Treasures from Penfold to keep under bed

THE demanding pressures of work took on a new meaning last week when I assigned myself the stressful and exerting job of tasting through the current release of reds and whites from the Penfolds stable.

So demanding was this task that I gave myself the next morning off to help unwind from seeing a line up of wines that was outstanding.

The wines were a treasure chest full of one treat after another. With a couple of wines that you would almost describe as better than . . . your mum’s Sunday roast!

Those who enjoy a drop of the good oil will be eagerly awaiting the release of the Penfolds red wines towards the end of February. These make up what is known as the Bin Range. Each year punters seek out these wines with an anticipated enthusiasm. In a vintage such as the current 1998 vintage, which has generally been accepted as an absolute humdinger, buyer enthusiasm is matched only by the rush associated with a Myer post-Christmas sale. Some of my friends have already cleared away a spot under the bed or at the bottom of the wardrobe, as most of these wines will benefit from a little more sleep, so to speak. Those that purchased some of the red wines from the Penfolds stable in 1996 will have started to see the results of what a little willpower can produce.

From its early beginnings around 1844 when Dr Rawson planted grapes at Magill in South Australia, Penfolds have been producing wines that have struck a chord with wine punters far and wide, and, thanks largely to the international success that Grange received, you can now find the Penfolds label in most parts of the globe. Chief winemaker John Duval stated last week, that “Penfolds is a global company that makes wine for a global market”, and I guess that you know you are doing well when the wines produced strike a harmonious cord with punters around the world.

Penfolds 1998 Bin Range

Penfolds Old Vine Shiraz Grenache Mouvedre Bin 138 $23.99 rrp

This wine was added to the range almost a decade ago, with the first vintage in 1994, and this vintage was officially given a bin number. With fragrant aromas of cinnamon, spice and black cherries, you are left wondering what is coming next. The complex layers follow through the palate that is plentiful, with wild cherries, a hint of blackberry pastilles and a plummy sweetness – tight, firm tannins complement and there is plenty of length.

Penfolds Coonawarra Shiraz Bin 128 $23.99

If there were a choice as to who to take out for dinner between Anna Kournikova and the Bin 128, the 1998 Bin 128 would win every time.

It is the package and is committed to the long haul. The 128 will still be around in 10 or more years. There is plenty to look for in this wine, the aromas are complex with coffee mocha and ripe plums compelling you to take a sizeable mouthful. However, restraint is the key to the rewards of the palate which has a mass of sweet ripe elegant berry fruits, with hints of aniseed and briary notes. The tannin and oak integration add to the elegance. Value for money – this is the pick of the vintage.

Penfolds Kalimna Shiraz Bin 28 $23.99rrp

Almost overshadowed in the line-up, the Bin 28 still remains an icon wine within the 1998 vintage. Showing slightly perfumed aromas together with hints of prunes and chocolate. The palate is a little dominated with oak, which will integrate with the rich sweet damson, blackberry fruits and dark

chocolate flavours. The layered complexity, acidity and tannin weight lends towards a wine that is classically Kalimna.

Penfolds Cabernet Shiraz Bin 389 $36.99 rrp

The Dockers and Eagles would love to have picked up Bin 389 in the draft. This wine will go the distance, will not breakdown for at least 10 years and has been highly recommended by judges.

There are plenty of savoury aromas that work in well with an assortment of dark berry fruits and a hint of liquorice spice. The dazzling palate is flooded with fruit, blackcurrant, cassis and ripe plums, amongst others. There is plenty of structure and finesse flowing through the wine and while it offers plenty now it will get better with some age. Like the Dockers first premiership flag, this will be worth the wait.

Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 407 $27.99 rrp

Coonawarra Cabernet is right up there with the best sites in the world producing this variety. Only Margaret River comes to mind in producing better. This is classic Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon from a remarkable vintage. Scrumptious aromas fill the nostrils with ground coffee, leafy blackcurrant and some cedary violet touches. I found the palate was still quite tightly knitted together with structured acidity and oak integration combining with the cassis, blackcurrant and aniseed flavours. Length of palate is long and shows a real refinement.

Also tasted were the 1997 St Henri Shiraz, the 1998 Magill Estate Shiraz, and the 1998 RWT Shiraz. The St Henri is an elegant wine in its own right but it is fair to say that the latter two wines are almost perfect, and you would want to start inquiring about them with your local wine merchant as they will be gone soon after their release in May.

As for a score? I think you should make up your own mind, they are all medal winners and for what it’s worth, the Bin 128 was a highlight.


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