Adding some cool to a barrel veteran

by Kara Irving

 

For some, fortified wines carry an “daggy old man” stigma. But wine lover Eliza Brown is looking to reinvent the after-dinner drink – one new cocktail at a time. “I grew up in a family that sees a challenge as an opportunity,” she says.

 

“If someone says something like: ‘nobody buys fortified wines’, I get a bee in my bonnet.”

 

Eliza is one of the three Brown siblings from the All Saints Estate in the Rutherglen wine region in the state’s northeast. The winemaking family bought the estate in 1992. Eliza’s ancestors formed the famed Brown Brothers estate in 1888.

 

The previous owners of All Saints had been making muscat at the site since 1894 and left behind “thousands” of litres of liquor in barrels for the next generation to treasure. “Every winery had been left fortified wines, of different sized barrels, for the next generation”, she says. 

 

Eliza’s career at All Saints began after she’d been working in advertising in Melbourne. “When I started in 2001, fortified wines weren’t very trendy,” she says. “I could see how special they were, but they weren’t packaged well or not communicated well.”

 

Her late dad, Peter, let her take charge of the design and direction of the brand which bolstered the All Saints name in the industry. Today the wine world is fixated on Rutherglen and its famed drop, something Eliza says couldn’t be created without the region’s unique conditions, climate, soil and grapes.

 

“The region grows Rutherglen brown muscat, nobody outside Rutherglen can grow that,” she says.

 

The Brown family grows muscat and Muscadelle, known as topaque – a lighter tasting fortified wine. Muscadelle grapes have toffee or caramel flavours, while muscat is traditional Christmas cake, raisin flavours. “The flavour (of muscat) depends where you are in the region,” Eliza says. “We’re on sandy soil, so we get these pretty rose petal notes. It’s more acidic than inland wineries – we’re making wines that are high acid and a very long palate.”

 

“My dad said, if you can still taste it an hour later it’s a good wine,” Eliza says.

 

As for Eliza’s mission to reinvent the “old man’s drink”, All Saints has released a new muscat targeting young people. “We’ve been working on our Hip Sip product, which is a flashy looking bottle aimed at a younger generation,” she says.

 

“We’re thinking fortified wines could be used as a mixer in cocktails. When I was younger, I liked Muscadelle fresh with some tonic, lime and ice,” she says. Regardless of whether the new product succeeds, Eliza will still be passionate about creating a piece of Australian history for the next generation of muscat makers.

 

“All wineries have their own style of muscat, too, just like French champagne houses,” Eliza says.

 

“When it sits in a barrel in a room of particular architecture, has been grown from a particular soil and aged in a barrel for 50, 80 to 100 years, it’s such a special amazing wine that’s Australia’s own.”

 

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