Just outside of the sub-alpine town of Beechworth, Victoria, perched on a hill and nestled under a stand of stringy barks, sits Pennyweight Winery. The Morris family are multi-generational vignerons - stewards of the region, humble stalwarts of biodynamic farming and a lo-fi approach. It’s the complete package. From the unassuming corrugated sheds that make up the place, you'd be forgiven if you weren't quite sure what you'd stumbled upon. But make no mistake, the wines and fortifieds made here are legendary.
Cool sommeliers, savvy wine buyers and drinkers-in-the-know have long given Pennyweight a kind of revered status. And, once you catch on you'll realise they're poured in all the hip wine bars and swanky fine-dining establishments. From serious fortifieds to incredible sherries and elegant table wines, these guys do it all and they do it well.
Fortifieds are a particular sect of wines we only dabble in if they’re at the top of their game and Pennyweight's are no exception. They're rich, rollicking, deeply flavoured wines made in the traditional style that northern Victoria has absolutely owned since the olden days of Aussie wine. Reserve Ruby is a more youthful style spending four years in old oak casks. It’s all cherry and brandy scents with woody spice shot through, sweet and soft and finishes tight and dry. Gold is a sweet fortified wine made from a white grapes that's mellow, honeyed, toasty and lip-smacking. Drink it anytime, any way. Swap it in for an aperitif, vermouth or even the last drink of the night. The Rutherglen Muscat is the hedonistic one, rich, dense, slippery, reminiscent of liquified Christmas pudding, if that’s a thing. It’s gorgeous.
Sherries include the world-beating Constance Fino, an incredibly good (we say Australia’s best) dry sherry packed full of sea spray and salty nutty characters, Woody’s Amontillado, a richer, fuller style, again salty and savoury but with more yeasty inflection, and La Serena Oloroso, a deeply coloured, gently sweet style that finishes dry with salted biscuit notes lingering. Plays exceptionally well with tinned anchovies and sardines.
Then there are the table wines produced between Beechworth and a second vineyard in Rutherglen. These absolutely excel. From Beechworth, Riesling is barrel fermented and marries textural interest with zingy, cool acidity. Chardonnay is divine. Texture, complexity and richness. Clean as a whistle, bone dry with a strong sense of minerality. Then, surprise! A Semillon Sauvignon Blanc that's wildly complex, savoury, delicious - definitely not one for Aunt Barb. Gamay reminds us of an earthy, dusty Cru Beaujolais but is entirely its own thing, while Shiraz, a Beechworth region staple, is medium weight, peppery and spicy. What a beauty. Last up, Rutherglen Durif is the bold, hefty fireside wine you need for warming ya cockles and knocking off a block of dark chocolate alongside. So much to like. So much to try.