My second glass of Campbells Merchant Prince Rutherglen Brown Muscat went down as easily as the first. That in itself isn’t particularly noteworthy—until you consider that I drank my first glass from the same bottle 17 years ago.
It’s a sensational wine by any standard, which is why I purchased it in the first place. I’d tried the wine (often called "sticky" because it's sweet and sticky) on a trip to northern Victoria (Australia’s wine outback) in 1987, and I knew it would be the kind of rare special treat my wine geek friends would savor. Then, after opening the bottle 17 years ago, it got lost in the black hole otherwise known as my garage.
So this solera-style dessert wine, rich and unctuous, not only survived, but survived in glorious fashion. It is a dark yellow-brown color, with exotic roasted coffee, toffee, cinnamon, hazelnut, glazed brown sugar, dried cherry, licorice and sandalwood flavors. Lush and fleshy, it coats the palate, with an amazingly long and saturated finish. A perfect 100 points, easily (unofficially).
Now that I think of it, this wine has provided me with two personal firsts. I’ve never waited that long between glasses from the same bottle (usually it’s only a day at the most), and I’ve never had a wine last that long while already opened and still be in perfect shape.
It happened by accident. After bringing the wine home I waited a few years and then opened it for friends one rainy wintery night in 1990. Since it was cold outside, I left the bottle in the garage. Then, in one of those quirks of fate (or my haphazard organizational methodology), it sat first on a shelf and then rested in a cardboard box for the next 17 years, alternately exposed to heat and cold.
The Merchant Prince is made from Muscat à Petit Grains Rouge, also known as the Rutherglen Brown Muscat grape. It is left to ripen on the vine as long as possible to ensure the necessary high degree of lusciousness. Juice is fermented for a very short time before being fortified with neutral spirit and stored in oak to mature, according to the winery.
As a sweet solera-style, it is difficult to specify an exact age. The oldest base wine is well over 60 years old, the winery says, with only wines of the highest standard from excellent vintages being added to this cuvée. Blended for optimum flavor and balance at the time of bottling, this wine will not improve with further cellaring, according to the winery, and should ideally be enjoyed soon after opening. OK, I knew that.
Wines like the Merchant Prince are virtually indestructible, and when people ask me about wines for special occasions, wines that will last, endure and amaze, this is one I’d highly recommend.
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — February 26, 2007 3:35pm ET
Jason Grege — Grants Pass, Oregon — February 26, 2007 5:53pm ET
Robert Fukushima — California — February 26, 2007 8:32pm ET
Michael Kwok — Vancouver, BC — February 26, 2007 10:00pm ET
Jim May — Los Angeles — February 27, 2007 12:31am ET
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