When Dave and Diana Palmer left the UK, it was supposed to be a three-year stint in Papua New Guinea, where Dave had found a job. Six years later, work took them to Canberra until, three years further on, Dave resigned to set up his own business. By this point, Skillogalee had already entered their lives, mainly because they’d drunk plenty of it with the eldest son of the owners, and sold it at a festival. Then they heard that the winery was up for sale…so naturally they sold the house and the sports car, packed up the kids and the cat, and moved to South Australia.
What drew them to this small corner of the Clare Valley? Beyond the wines, it was possibly the mature, established vineyards, beautifully contoured and equipped to produce everything from aromatic Riesling and Gewürztraminer to full-flavoured Cabernet and Shiraz, plus lusciously sweet liqueur Muscat. But they were following in earlier English footsteps too. Skillogalee was given its name by Lancashire-born explorer John Horrocks after a troubled expedition into the Flinders Ranges when skillogalee – a Celtic name for a thin gruel – was all they had left to eat. Meanwhile, Trevarrick – Skillogalee’s finest Riesling – comes from the property’s original name, Trevarrick Farm, given to it in 1851 by Cornish miner John Trestrail – who built the stone cottage which still serves as Skillogalee’s cellar door.
This fortified wine is made in the same way that tawny port is made. It is a blend of different vintages all made from fruit growing on Skillogalee vineyards. These separate wines are fermented and fortified and left to age in oak puncheons (500L). The current blend is made from 1992 and 1993 vintages predominantly, with a little older material to contribute some aged, rancio character and some younger wine to give freshness and lift.
To name a wine with the prefix “liqueur” it must have at least 17% alcohol and 11% residual sugar. Their new release Muscat, like earlier blends, readily satisfies these criteria. It is bright, red/amber in colour with a light young sweet raisin nose. The palate shows nutty raisin apricot flavours, very full and sweet but not cloying. The finish is lingering – very smooth and liqueur-like!
Around 2000 litres are made each year depending on the vintage.