Wine review — Penfolds new releases

Penfolds Bin 311 Orange Chardonnay 2007 $38–$43
Penfolds Bin 138 Barossa Valley Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre 2006 $20.80–$34

From long personal experience the Penfolds reds provide reliable, sometimes exciting cellaring, especially at the discount prices accompanying each new release. They’ve become somewhat finer in recent years without losing the essential Penfolds layered, complex, tannic style. The whites seem to be undeservedly ignored, although this tight, intense style from nearby Orange rates a mention. It’s fully priced, however, and probably not quite up to the standard set by small players like Main Ridge and Kooyong – or even a premier cru Chablis. While predominantly shiraz, Bin 138’s aroma and flavour show grenache highlights with an attractive savouriness. Needs three or four years’ cellaring.

Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2006 $18.90–$33
Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2005 $18.90–$32

These are warm-climate and cool-climate expressions of shiraz, both weighing in at a hefty 14.5 per cent alcohol, but displaying distinct flavour differences. There’s cool-climate pepper and spice in the Coonawarra wine. But it’s taut, grippy and far from ready to drink. What was Foster’s thinking when it released Bin 128 a year younger than the Bin 28? It certainly didn’t do drinkers a favour. That quibble aside (and the slight alcohol hotness), it’s a significant red that’ll drink well for a decade or more. Bin 28’s fuller and riper. It too shows a little alcohol hotness, but the rich fruit and layered tannins suggest good long-term cellaring.

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 $39–$45
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2005 $39.50–$58

The two cabernet-based bin reds, in my view, star in this year’s line up. Bin 407 is typically textbook varietal -– showing cabernet’s distinctive aroma, flavour, power and firm structure – characteristics saved from austerity by the deep, sweet fruit flavour. It’s built for cellaring, although unadorned protein-rich food, particularly rare lamb or beef, mollify those tannins and together taste terrific. With cellaring Bin 407 retains its cabernet varietal character under the patina of age. Bin 389 is the most beautifully aromatic of the new releases. With the flavour opulence to match the aroma and a sturdy tannin structure it ought to age well for twenty years in a good cellar.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008