De Bortoli Black Noble

Riverina, NSW Fortified Semillon 17.5% Screwcap with a Cork underneath? $32- Tasted 4-13/7/09

So, to the wine I recommended as a gift for the pope (though not entirely for him to consume) when WineWeek asked the general public what wine they would give him, via twitter. Rudd gave him the standard Noble One.

Now, the standard Noble One is indeed one of Australia’s great treasures, but I often cannot understand why its darker sibling is so routinely ignored. I wish to champion it.

So its rich, very easy to drink and full of personality. I’m gonna do the descriptor thing in a dry fashion-

Orange rind and lemon notes cut through the dense Lovecraftian flavours of treacle, golden syrup, molasses, caramel. Nuts are fully present and accounted for, particularly hazelnuts and cashews. There is spice, which seems to resemble nutmeg and cinnamon. There are floral notes, they may bear a resemblance to lavender. The orange aspects not only pierce the black monolith but also extend themselves to a marmalade character whose tart nature further balances the richness. It also tastes a little bit like a serious chef’s take on a Mars Bar (Heston, where are you?). The mouthfeel is gorgeous. The finish is exquisite and long.

The method- from the website, “Black Noble is made from botrytised Semillon that is fortified and aged in old oak barrels for an average of eight years”. My understanding is that it is made using the solera system used to make sherry et al and involving the stacking of barrels and the addition of new vintages at measured (more or less, maybe each vintage?) time intervals. Here is a link which talks about it more-

I believe doing this with semillon is unique to De Bortoli and Australia and this further mystifies me as to why no one seems to talk about it much. Australian wine has a long history of brilliant innovation, the sort of thing that “New World wine” is capable of, given that the laws governing many older wine producing nations are not in action here. More from the website- “Created by Darren De Bortoli, it was inspired by a 1930s wine made by Vittorio De Bortoli. The wine is unique but has been compared to wines of the Jerez region of Spain.”

For more on Vittorio, who left Italy in 1924 to settle in Australia and begin what would be one of the great dynasties of Australian wine (there is a lovely picture here too)-

So, the Black Noble’s ancestry would appear to lie with the Pedro Ximinez grape and the sherry it produces. It is of interest to note that the Italian labourers who worked as cane-cutters in Queensland would often visit to speak of their mother country and drink wine.

“I recall a schoolboy coming home
Through fields of cane
To a house of tin and timber
And in the sky a rain of falling cinders
From time to time
the waste memory-wastes”
-The Go Betweens “Cattle and Cane”

This song popped into my head as I read the history recorded on De Bortoli’s excellent website. The cane and the cinders reminding me of the burnt sugar/caramel/toffee flavours of the wine. And the Black Noble is also very much the vinous Cain to the Noble One’s Abel.

It showed no sign of fading over the several days I poured a glass. It works very well with chocolate, nuts and caramel tarts. Apparently you can lay it down short term (although I should say stand it up, as apparently the fortified nature of the wine means that contact with the cork component of the closure is not desirable, or so I have been told), but it seems ready to just buy, crack and enjoy to me. It is already very complex and satisfying.

My only two issues are:

1. Why aren’t people talking about this wine more?

2. A date to show when each bottle is filled seems missing and would be helpful.


Edit: News just in from Mr David Worthington of Tinto y Blanco: PX is not a Jerez grape. Apparently it is mostly grown in another region, Montilla-Moriles. Ah, the befuddlement of history! Here is a link to Mr Worthington’s excellent blog which should probably be your first stop on anything to do with Spanish Wine-

Winery website-

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2 Responses to De Bortoli Black Noble

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Jeremy,

    Great write up on Black Noble! I think it’s generally a highly under appreciated Australian fortified which has both high quality and interest going for it. Glad I found your blog, keep it up!


  2. Jeremy Pringle says:

    Hey Dave

    Glad you enjoyed the Black Noble notes. It does seem to be under appreciated doesn't it? I do love it, for its taste and the unique way it is made. Wouldn't mind havin' a bottle in the fridge at all times to be honest.

    Thanks for the kind remarks. They certainly help in terms of keeping the blog up & running.



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