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Edward Peters

Personal Dessert Wines

Port VIII: Australians

            When a waxing gibbous moon washed out the Leonid meteor shower last November, and even glorious Jupiter and Saturn stayed hidden behind low clouds blowing in from the Pacific, we sent disappointed children to bed earlier than they had schemed for, and opened a bottle of Marienburg 12-Year-Old Tawny from Australia ($ 15). The texture of the wine was brushed velvet and the flavors were finely orchestrated. A lovely crimson hue still lingered in the glass. Angela sipped her wine, shared a kiss (a chocolate one), and asked, “Are there really people who don’t like port?” The question had never occurred to me before. “I think there are,” I answered slowly, “but besides those who simply haven’t tried it, of course, I am inclined think that it must have something to do with Original Sin.”

Australia, it turns out, is home to several excellent tawny ports, with Benjamin’s being a prime example. It retails for about $ 10, and I have found it for $ 6. The presentation is true, and the wine consistently receives critical acclaim. Lately, I have been suggesting Benjamin’s as a port perfect for anyone who has not yet tried one. As a tawny, it sits in the mid-range of port characters, so that those who might find they prefer something younger and fruitier can easily move from tawny to ruby, while those with a taste for older and more integrated flavors can confidently go from tawny to vintage. 

Benjamin’s Tawny is such a solid achievement, moreover, that one who does not enjoy it is not likely to be measurably more satisfied with a dearer port, while those who do like it can look forward to more sophisticated wines without disappointment. Finally, the cost of experimenting with Benjamin’s is small; if (perhaps as a consequence of the Fall?) one simply cannot appreciate its gifts, at least one is not left with a nearly full bottle of some 40-year-old tawny porto sitting on the shelf, flaunting its price tag. +++

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