Penfolds, McWillams and Xanadu

Penfolds Bin 311 Henty Chardonnay 2011 $40
Penfolds Bin 311 is partly a spin-off of the “white Grange” project of the early nineties that created Yattarna Chardonnay as the company’s flagship white. But Bin 311 also owes much to the Seppelt winemaking culture, in particular the Drumborg vineyard, established by Karl Seppelt in 1964. The vineyard, in Victoria’s very cool Henty region, near Portland, produces superb chardonnay. In the particularly cool 2011 vintage this chardonnay gives Bin 311 an intense, grapefruit-like varietal flavour and bracing, taut acid structure. Fermentation and maturation in older French-oak barrels fleshes the wine out nicely.

McWilliams Hanwood Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $8.55–$12
The label’s daggy, but the wine inside the bottle’s terrific – thanks to clever fruit sourcing and blending. For less than $9 on special, you get the ripe, cassis-like berry fruit flavours and fine but firm structure of good-quality cabernet sauvignon. It’s a multi-region blend, drawing excellent cabernet character from Coonawarra, South Australia, the largest component, backed by material from Hilltops, NSW, and Heathcote, Victoria. Fruit from the Riverina’s high-volume, low-cost vineyard helps keep the price down. The wine won a gold medal at the 2011 Sydney Royal Wine Show.

Xanadu Margaret River Next of Kin Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $18–$20
What more do you get by moving from the $10-ish McWilliams Hanwood cabernet to the $20 Next of Kin? Not double the quality – but you’ll certainly enjoy the shift in style and the greater finesse and brightness of the Margaret River wine. It’s a seductive drop, luring us in with the lovely, sweet perfume of its fruit. It then takes from one glass to another with the delicious brightness of the fruit on the palate and elegant, refined structure. Xanadu sources the fruit predominantly from Margaret River’s Walcliffe sub-region. Matured in French oak barrels, 30 per cent of them new.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 8 July 2012 in The Canberra Times