Baby Grange – an oldie but goodie

Also known as ‘Poor man’s Grange’… Penfold’s Bin 389 is a classic Cabernet Shiraz blend, punching well for it’s price point. The name ‘poor man’s Grange’ or ‘baby Grange’ comes from the fact that the wine was matured in the same oak as the world-famous Grange wines (about $499 to $thousands). First made in 1960 the Bin 389 has built a solid reputation as a classic South Australian wine, widely collected around the world, and for around $50 a bottle it’s pretty good. The cabernet retains elegance and fine complexity whilst the shiraz brings full flavour, warmth and spice. Generally you can buy a worthy 389 from most vintages and cellar it for a while (say, up to 15 years for a good vintage, and at least 5 years for any other vintage).

Now is the perfect time to drink the exceptional 1998 vintage, as tasted this week – Almost inky dark in colour, and a good old fashioned nose of cedar, dark chocolate and leather laced with vanilla and a few other spices. On tasting, full and complex but not overpowering flavour due to its age – everything that’s on the nose can be ‘tasted’ but with noticeable plums, blackberries, finely integrated but prominent tannins, pepper and I have to mention dark chocolate again, with a smooth finish that the tannins last through (tannins come from the skins of the grapes by the way, often noticeable in red wines, and can taste slightly ‘grippy’ or astringent, as the tannin molecules bind salivary proteins). Other great vintages include 2005, 2004, 1996 and 1990.

If you’re looking for an alternative around the same price point, also try the Metala Black Label, another excellent Cabernet Shiraz blend from Langhorne Creek (South Aus). Each bottle is individually numbered. Their White Label Cabernet Shiraz at around $20 is also a ripper (

These wines are perfect with roast meat (especially lamb or a hearty style beef), cheeses, chocolate, dense Christmas puddings with cinnamon, or whatever as long as you like it!

Cheers! And Happy Holidays!!!

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