Tuesday, June 23, 2009


While reading the blog of highly respected English wine scribe Andrew Jefford (lover of all things terroir driven with minimalist intervention - and fair enough), I picked up that a very influential Penfolds' employee would like to see the Rawson's Retreat label abandoned, with their lower-end focus shifting more towards Koonunga Hill. Hurrah!

It's about time Penfolds considered restructuring their overcrowded entry range, where Rawson's Retreat, Koonunga Hill and Thomas Hyland (with 6, 9 and 5 wines in each range respectively and several styles overlapping) are essentially battling it out against each other. Today you could walk into a liquor store and chose from a Penfolds Rawson's Retreat Cabernet Sauvignon, Penfolds Koonunga Hill Cabernet Sauvignon or a Penfolds Thomas Hyland Cabernet Sauvignon for only a few dollars difference. Most wineries have enough concern competing against other wineries, let alone themselves!

In its defense Rawson's Retreat is usually the cheapest of the three, but the price difference is quite minimal, and with inevitable discounting the pricing of these labels tends to move about like three drunk teenagers in the back of a Holden Sandman circa 1975, you never know who's on top or bottom!

Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet and Thomas Hyland Chardonnay are the clear standouts in these ranges. Personally I'd be happy to see Penfolds focus their base range around these two, consistently over achieving wines. Perhaps they should retain the Koonunga Hill label for reds and Thomas Hyland for whites? Thomas Hyland already contains a majority of whites in its range, as Koonunga Hill does for reds.

I'm sure some would say give Thomas Hyland the flick as well, but it would sadden me somewhat to see that chardonnay disappear.

Whatever direction Penfolds heads in, I'm just happy to hear some sensible change might be approaching. Hell, maybe these corporate brands aren't so bad after all?


  1. hi chris i would just like to say good luck with your new web site and ask what you think of cask wine personaly i hate all red wine,chardonnay or dry white in a cask but i dont mind a soft fruity white in the cask is this just my pallet or do australia not make a good fruity white can you please get back to me of some wine i can try

    thanx cup

  2. Great to hear from ya Cup! Keep steepin' it up!
    Personally I'm not big on cask wine, I think it's usually worth the extra $$$ for the more delicious product.I certainly agree with your comments about reds, chardonnay and dry whites in casks, but those soft fruity whites I tend not to like full stop. I've bought some before in cleanskin which I wouldn't even use as cooking wine. For a good white cask I'd take a look at Bud Naked's Marlborough Sav Blanc (1.5litres). It is dry but regional and it's harder to go wrong with the Marlborough/Savvy combination. It's makers claim it'll last a month after opening, if it'll last beyond the first hour with you Cup.....