1980 Premiership Port – Harry Tinson

September 27, 2017 by
Filed under: AFL 

How much potential in a bottle of alcohol?  I have recently been pondering that question because of a bottle of 1980 Richmond Premiership Port.

How much potential?

The Premiership Port is the only bottle of port I own.  I have never bought a bottle of port and cannot recall the last time I had a sip of port.  I know very little about how Port is produced, other than it is red wine mixed with spirits.


The inscription on the bottle’s seal provided a few clues.  Richmond Premiership Port is 1978 “show” vintage port from Baileys Bundarra Vineyards, Glenrowan Victoria.


A quick internet search offered more clues.  Baileys of Glenrowan is still in business.  I contacted them.  Their current winemaker, Paul Dahlenburg, said the winemaker was a man named Harry Tinson.


Tinson was born in China where his father was a master mariner.  He lived in China until the Second World War.  He was interned during the war.


After being released, he travelled by boat with his wife and mother to Perth before settling in Sydney.  In 1951, he graduated with an honours degree in physical chemistry from the University of Sydney.  The following year he added a Master’s degree.


In the early seventies, Tinson was appointed Chief Executive and Winemaker with Bailey’s of Glenrowan.  He was described as a ‘big, heavy, dry red man’ based on the wine he made.


In 1978, when Tinson created the vintage port, he must’ve been about 50.  Two years later, Tinson’s port was bottled and marketed.  Some of those bottles ended up with a label, Richmond Premiership Port.


Tinson spent 15 years with Bailey’s of Glenrowan, working with aged wine stock to create magnificent fortified wine.  In that time, he helped Baileys of Glenrowan build a reputation as quality makers of red wine and fortified wines.  It is said he was more adventurous than many of his peers.


In 1986, Tinson retired from Baileys of Glenrowan and opened his own winery, HJT Vineyards, a few kilometres up the road.  Tinson died in 1995 but his winemaking legacy lives on through his daughter, Wendy Cameron, who was awarded the qualification of Master of Wine in 2015.


The unopened bottle of 1980 Richmond Premiership Port belonged to my grandfather, Pa (Bill) who followed Richmond.  His wife Rita also followed Richmond.


Ready to open?

Rita and Pa lived seven houses down the road from us on Jacaranda Street in Oak Park.  Pa didn’t talk much.  Rita did his talking for him.  He seemed a man without animation.  He didn’t smile for free but was rarely grumpy.  He was about 180cm tall, with biceps like boulders and a chest like a barrel.  He had pale blue eyes that rarely betrayed his emotions.


I have fond memories of Rita and Pa.  Each Saturday and Sunday, my brother Nick and I would wander down the street for breakfast.  On Sundays we’d watch A Pleasant Sunday Morning on the ABC while eating breakfast.  Much of the talk was about sport.


Rita loved football.  She loved cricket.  Pa played football for years in regional Victoria.  Rita couldn’t watch football without shrieking at the television.  Pa was content to watch in silence.  He also liked listening to the football, building an old radio into a shelf in the kitchen, tracing speaker cable around the walls and mounting speakers so the football could be heard.


Richmond won the 1980 premiership against Collingwood by a then record margin of 81-points.  When Pa bought the bottle of Premiership Port, he proudly showed me, smiling and giving me a wink.  It made me feel good.


I remember looking at the bottle, wondering if he would ever drink it.  I never saw Pa drink alcohol.  Rita didn’t drink either.  I thought it was strange that he bought the bottle, but success can open anyone’s wallet.


Pa was 82 when he died in 1992.  As Rita aged, a doctor told her that she shouldn’t watch football anymore because it was no good for her heart.  Rita lived in the house Pa built until she died aged 99 in 2007.  After her death, Richmond lost six consecutive games.


Thanks to my father, Bill, and my aunt Pam, I inherited the bottle of Premiership Port.  I resolved not to open it until Richmond won another premiership.


For decades, Richmond has been hopeless, experiencing a number of ‘lost years’ and fruitless rebuilds.  It is said the club never recovered from losing the 1982 grand final to Carlton.  A succession of coaches and players has failed to restore Richmond to glory.


History has hated Richmond until now.  I have never hated Richmond, unless they’re playing North Melbourne.  It is natural that I have a soft spot for Richmond, based on my grandparent’s love of the Tigers.


At the weekend, when Richmond defeated Greater Western Sydney, I took the Premiership Port from its case, where it has lay with little disturbance for the past decade.  As I held it, I wondered how much potential it held.  A premiership, perhaps.


I have no idea how adventurous Tinson was when he made the batch.  Paul Dahlenburg filled in the gaps.  The type of grape used to make the Premiership Port is highly likely to be Shiraz, a dark-skinned grape grown the world over to produce red wine.


Dahlenburg said the Premiership Port was a special batch of vintage port released two years after production.  Vineyard records don’t reveal how many bottles were produced.  My bottle is number 17187.


It’s unclear what the bottle number signifies, but Dahlenburg is sure of the quality of the port, and who all at Baileys of Glenrowan are supporting in the grand final.


‘Needless to say we are all Richmond fans here at the moment, indeed our Cellar Manager will be at the game,’ Dahlenburg said.


‘Harry Tinson was one of Baileys most revered winemakers who loved making vintage ports.  The port should be fantastic if cellared well and the cork is in good shape.’


That is a relief, somewhat.  Unfortunately, the Premiership Port has never been cellared well.  In my grandparent’s house in Melbourne, it lay on a shelf in the lounge for 27-years.  The last 10-years it has resided in my house in Brisbane.  It has always been a victim to temperature.


It has been lying down mostly, so the cork should be fine.  The bottle was also sealed with a screw-top lid.  Nothing can get inside.


It’s the uncontrolled temperature that has me worried.  Queensland can get hot.  Melbourne can get hot too.


Regardless, Dahlenburg offered a few tips on how to drink it.


‘I would stand it upright later this week and after the Tigers win, decant it into a jug leaving bottom sludge/sediment in the bottle,’ he said.  ‘Rinse the sediment out of the bottle with warm water and tip sediment down the drain.  Allow the bottle to drip dry and pour the contents of the jug back into bottle and serve.’


The whole process should take me about 10 minutes.  The Premiership Port can then be poured into glasses and sniffed and sipped.


‘Celebrate it,’ Dahlenburg said.  ‘It is best consumed within 30 minutes of decanting. Would be good with some fine cheeses and quince paste.’


Now I know what to do with it and what to eat with it.  I need Richmond to win the premiership so I can drink it.  A few mates suggested I sell it to a Richmond fan because I am a North Melbourne supporter.


Dahlenburg suggested I might make a few dollars.  ‘It could be priceless to a long-suffering Tiger fan,’ he said.


Priceless.  A premiership would be priceless.  My cousin Pat is a Richmond fan.  He asked me to bring the bottle to Melbourne.  I can’t do that.  It has already travelled once by plane from Melbourne to Brisbane, emerging unbroken.  It is too great a risk to attempt it again.


If Richmond win the premiership, I will do as Dahlenburg said then drink a toast to Rita and Pa, and Pat and all the long-suffering Richmond fans.  I’ll also drink a toast to Harry Tinson and Baileys of Glenrowan.


Tinson was renowned as man of vision when it came to wine.  He created a batch of port that ultimately honoured a premiership.


It has been a long time between drinks…

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One Comment on 1980 Premiership Port – Harry Tinson

  1. Patsy on Thu, 28th Sep 2017 8:28 am
  2. “God you are a good writer” says patsy

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