interest in Moscato and other sweet reds preferred by some entry-level wine drinkers.
I suppose this is because, back in the day (well 40 years ago before the popularity of wine began its ascent in the U.S.), lots of ordinary table wines were excessively sweet and so “sweet” was associated with ordinary.
But well-made sweet wines can be complex and intriguing although the good stuff is often rather expensive.
Australia has long been a prime producer of sweet wine, which they call “stickies”. In fact, most Australian wine was fortified until the late 1970’s. Despite Australia’s more recent foray into dry wine, they continue to make quality fortified wines, which tend to be less expensive than the French Sauternes or Hungarian Tokaj.
At $19 for a 375 ml bottle, Campbell’s Rutherglen Topaque is a relative bargain.
A very complex nose of caramel, honey, dried apricot, and raisin, the palate shows prominent burnt orange rind with coffee notes—there is a lot going on in this wine. It is viscous, almost syrupy in texture but has ample acidity to keep it in balance so it never becomes cloying. The finish is long and bracing.
Serve it chilled as an aperitif or as a dessert wine to accompany sweet desserts or cheeses.
This is made from late-harvest muscadelle which is allowed to raisin. Wine from the current vintage is blended with wines from previous vintages through the Solera method to achieve consistency from year to year. Thus, it is sold as a non-vintage wine.
Recently, the Hungarians have claimed intellectual property rights to the name Tokaj. Since “Tokay” is the anglicized version of Tokaj, the Australians have renamed this wine-style Topaque. In any case, it is not a Tokaj—the grapes and the winemaking process differ from the Hungarian version. You may encounter some bottles on the shelf with the old name “Tokay”.
Price: $19 (375 ml.)