If you're ever around Adelaide come Grange release day, I'd wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Magill Estate. There's an air of festivity and excitement around Penfolds on Grange release day, like a child (or the next king?) has just been born. Everyone's happy and everyone has something to say.
Sure, Penfolds charge $25 for a tasting of Grange, when the major retailers offer free samplings to mark the occasion, but the samples offered by the retailers look rather pathetic compared to what you get at Magill - I swear I almost accidentally inhaled one of those store issued Grange samples once. Up at Penfolds, 'half a glass' might be doing an injustice to the generous pours dished out by their ever friendly cellar door staff. It's $25 well spent if you ask me, and I look forward to it lightening my wallet every year.
Additionally, if you get to Penfolds later in the day, you'll find no crowds, no lines, a relaxed atmosphere, wines served in Riedels and service with a smile. It's much better than fighting 150 people for 100 pours, all at once.
Oh yeah, there's also another $790 worth of wine, across 6 bottles, available to taste on the day, completely free of charge. Just keep an eye on the cellar door prices here though, because RRP isn't exactly 'recommended' for Penfolds. You might have heard of these other labels...
Penfolds tasting notes are posted below
Penfolds Reserve Bin 09A Chardonnay 2009 ($90) Adelaide Hills. Wow! Toasty, toasty, toasty nose! Smoky popcorn-like oak and touches of spice dominate the nose, with a minimal fruit profile. It's an ultimately lean, restrained and texture driven palate, with touches of citrus, minerals and spice, with a tightening finish. Given the spectacular results of the previous two vintages, I just expected something a little more sumptuously fruited. 92
Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2008 ($130) Tasmania/Adelaide Hills. Simultaneously pungent and restrained on the nose, seemingly the result of some beautifully clean, cool climate fruit - minerals, grapefruit and light spice. The palate however, can't be mistaken, it's rich, round, full, creamy and sumptuous to drink, with delicious creamed hazelnut and white peach flavours marked by a notably tangy finish. 94
Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2007 ($90) From a low yielding vintage, a veritable who's who of South Australian regions went into this one; check - Robe (30%), McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Padthaway, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra and Adelaide Hills. Bright, sour-edged red plums, cherries, blueberries and white pepper on the nose, in St Henri's typically fruit expressive style, but it just seems a bit simple, lacking the depth and complexity of the top vintages. Its palate is also slightly unusual, young and elemental perhaps? It's brightly flavoured and sour-edged, but it's also a bit jammy, without being over ripe. It drinks alright in a simpler fashion, but at this price, I can't say I'm totally convinced. 90
Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2008 ($115) Adelaide Metro - $15 price hike. Although not particularly lively on the nose, there appears to be a concentration of good fruit - condensed cassis, cherries and dark plums with nutty/mocha oak adding a savoury edge. Its palate is medium-bodied, very silky, ripe and long, with plenty of finesse to its dark fruit flavours. It's a good '08, which edges ripeness but stays within the lines. 93
Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2008 ($175) Barossa Valley. Smoky, savoury oak most evident on the nose, with plump plums and roast meats beneath. It's deep, rich and ultimately satisfying, in that truest Barossan sense. It's a smooth, juicy '08, with the red and black fruits common to the vintage's better wines, finished off by great length of fruit, tidy tannins and a general even balance throughout. Penfolds have done well here, and this should age particularly well. 94
Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($190) Coonawarra, Barossa Valley and Wrattonbully. The news of a Special Bin 620 Cabernet Shiraz from Coonawarra's 2008 vintage had me particularly anxious to try this wine, usually my favourite from Penfolds top end. There's a fresh, perfectly pitched and certainly not overdone touch of mint on the nose (Wrattonbully maybe?), siding with a bright, rich core of blackberries and dark plums, given a further lift by a floral note. Spicy cedar/mocha oak too. The palate is true Bin 707 yet again. Dark, brooding, powerful, typically rich and flavoursome, it thrusts through the mouth with true intensity and a massive bone structure, imparting incredible dryness and spectacular length. 96
Penfolds Grange 2006 ($600) Barossa Valley shiraz with a touch of Magill shiraz. 2% cabernet. Probably not as gang-bustingly brilliant as the 2004, but certainly comparable to the excellent 2002, albeit within the context of its own vintage. In fact, it's everything you'd expect from the label and the season really - a fine match. Another long term classic in the making. (reviewed separate post). 97