Penfolds 2011 icon and luxury releases, plus some golden oldies

I head off to Australia today, principally for a focus on Barossa and McLaren Vale sub-regions, a catch up with the Adelaide Hills and, final stop, Cullen Wines in Margaret River where I’ll be joining in their 40th anniversary celebrations –  can’t wait to get stuck in! 

My first stop?  Penfolds, to find out more about their fortified wines (which have just been released in the UK) and take a peek at sub-regional wines in barrel. 

Ironically, I met up with Chief Winemaker Peter Gago in London this week at a press tasting and lunch to celebrate Penfolds’ latest icon and luxury releases and the 50th release of Bin 28.  Gago had just flown in from Ireland where he’d co-hosted a tasting with Dom Pérignon winemaker Vincent Chaperon.  As he points out, it’s important for Australia to align itself with the best and, in the same spirit, lunch was at Dinner by Heston (pictured).  Here are my notes: 

Icon and luxury releases

Penfolds Grange 2006 (98% Shiraz, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon) – great texture and layer on the palate with sleek, creamy even, fruits of the forest on the mid-palate supported by an impressively refined chassis of tannins.  Long and juicy with savoury balsamic and roast chesnut notes and an underlying minerality.  Great purity, which makes for an elegant, deceptively forward Grange.  But make no mistake, it’s pacing itself – top vintages will last 50 years plus.  £245 at Harrods
 
Penfolds Bin 707 2008 – rich and intense on the nose with peppermint and balsamic notes which follow through on a richly fruited palate of blackcurrant, cassis and blueberry supported by a ripe and powerful backbone of tannins.  Seemingly quite forward – very fluid – compared with the denser 2007 at this stage (see my notes here).  Lovely.  £84 at Selfridges 
 
Penfolds RWT Barossa Shiraz 2008 – very deep in colour with a plush but dense palate of concentrated black fruits, with sweet molasses and cinammon spice notes and powerful ripe tannins.  A big, good, bold wine – very primary now, but plenty of depth and layer in reserve.  £68 at Tesco

Penfolds  Magill Estate 2008 – cola and dried sage on the nose which follow through on an expansive, succulent and juicy palate loaded with blackberries.  Present tannins add to its admirable freshness – a lovely wine, picked early (between 6-8 February), well in advance of the record breaking 16 day heatwave.   £54 at Bordeaux Index
 
Penfolds St Henri 2007 – though 100% Shiraz (usually there’s a splash of Cabernet), this tastes relatively dry, with its round, vinous palate whose bright core of red cherry and riper kirsch fruit is edged with savoury roast chesnut and liquorice spice.  Present tannins underpin a firm mineral and fresh finish.  Very good.   £42 at Berry Bros & Rudd

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2008  – sourced from just 2 regions in this vintage – Tasmania and the Adelaide Hills – with its  powerful concentration of fruit, there’s no mistaking this is an Australian Chardonnay.  A modern one at that- tight, linear and pure  with sweet white peach, lemon and lime citrus and hints of juicy greengage, roast cashew and sweet oak spice to its penetrating, rapier-like finish.   Matured for 9 months in 49% new French oak.  £58 at Majestic

Penfolds Reserve Bin 09A 2009 (Adelaide Hills) – though like the 2008, there’s plenty of toast and flint to nose and palate, this is less Puligny more Meursault with its relatively ample, deliciously corpulent palate of roast hazelnut and white peach deftly balanced by lemony acidity.  Great depth, layer and length to this multi-award-winning wine (38 trophies in 3 vintages).  Very good.  £42 at Majestic

Golden Oldies

Penfolds Bin 28 1988 – showing its maturity with a brownish hue, rich,  yielding, velvety palate and tertiary spectrum of flavours –  roast chesnut and game with a spicy aniseed note to the finish.  Forward but satisfying – better suited to tender, slow cooked meat than say T-bone steak.

Penfolds Bin 28 1998 – much deeper in colour, even taking into account the years, it retains an earthy, fleshy core of blackberry fruit deliciously and subtly spiced with cinnamon and star anise.  The tannins are ripe and round but also powerful and present; lovely balance and, though drinking very well now, it still has lots to give.  Terrific.

Penfolds Bin 28 2008 – this, the 50th consecutive release, is very deep and inky with a bright pink youthful rim.  With its bright, shining intensity of cinnamon-edged blackberry fruit it gives a glimpse of the 98 in its first flush.  I suspect that a touch more definition and freshness means this pure, persistent, lithe and fine tannined wine will age with power and grace, quite possibly outlasting the 98.

Penfolds Grange 1996 (94% Shiraz, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon) – double decanted a few hours previous the 96 was on song.  Always regarded as an elegant vintage this beautifully balanced wine with its fat roast chesnuts and core of fleshy, vinous black berry and currant fruit is just starting to reveal tafetta layers of star anise spice, earth and leather.  Ripe tannins offer seamless support.  Superb.

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