Seeing as I sold Penfolds for a while, and it’s Australia’s most famous wine nationally and internationally, I thought I’d like to note some of their nice wines. Also upon doing the Penfolds Masterclass with chief winemaker Peter Gago, I found him to be quite a nice chap and inspiring to meet. Although commercial (especially since Fosters bought SouthCorp), they do in fact produce some great wines and in many of them you get more than what you pay for, in particular the BIN range.
BIN 2, 8, 23, 28, 128, 138, 311, 407, and 389. The BIN range are made to drink now or cellar 5-7 years, or more with BIN 407 and 389… BIN389 – many Asians in particular like to impress their boss or others with this wine; a beautiful Shiraz/Cab blend (which is finicky and not so easy to do). BIN138 I’d like to give a special mention to, as this GSM blend is not well known among many but is a fantastic wine from old Barossa Vines – I love the really dense, plush characters from the aged vines. BIN311 Chardonnay is beautiful; First release (relatively recently) was from Tumbarumba which gave it a wonderful vanillin oak character, without much acidity in the way; but next year it had frost so the 2nd and 3rd vintages are from Orange which gave it more acidity, although I much prefer Tumbarumba. BIN28 and 128 are both Shiraz, but 28 is Kalimna Shiraz and 128 is Coonawarra Shiraz; They are both usually the same price, and it is interesting if you can taste them side-by-side; Most years I’ve found the Kalimna Shiraz more “warm climate” in taste in terms of warm spicy fruit, and the Coonawarra more “cool climate” in taste in terms of black pepper and small, tight berry characteristics.
St. Henri Shiraz – My personal favourite. Always beautiful Oak tones and plush fruity characters such as plums, with a Cassis-like edge (it took me years to finally find Cassis grapes and try them!). I remember holding tastings for 707, St Henri and Magill while on detox – that was quite a challenge.
Bin 707 – the peak of their Cab Sauvignons. Magill Estate Shiraz – lovely elegant style Shiraz (more tight structure) although I’ve found more people prefer the meatier, more “blousy” type St Henri Shiraz.
Cellar Reserves – Not available in many places, as far as I know they are at Sydney Airport, and Cellar door. The Shiraz and the Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz only come out on exceptional vintages. About $200 at Syd Airport, but in terms of cellar quality and re-sale value you are getting Way More than what you pay for. I see these as up with the premium wines just below Grange. The other cellar reserves, Gewertz, Pinot Noir etc, are also more limited production, experiential wines.
Grange – the Benchmark of Penfold’s winemaking capabilities. It is indeed a nice drop and goes down very sensuously and smoothly. Some say Grange is not such a big deal, but I don’t think you can deny it’s not bad, and never is. Oldest I’ve tried is ’86 – was just at it’s maximum length but was about to topple over – still, 20 years aint bad. Youngest I tried was 2001 (in 2007) – too young! ’98 and ’96 were beautiful.