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“The Ancient” is finally in bottles and ready to buy (and drink!)

Posted on January 28 2021

In early 2020, having already bought some of their outstanding Sparkling Durif, we discovered that Mount Prior was closing it’s winery and selling off all of their stock and equipment at auction. In the hope of buying a labelling machine and a barrel or two of their superb muscat, we set off for the Rutherglen region for the weekend of the auction.

There was a significant crowd (maybe 200 people) at the auction. We reluctantly passed up the opportunity of purchasing a tractor, various winemaking equipment, a ride-on mower and other vitally useful items.

Then the auction moved into the winery itself and things got interesting. One of the first items to go under the hammer was a pallet-load of 1,700-odd 375ml fortified bottles. We were particularly keen on buying some of Mount Prior’s 1970s muscat and, thinking that when we had bought it, we’d need bottles to put it in, we put in a bid for $20. Success! Then the three barrels of muscal came up for bidding. Our enthusiasm was more than matched by a then-unidentified bidder. We kept bidding — only to be out-bid every time. We later learned that the successful bidder was none other than Rutherglen winemaking legend, David Morris. After the auction, Mount Prior’s owner told us that David Morris had had his eye on these particular barrels for decades and there was no hope of his leaving the auction without them.

With all of the muscat sold, we were left wondering what the hell we were going to do with 1,700 empty 375ml bottles. Luckily, there was still a barrel of 1976 port still to be sold. We had tried the port prior to auction and, having thought it was fantastic, started bidding. And we bought it (thank God!).

We missed out on the labelling machine. Just as well — we were able to pick one up second-hand for half the price a few weeks later.

After much wrangling about how to get everything back to Melbourne, we finally managed to install our new — well, 44-year-old — barrel into our Hawthorn East office.

Then Covid-19 hit. All our plans for bottling were put on hold, but it gave the port (and 44 years-worth of sediment) a chance to settle after its journey from Rutherglen. After several months of frustrating delay, we finally bit the bullet and got the port into bottles.

And so: Norbertson Vintners’ “The Ancient” 1976 vintage Colheita Rutherglen Tawny Port!

“Colheita” refers to the fact that the port has been bottled directly from the 1976 barrel, without blending with more recent port. 

Almost all of the 150-odd bottles sold within a couple of weeks (at time-of-writing, there are still a dozen or so bottles left, so put in your order before it’s all gone).

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