Wynns Coonawarra Estate Michael Shiraz 2013 $114–$120
Winemaker: Sue Hodder
Tasting: masked, with food
David Wynn made the first Michael shiraz in 1955 – a bottling of an outstanding parcel of shiraz memorialising his late son Michael. The one-off wine built a great reputation as it aged, and was one of the standouts in a 1997 tasting of all Wynns shirazes from 1953 to 1995.
Wynns made its second Michael Shiraz in 1990, albeit it in a more alcoholic, tannic style than the original. Production of this powerful style continued through the 1990s but was halted after the 1998 vintage.
Influenced by the beauty and longevity of those early low-oak, lower alcohol vintages in the 1997 tasting, winemaker Sue Hodder, with vineyard manager Allen Jenkins, began refining the Wynns’ red styles.
As part of this wider project, Michael reappeared with the 2003 vintage. And over the next decade as Jenkins transformed the vineyards and Hodder took control of a new small-batch winery, the style evolved further.
The 2013 vintage shows the spectacular result of that work. Pure, sweet, berry-and-spice varietal character combine with fine fruit and oak tannins in the most intense, harmonious way imaginable.
We can never know exactly how the 1955 tasted at the same age. But I recall the (in retrospect) too sturdy versions of the 1990s in their youth, and the beautiful, elegant wines of the 1950s at 40 years.
The 2013 stands somewhere between these two styles, drawing on the best of each. It’s a triumphant evolution, lifting Coonawarra shiraz from potential to greatness.
Tar and Roses Sangiovese 2015
Winemakers: Don Lewis and Narelle King
Tasting: over lunch, not masked
$21–$25 Hot summer day. Swimming. Lots of people. Kaleidoscope lunch flavours: bread, salads, oily and vinegary salad dressings, ham, prosciutto, salmon gravlax, chicken, olives, olive oil, butter, eggs, mettwurst, zucchini slice, hummus, hard cheese, soft cheese. Coupla fresh, clean wines of no character. Then Tar and Roses thrusts in, rises above the conversation, disrupts the food, then settles in as another distinct flavour: earth, savour, herbs, soy, grippy tannins, a juicy core of sour-cherry-like fruit flavour.
Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2015
Tiers Vineyard, Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Winemaker Brian Croser
Tasting: masked, with food
Australian chardonnays range in style from mouth-puckeringly mean to plump and juicy; from all fruit, to all ‘funk’ (industry jargon for sulphur compounds derived from maturation on dead yeast cells, or lees). In between the extremes lie some of the finest chardonnays in the world. Invariably fermented and matured in oak barrels, the very best seamlessly combine high quality fruit flavours, generally grown in a cool climate, with winemaker-induced characters associated with the barrels, yeast lees and the influence (or not) of a secondary fermentation that converts harsh malic acid to soft lactic acid.
Tiers sits at the full-flavoured, fruity end of this spectrum. Few chardonnays show such varietal intensity. But that’s only the first impression. Fermented and matured in French Vosges barriques (33% new), the wine’s rich texture, vibrant acidity, and subtle, spicy oak character reveal the unique power and elegance of the variety. It’s one of the purest and loveliest of Australia’s current crop of extraordinary chardonnays.
Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Millesime 2005 $320 Egliet-Ouriet Grand Cru 2005 shows the power of great pinot noir (70% of the blend) and chardonnay grown around Ambonnay, one of the most highly regarded Champagne villages.
The base wine was aged in barrels until the winter after vintage. The winemaker maintained a relatively high acidity in the wine by blocking malolactic conversion, a secondary fermentation widely used in Champagne to reduce total acidity.
After bottling and secondary fermentation, the wine was matured on yeast lees for nine years before being cleaned up and shipped to market with a mere two grams per litre of residual sugar. That’s a potentially mouth-searing brut. But it works for Egliet-Ouriet because other elements of its production (especially fruit quality) offset the acid. Indeed the acid accentuates the marvellous fruit flavour and adds to the wine’s power, elegance and structure (derived largely from pinot noir and the effects of prolonged ageing on lees).
We enjoyed two bottles over the silly season – the first served masked at a formal tasting; the second over Christmas lunch. This is superior Champagne to savour, a wine of beauty. It shames the studied mediocrity of so many non-vintage blends.
Jim Barry Clare Valley Assyrtiko 2016 $35–$39 Peter Barry discovered the white variety assyrtiko on its home turf, Greece. He planted it in Australia’s Clare Valley and in 2016 produced the first wine from the young vines much as he approaches riesling: gentle juice extraction, minimal skin contact, cool fermentation and exclusion of air. The result is a fresh, brisk, dry white with a lemony–tart edge and savoury, clean finish. It’s something new, different and worth trying.
Collector Shoreline Rosé 2016
Hall, Canberra District, NSW $24
Alex McKay makes his savoury, dry rosé from sangiovese grapes grown in the comparatively warm Hall sub-region. Even rosé sceptics like yours truly find much to like in this one. The pale pink, slightly bronze-edged colour suggests more than just fruit, though it has that in abundance. The aroma suggests Turkish delight and lemon peel. The vibrant palate reflects these characters and offers as well great freshness, a smooth texture and a tangy finish that combines acidity and tannin.
Long Rail Gully Riesling 2016 Long Rail Gully vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
$19.80–$22 Sadly Long Rail Gully founder Garry Parker died in early December, so the tasting sample became a toast to a man I barely know but with whom I shared over the years several long conversations about wine and the Kimberly region. Parker’s son Richard makes the wine and in 2016 produced a succulent, dry riesling, laced with intense lime- and lemon-like varietal flavours. It’s the perfect summer refresher but should evolve to a honeyed richness with bottle age.
Clonakilla O’Riada Shiraz 2015 Various vineyards, Canberra District, NSW $38–$40 At last year’s Canberra and Region Wine Show, judges awarded gold medals to seven Canberra District shirazes from the exceptional 2015 vintage. Clonakilla O’Riada Shiraz and Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier topped this amazingly strong line up. Ravensworth ultimately inched ahead of Clonakilla to take the trophy. Conspicuously absent from the lineup, however, were Clonakilla’s top two shirazes, wines I regard as Canberra’s finest: the flagship Shiraz Viognier and the equally distinguished Syrah. Hopefully one day Tim Kirk might enter these wines so that judges see a comprehensive line up of Canberra’s signature red variety. Their continued absence leaves a question mark over the results. O’Riada shows similar flair to its upmarket siblings, offering supple, juicy flavours in the red-berry-and-spice mould of Canberra District shiraz, with distinctive Clonakilla elegance-with-strength.
Freeman Secco Rondinella Corvina 2012 Freeman vineyards, Hilltops region, NSW $40 Our tasting group recently compared Freeman’s 2012 with an Italian original of the style. Zonin Amarone della Valpolicella 2012 and Freeman’s version both included dehydrated rondinella and corvina grapes in the fermentation. The resulting wines are deeply coloured and powerfully flavoured with strong, grippy tannins. Freeman’s captures the deep raisiny flavours and power of the style, but remains bright, fresh, and well balanced. It comes into its own with rich food such as slow-cooked beef – as Janet Jeffs demonstrated deliciously at a winter dinner in the Arboretum.
On the back of two consecutive, bountiful, high quality vintages, winemakers in Canberra and the neighbouring NSW high-country released an amazing wealth of classy wines in 2016.
Regional specialties lighted the way. Canberra 2015 shiraz and 2016 riesling sit with Australia’s best. So does chardonnay from Tumbarumba and shiraz and cabernet sauvignon from Hilltops.
But our regional offering now stretches way beyond recognised specialties to delicious quirky wines, like naturally sparkling pet nats (from the French petillant naturel), and a spectrum of varietals, including savagnin, gruner veltliner, marsanne, roussanne, viognier, nebbiolo, sangiovese, tempranillo, montepulciano, barbera, gamay, touriga nacional and graciano.
Despite the excellence and diversity of styles now being made in the NSW high country, shiraz remains the most exciting variety. At the 2016 National Wine Show of Australia, judges tasted 299 shirazes. Canberra’s Mount Majura 2015 topped a field of 88 wines from the vintage. And Chalkers Crossing Hilltops CC2 2014 beat all comers from the 2014 vintage.
The two locals wrestled for victory in the trophy taste-off. Chalkers Crossing won (see review below). The success of the two elegant, medium bodied southern NSW high country styles shows a shift among judges away from Australia’s brawnier, traditional warm-grown versions. But more than anything else, it reveals growing recognition of mature winemaking and the high quality of shiraz grown at altitude in southern NSW.
Cementing that shift, judges awarded the Red Wine of Provenance trophy to another local, Alex McKay’s Collector Marked Tree Red, a Canberra shiraz–viognier blend. Judges compared McKay’s 2015, 2009 and 2005 vintages to similar spans of vintages of Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz, Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz, St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz and Rosemount Estate Balmoral shiraz.
Back in the shiraz classes, local wines other than the two trophy contenders rated highly, with gold medals awarded to Moppity Vineyards Hilltops Reserve Shiraz 2015, Grove Estate Hilltops Reserve Shiraz Viognier 2015 and Moppity Vineyards Hilltops Estate Shiraz 2015 and 2014.
With so many delicious local wines available, my favourite five of the year represents outstanding examples of particular styles: one traditional riesling, two shirazes and two glimpses of the future in the white marsanne and red tempranillo.
But a score or more wines could easily have been substituted for the selections. That’s how good Canberra and region wines are at the end of 2016. The message is to be adventurous and enjoy yourself. There’s a wealth of wine out there to be discovered.
A FAVOURITE FIVE
Four Winds Vineyard Canberra District Riesling 2016 Four Winds vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW $25
Four Winds Vineyard’s Sarah Collingwood, a finalist in the 2016 Women in Wine Awards, missed out on the gong, but shares credit for her family’s delicious 2016 gold-medal-winning riesling. Any number of Canberra rieslings qualify for a “favourite” rating and singling out just one seems miserly when so many pass the luscious test. However, Four Winds sat among the silver and gold medallists on the tasting bench, then graduated to the dinner table where its delicate, juicy flavours and freshness left us looking for the second bottle.
Collector Lamp Lit Marsanne 2016 Wayne and Jennie Fischer’s Nanima vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW $22
Like other Canberra vignerons, Collector’s Alex McKay looks to Rhone Valley white varieties as alternatives to riesling, the district’s specialty. Marsanne leads a three-way blend with roussanne and viognier – all spontaneously fermented in oak barrels and all subject to a secondary fermentation converting tart malic acid to softer lactic acid. The varietal combination and winemaking technique produce a unique, savoury dry white well removed the floral, aromatic style of riesling. The aroma combines a citrus-like character (orange and mandarin) with subtly musk- and Turkish-delight-like notes. These are reflected on a smooth, richly textured palate of great vibrance and freshness, with a mildly tannic grip on the lingering dry finish.
Ravensworth Shiraz Viognier 2015 Ravensworth vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW $36
What better wine to represent Canberra’s beautiful shiraz–viognier style than Bryan and Jocelyn Martin’s Ravensworth 2015, winner of four trophies at the 2016 Canberra and Region Wine Show. Judges voted it best shiraz, best Canberra shiraz, best dry red of show and champion wine of the show. This was the fourth time Ravensworth won the show’s champion’s trophy. The 2015 shows the exceptional depth and harmony of the great vintage – a buoyant, lively and exciting red, combining fruit, spice, savour and substantial though silky tannin structure.
Chalkers Crossing CC2 Shiraz 2014 Chalkers Crossing vineyard, Hilltops Region, NSW $22
Fruit, fruit and more fruit gives Celine Rousseau’s modestly priced CC2 shiraz tremendous drink-now appeal. In the 2016 National Wine Show it faced off against Canberra’s Mount Majura 2015 to win the trophy as best shiraz of 299 in a tough competition. It went on to win three more trophies – best single vineyard dry red, best dry red, and the Len Evans Memorial Trophy as wine of the show. Len would’ve approved of the wine’s fresh, ripe, succulent fruit and spice flavours and fine, soft tannins. Rousseau says only about a tenth of the wine sees oak, hence the predominance of the lovely fruit.
Mount Majura Tempranillo 2015 Mount Majura Vineyard, Canberra District $45 Frank van der Loo made Mount Majura’s first tempranillo in 2003 in the comparatively early days for this Spanish red variety. The vines performed well in Canberra’s climate and over time tempranillo became Mount Majura’s flagship. In the 2016 local wine show, Canberra and surrounding regions fielded 14 entries in the tempranillo class. Mt Majura 2015 topped the class and went on to win the trophy for “best dry red other varieties or blends”. The great 2015 vintage produced a tempranillo of exceptional dimension, featuring intense ripe, black-cherry-like fruit flavour, combined with a deep savouriness, reminiscent of soy. The variety’s distinctive, chewy tannins cut through the vibrant fruit, giving a long, satisfying finish.
Gundog Estate Canberra District Shiraz 2015
The Burton family’s Hunter-based Gundog Estate owns a vineyard at Gundaroo and is soon to open a cellar door outlet in the old stables at the Royal Hotel. The family’s 2015 shiraz shows the deep, sweet, fruity–spicy depth of the excellent vintage, complemented by layers of soft, savoury tannins that give grip and drinking satisfaction. Gold-medal winner, Winewise Small Vignerons Awards 2016.
Chalkers Crossing Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2013
$25 Like many high-country NSW winemakers, Young-based Celine Rousseau sources chardonnay from the cool, elevated Tumbarumba region. Her 2013 vintage tasted dazzling fresh at the recent Women in Wine awards at Avenue C Wine Bar, Campbell. Canberra finalist Sarah Collingwood (Four Winds Vineyard) missed out on gong but enjoyed great support from 17 local vignerons, including Rousseau, serving wine at the event.
McKellar Ridge Canberra District Merlot Cabernet Franc 2015
$28–$30 Winemaker Brian Johnston models this silver medallist from the Canberra regional wine show on the reds of Bordeaux sub-region St Emillion. It combines merlot (70 per cent) and cabernet franc in a medium bodied style displaying the plummy fruit and grippy tannins of merlot, ameliorated by the perfume and softness of cabernet franc.
Four Winds Vineyard Canberra District Riesling 2016
$25 Four Winds Vineyard’s Sarah Collingwood was a finalist in the recent Women in Wine Awards. She missed out on the gong, but has so far earned a gold and three silver medals for this absolutely delicious dry riesling. It combines the variety’s floral and citrus characters in its aroma. And the palate sings with delicate, mouth-watering, lemon-like varietal flavour.
Canberra’s Capital Brewing Co launched into the Canberra market in April this year. Ex-San Diego brewer Wade Hurley produced the beers in a Sydney brewery.
At the launch, owners Tom Hertel and Laurence Kain of Hippo Bar and Rich and Sam Coombes of Batlow Cider Co, said they expect to build a Canberra brewery later in the year.
Seven months later, the promise looks set to become reality with the pouring of the first concrete slab scheduled for Tuesday 15 November 2016.
Director of brewing operations, Nick Hislop, said Capital’s brewery and bar areas would occupy half of an existing 2,000 square metre building in Dairy Road Fyshwick. The initial fitting is to include three uni-tanks and a bright tank, with combined production capacity of 24 hectolitres, plus bottling and keg-filling facilities and a public tasting area.
Hislop says the opening is scheduled for February-March 2017. At that stage the brewery will include a public sales and tasting area with trucked-in food. Later plans include a kitchen and two beer gardens.
Capital Brewing Co currently offers six beers in outlets around Canberra:
Coast Ale – an easy drinking ‘California common’ style
Trail Pale Ale – a hybrid, like a hopped-up English Pale Ale, using English yeast and Australian hops
Evil Eye IPA – An approachable 5.8%-alcohol IPA using Topaz hops
First Tracks Stout – uses chocolate wheat malt, includes Barrio Collective (Braddon ACT) whole roasted beans in the boil and cold-brew coffee post-ferment
Spring Board – A seasonal American-style wheat beer, with orange and coriander, with honey as an adjunct, all fermented dry and highly carbonated. Dry and orangey, not estery.
White Cockatoo – A collaboration with Marrickville’s The Grifter Brewing Co. A wheat IPA using American yeast, Australian ingredients and American techniques, including double dry hopping with Galaxy and Topaz varieties
Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2015
Clonakilla vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District
Even among all the sensational 2015 vintage Canberra shirazes, Clonakilla’s flagship shiraz viognier retains its number one position. Three times in the past four months it topped tastings I attended. Away from the austerity of the tasting bench, it seduced and thrilled recently at Aubergine Restaurant, Griffith, Canberra. Chef Ben Willis’s succulent lamb rump, broad beans, black garlic and celtuce heightened the wine’s fragrance and supple, juicy, depth. And the wine lifted the food in one of the most delicious wine–food combos imaginable.
Summerhill Road Riesling 2016
Summerhill Road vineyard, Lake George Escarpment, Canberra District
$20 Twenty-three of 34 2016 dry rieslings won medals at the recent Canberra regional wine show. One of the silver medallists, Summerhill Road, comes from a vineyard on the Lake George Escarpment, about 11km north-west of Bungendore as the crow flies. The appealing young riesling combines floral and lemony varietal aroma. The soft but lively, fresh palate reflects the aroma. It finishes dry and pleasantly tart.
McWilliams Appellation Series Chardonnay 2015
$21.90–$25 In the 2016 Canberra regional wine show, the Tumbarumba region earned 14 of the 17 medals awarded in a class of 35 2015-vintage chardonnays. Little wonder Canberra winemakers line up to buy fruit from the region. McWilliams won seven of those medals, including a gold for this outstanding example of modern, barrel-fermented chardonnay. It’s bright, fresh with deliciously citrus- and nectarine-like varietal flavour, smooth texture and dry, zesty finish.
Long Rail Gully Pinot Gris 2016
Long Rail Gully vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District
$19.80–22 Winemaker Richard Parker makes the Canberra specialties, shiraz and riesling, but also makes convincing pinot noir and pinot gris – varieties generally associated with cooler growing areas than Canberra. His new vintage pinot gris provides fuller-bodied, grippier drinking than, say, riesling, with a round, rich palate, smooth texture and a fresh, pear-like aftertaste. The extra weight and texture comes from barrel-fermentation and ageing of a portion of the blend.
BentSpoke Brewing Co yesterday unveiled its second brewery and a high-speed canning line, located in Mitchell, a Canberra industrial suburb.
Brewer Richard Watkins says the new facility has the potential to brew six million litres a year – equivalent to 666 thousand nine-litre slabs – making it by far Canberra’s biggest brewery.
Until an on-site bar opens in mid-2017, the brewery’s output will be devoted to cans and kegs for distribution around Canberra.
Since opening in mid 2014, BentSpoke’s original brewpub, located in inner city Braddon, has produced around 300,000 litres of beer across about 50 styles. The beers have all been served on site from tap.
However, the opening of the larger Mitchell brewery, with its canning and keg-filling capacity, puts BentSpoke into the highly competitive wholesale beer business. It will fight for tap and shelf space against both mainstream and craft brewers, including Canberra locals Zierholz, Pact Beer Co and Capital Brewing Co.
Watkins says local retailers are keen to support local brewers and by launch date on 3 November, 11 outlets had signed up. These included Plonk, Prohibition, Ainslie Cellars, Curtin Cellars, Jim Murphy Fyshwick and Airport, Page Bottle-O, and the Woolworths-owned BWS stores at Calwell, Franklin and Mawson.
For the launch, Watkins released canned versions of two popular BentSpoke brews. Mid-strength (4.2% alcohol) Barley Griffin Canberra Pale Ale offers ultra fresh flavour with distinctive hops filling the mid palate and giving a vigorous, lingering bitterness. It’s streets ahead of most mid-strength brews. Crankshaft IPA, at 5.8% alcohol, delivers opulent malty character, citrusy hops flavour and thrilling bitterness – a delicious version of this popular, characterful USA West-Coast style.
Both come in 375ml aluminium cans with a pull-tab that completely detaches as it opens almost the entire diameter of the can.
Before commissioning the new brewery, Watkinson hired former James Squire brewer Mick Rance. “He’s a great brewer”, says Watkins, “and he’s got the technical skill to use the canning equipment. We have very low oxygen levels in our beer, as low as the big brewers, which is a big achievement”.
Watkins believes cans offer several advantages over bottles: they’re impervious to light, they don’t smash, and they’re light. The rip-top version he selected gives a wide, round opening that allows the drinker to see and smell the beer – a notable improvement over other pull-tabs. However, the tab detaches completely, leaving a sharp-edged, 50-cent-sized circle of aluminium to dispose of.
That’s a retrograde step in my opinion, reminiscent of the first detachable rip-tops of the 1970s. Discarded tabs from beer and soft drinks littered the ground everywhere. Some people even swallowed them after they’d been dropped into cans. After medical, environmental and public outcries, businesses eventually replaced them with tabs that remained attached. While people are unlikely to swallow the large new tabs, the fact that they detach from the can creates a litter problem, and leaves a loose end on a technology that otherwise benefits the consumer.
Led by a sensational Grange vintage, Penfolds will release its 2016 collection across Australia on Thursday 20 October.
The predictably impressive line up, includes many highlights: Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015, Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2014, Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2014, Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2014, Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2014, RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2014, Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 and Grange 2012.
It also raised a couple of doubts. Will the leesy, lemony 2014 Yattarna Chardonnay flesh out and blossom with age? Will the fruit in Magill Estate Shiraz 2014 eventually absorb the wine’s abundant oak? Winemaker Peter Gago’s confidence in both gives hope. He’s a credible source. But should buyers shoulder the risk, or wait and come back to the secondary market a few years down the track?
I base my notes on the wines on a pre-release press tasting hosted by Penfolds in Melbourne on 20 September. As the wines haven’t been released yet, I’ve quoted Penfolds recommended retail prices. For most wines, prices should fall below these levels as retailers fight for your business.
Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling 2016
Woodbury vineyard, Eden Valley, South Australia
$30 Bin 51 shows the soft, round, easy drinkability of rieslings from the 2016 vintage. The aroma combines floral and citrus varietal characters which carry through to a round, juicy seductive palate. Keen acidity accentuates the citrus-like varietal flavour as it cleans up and dries out the mildly grippy finish.
Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay 2015
$45 The lowest priced of Penfolds three chardonnays shows its cool origins with grapefruit- and white-peach-like varietal aromas and flavours. These form the heart of a delicious, pure, varietal dry white – though fermentation and maturation in older French oak barrels added significantly, if unobtrusively, to its elegant structure, texture and flavour.
Penfolds Reserve Bin A Chardonnay 2015
Adelaide Hills, South Australia
$100 Turn up the volume. After the subtle, pure, elegance of Bin 311 we arrive at a powerful chardonnay combining intense fruit with equally intense winemaking-derived flavours. However, the great fruit comfortably absorbs the influence of new, charry oak (40%), spontaneous fermentation and full malolactic conversion (a secondary fermentation converting malic acid to lactic acid). Lemon-butter-like varietal flavour and tang; charry, spicy oak; and nutty, lees-maturation flavours all come together in an impressive, elegant, fine-boned chardonnay.
Penfolds Bin Yattarna 2014
Derwent Valley and Central Highlands, Tasmania 73%;
Adelaide Hills, South Australia 27%
$150 Is the emperor naked? Winemaker Peter Gago urges patience and time for the 2014 flagship to show its best. Certainly it’s delicate, leesy, lemony, taut, and austere at this stage. Will the underlying nectarine-like flavour blossom with age, as Peter believes? Yattarna’s provenance supports his belief, but buying it remains an act of faith.
Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz Mataro 2014
McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek and Wrattonbully, South Australia
$35 Penfolds blend of the Rhone’s shiraz (aka syrah) and mataro (aka mourvedre or monastrell) goes back more than half a century. The 2014 combo offers mouth-filling shiraz softness, tempered by spicy, savoury mataro. It starts soft and juicy, ends with a pleasant acid-tannin bite
Penfolds Bin 8 Cabernet Shiraz 2014
McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Wrattonbully, Padthaway and Coonawarra, South Australia
$45 Lots of ripe, upfront fruit and soft tannins give drink-now appeal to this blend of cabernet sauvignon (52%) and shiraz (48%) – although a chewy, Penfolds richness suggests good drinking for some years yet. Cabernet contributes herbal and blackcurrant-like notes that punch through the generous shiraz and background sweet oak.
Penfolds Bin 138 Barossa Valley Shiraz Grenache Mataro 2014
Barossa Valley, South Australia
$45 Bin 138 takes us away from the multi-region blend to Penfolds’ heartland, the warm Barossa Valley. Deep with crimson rim, almost opaque. Earthy, beetroot- and black-cherry-like aromas, with the aromatic, musk-like lift of grenache. Mouth-filling, warm flavours reflect the aroma. Earthy, spicy, fruity finish with soft tannins.
Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2014 Coonawarra, South Australia
$45 Four hundred kilometres south of the Barossa, Coonawarra’s cool maritime climate produces the elegant, fine-boned Bin 128 shiraz that contrasts with the opulence of the warm-grown style of Bin 28. Finessing in the Coonawarra vineyards and winemaking in recent years saw a maturing of the style. Medium to deep, crimson-rimmed colour; fragrant and attractive aroma showing a cool-climate floral side of shiraz; sweet, red-berry and spice flavours; elegant, succulent palate with fine tannins giving backbone and satisfying dry finish.
Penfolds Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz 2014
Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Wrattonbully, Port Lincoln and Clare Valley, South Australia
$45 Although originally from Penfolds’ Kalimna vineyard in the northern Barossa, Bin 28’s sourcing diversified as production increased. However, it retains its full-bodied warm-climate shiraz style – spectacularly so in 2014: Opaque red-black with crimson rim; aroma of black cherry with savoury soy- and black-olive like notes; big, generous palate of sweet, pervasive fruit, meshed in soft, mouth-coating tannins. Warm, rich, satisfying – and a litmus of Penfolds quality.
Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2014
Marananga, Barossa Valley
$90 Kalimna in the northern Barossa remains the capital of what some call “Grange country”. However, the Grange mantle extends to Marananga in the western Barossa and, following extensive planting of the in the 1990s, volumes increased sufficiently to create a sub-regional expression in Bin 150. “Opaque red-black with crimson rim; intensely aromatic, combining, plums, earth, oak and that special, alluring Penfolds lift; gorgeous, seductively plush plate, juicy and lively, with sensuous fruit – aided and abetted by plush, pillow-soft tannin. A complete and unique red”.
Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Wrattonbully, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra and Clare Valley, South Australia
$90 Textbook cabernet sauvignon: “Deep red-black with crimson rim; varietal aroma of blackcurrant, herb and mint with subtle undertone of oak; lively, fresh palate reflecting the aroma, mouth-filling but elegantly structured with assertive though fine cabernet tannins”.
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2014
Barossa Valley, Wrattonbully, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra, South Australia
$90 Built for long-term cellaring, Bin 389 combines cabernet and shiraz from two warm regions – the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale – and two significantly cooler areas –Wrattonbully and Coonawarra. It’s an harmonious combination in the dense, powerful Penfolds style: “Opaque red-black colour with crimson rim; aroma of earth, soy, black olive and ripe black cherry; buoyant, dense palate, saturated with dark fruit and savoury character, reflective of the aroma; layered and deeply integrate tannins”.
Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2013
McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Padthaway and Port Lincoln, South Australia
$100 In the Penfolds red line-up, St Henri alone matures in 50+ year-old large oak vats rather than small barrels. However, the absence of obvious oak flavour doesn’t rule out other winemaker influences. Winemaker Peter Gago describes St Henri as “Cleverly propelled by just the right amount of formics and VA [Peter’s italics]” – jargon for compounds that develop naturally in the presence of air and in small amounts can give life and vivacity to wine. (Grange creator Max Schubert, at times criticised for the amount of VA [volatile acidity] in Grange, confessed to ruining a few batches). However, individual thresholds for detecting these compounds vary, meaning those with greater sensitivity may be distracted by them. “Deep red-black with crimson rim; a touch of VA lifts the subtle fruit aroma giving the wine another dimension; glorious palate – elegant and refined with intense, potent pure ripe-cherry-like fruit, bound with grippy but ripe and fine tannins. Beautiful wine, destined to evolve for decades”.
Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2014
Magill Estate, Adelaide, South Australia
$130 In late 1982 Max Schubert’s hand-written proposal to the board of Adsteam (Penfolds owner at the time) resulted in the creation of Magill Estate Shiraz in the 1983 vintage. Schubert’s proposal, supported by Penfolds chief executive Ian Mackley and general manager Jim Williams, saved the inner-suburb vineyard from the bulldozer. The vineyard produces a medium-bodied style. In 2014, a substantial wine, with superb fruit, seems dominated by new oak. The fruit may absorb the oak over time, but only time will tell.
Penfolds RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2014
Barossa Valley, South Australia
$200 Where Grange shows the immense power of warm-grown shiraz matured in American oak barrels, RWT captures a more refined expression, matured in French oak. “Deep red-black with crimson rim; intensely floral, aromatic expression of shiraz with a spicy note and cedar-like perfume from the barrels; oh, so fine palate of ripe, buoyant shiraz fruit, layered with fine tannins and spice that could be derived from both the fruit and oak”.
Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Barossa Valley, Padthaway and Port Lincoln, South Australia
$500 Bit by bit Bin 707 closes the price gap on Grange. An equivalent wine in quality, if not yet in reputation, 707 ages gracefully for decades. Chateau Shanahan occasionally marvels at the 1986, one of the greatest 707s of all and, I believe, a more complex wine than Grange of the same vintage. The 2014 reveals all the dark and brooding glory of Bin 707: impenetrable, crimson-rimmed, red–black colour; deep, succulent varietal blackcurrant flavours; additional savoury elements, reminiscent of soy and charcuterie; a distinctive, sweet oak character that permeates the fruit, but with time will disappear into it; and powerful but fine oak and fruit tannins to see the wine through decades of cellaring. This is a great wine.
Penfolds Grange 2012
Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, South Australia
$850 One of the great vintages. “Opaque red-black colour with vivid crimson rim; earth, sweet, ripe fruit, oak and black-olive flavours all swirl together into one deep, powerful whole of great vibrance, freshness and layered depth. This is Grange in all its idiosyncratic glory. Best drunk from about 15 years after vintage”.