Following a tradition established by pioneer Barossa winemaker Benno Seppelt – who laid down a barrel of vintage fortified with instructions not to issue it for 100 years – the 1923 Para Centenary Tawny was released on 16 February 2023 to coincide with the day the Seppelt family moved into its western Barossa homestead on the Seppeltsfield property in 1851.
While honouring and respecting history, Seppeltsfield has also broken with tradition this year by introducing new packaging it hopes is attuned to the tastes of a younger generation of wine collectors.
Each 100ml glass flask, looking more like an exotic perfume vessel than a wine bottle, is presented in a black wooden gift box emblazoned with the contemporary Seppeltsfield logo in blue, black and silver. The current owners first introduced this new branding to the Seppeltsfield still wine collection in 2018, taking inspiration from the Seppelt Estate’s crown and star trademark from 1877.
The 1923 Para Tawny is only available in 100ml vessels, each being hand-filled to order, numbered and authenticated for collectors, bearing the signatures of Seppeltsfield executive chairman and proprietor Warren Randall and friend of the winery Bill Seppelt, the great, great grandson of winery founders Joseph and Johanna Seppelt. It also features bottling dates, bottle numbers attached to the bottle via a neck tag and a QR code to link to tasting notes.
In previous years, 375ml bottles were available, but according to Seppeltsfield chief winemaker Fiona Donald, this has now stopped due to the scarcity of remaining stocks in Seppeltsfield’s Centenary Cellar. ‘Our intention is to ensure our historic Para Centennial Collection will remain relevant to fine wine collectors of the future,’ she said.
The first Para Centenary Tawny laid down by Benno Seppelt in 1878 comprised a single 500-litre puncheon. It was not until the late 1970s that Para Tawny stocks were increased to four puncheons for each vintage. Since Warren Randal took over Seppeltsfield, eight puncheons of each vintage are being reserved, but the 1923 vintage comprised only a single puncheon, and about 150 litres of this wine remains, due to about 3% volume lost each year to evaporation.
Its scarcity amplifies the value of the treasure contained within each bottle. The 1923 Tawny boasts extraordinary intensity, yet has surprising freshness on entry, showing a squeeze of mandarin and bright raisin before a gentle, cascading descent into much darker tones – interwoven layers of Seville orange, scorched grapefruit marmalade, panforte, dark cocoa, dark toffee, molasses. The extraordinary length and persistence of the final notes are what makes this wine mesmerising, enabled by beautifully balanced acidity that prevents cloying sweetness in such an intense flavour marriage.
This new release stands in stark difference to the 1922 Para Vintage Tawny, which exhibited much darker, savoury flavour tones, like hazelnut liqueur framed with the bite of dried wild herbs. The striking contrast underlines Donald’s believe that vintage variation plays a significant role in each 100-year-old fortified wine.
‘When I first started working with Para Centenary Tawny 13 years ago, I assumed that all wines of such profound age would look the same – and this is completely incorrect,’ she said. ‘The personality of each wine is framed by each different vintage, which is very accurately captured in this incredible fortified time capsule,’ she said.
Seppeltsfield 1923 100-Year-Old Para Vintage Tawny is available in the UK via Bancroft Wines (RRP £1,200, including sales tax), and in the US via LEGEND imports (US RRP $1,650). It is also available from Seppeltsfield Cellar Door or via seppeltsfield.com.au with shipping possible worldwide.