Wine review — Wolf Blass Black Label, Penfolds Bin 28 & Penfolds Bin 138

Wolf Blass Black Label Shiraz Cabernet Malbec 2002 $125
Black Label’s renaissance seems to have begun in about 1996 and to have gathered pace with the arrival of winemaker Caroline Dunn, the opening of a new small-batch cellar at the Blass winery in 2001, the encouragement of Fosters’ chief winemaker, Chris Hatcher, and the co-operation of John Glaetzer, Wolf’s original winemaker. From the great 2002 vintage, this one has the succulent depth of superior fruit and the tight structure to evolve for many years. Unusually for Black Label it contains more shiraz than cabernet – a vintage aberration, says Hatcher, as subsequent vintage return to cabernet predominance. A stunning wine.

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz & Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2003 $19 to $26
The release of Penfolds bin number reds is an important event for the simple reason that the line provides such reliable drinking and cellaring. And strong consumer interest, invariably leads to near-cost discounting with Canberra prices this week as low as $18.95. Bins 28 and 128 are the warm-climate, cool-climate shirazes of the range — the former robust and chocolaty, the latter supple and driven by lovely ripe-berry flavours. My only caveat is that both samples had poor corks: wine penetration was half the length of the Bin 128 cork and one centimetre into Bin 28’s. That’s not good enough for wines of this calibre.

Penfolds Bin 138 Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2004 $19 to $26
Grenache lacks the popular appeal of shiraz. Its musk-like fragrance and sometimes confection-like flavours in youth don’t always register as red wine. So, if you don’t like grenache, you probably won’t like Bin 138 at present. For despite the beautiful, plush depth of flavour and real red-wine structure, grenache is the keynote. However, with a reliable screw cap seal (and great track record) this one has the stuffing to evolve to a more earthy and savoury style over the next five to ten years as the primary grenache highnotes mellow, allowing the generous shiraz and firm mourvedre to flourish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2006 & 2007