Saturday, May 1, 2010


Penfolds' extravagant Magill Estate restaurant; still turning over a good trade even in this day and age.

May 1st 2010 has come around and with it two of the most exciting dates on the Adelaide calendar. The local footy teams; Port and the Crows, meet each other in the Showdown, and Penfolds release their latest vintage of Grange. So, depending on who you are the place to be is either AAMI Stadium or Penfolds Magill Estate. For me, it's a bit of a no brainer (poor Crows fans...).

Along with the rare opportunity to taste Grange, Penfolds also offer free tastings of their other icon wines on Grange day. It's not too many times the general public are invited to taste over $1200 worth of Australian wines across 7 bottles, for a fee of $30 for Grange (or free with bottle purchase) and nothing for the rest. For your $30 you really get a decent pour of Australia's icon wine - all my experiences suggest you're getting close to three standard tasting pours, or not too much less than half a glass.

Penfolds' chief winemaker, Peter Gago, is certainly not one to rest on his laurels. Despite his company's upheld status as Australia's most famous wine brand, it would seem he's on a never ending quest to refine and reshape Penfold's upper tier into genuine world beaters. Every wine here serves an individual purpose, and unlike Penfolds' lower range, there's no direct competition or overlapping of style from within Penfolds' icon and luxury releases.

Chardonnay has clearly become the white focus of Penfolds' premium releases, and the brand now sports two wines comparable to Australia's very best, of very differing styles. In particular, the Adelaide Hills' sourced Reserve Bin Chardonnay seems to be sneaking up on fine white wine drinkers, who, much like myself, might have been focusing more on Penfolds' Yattarna or even the very modern Bin 311 Chardonnay. The 2008 Reserve Bin is another great Adelaide Hills chardonnay under this quietly achieving (yet ambitiously asking - price wise) label.

The reds here need very little introduction. For me, the highlights of the current releases are another dark, brooding and powerful Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon which carries with it a surprising and welcomed addition of fresh, minty fruit considering its season, and a very vibrant, brightly fruited and juicy St Henri Shiraz.

Although it was merely sampled and not 'drunk' like my usual reviews, I'm reviewing Grange in a separate post, as it still remains Australia's most important wine. Honestly, I can't afford to buy a bottle of Grange to open and consume right now, and the 2005 vintage is a wine I wouldn't bother looking at for many more years based on today's tasting.

Finally, I'd like to make mention of the staff at Penfolds Magill Estate. Headed by Travis today, the Penfolds staff are always friendly, willing to communicate and very well versed in their Penfolds products. Keep up the good work guys!

Penfolds cellar door tasting notes are posted below

Penfolds Reserve Bin 08A Chardonnay 2008 ($90) Adelaide Hills. Certainly the more worked of the Penfolds' chardys, with 65% new oak, barrel fermentation, 100% malolactic fermentation, etc. - but it's a beauty! Its nose is very funky, wild and character laden, with lifted scents of buttery/nutty oak, quince and pungent melon fruits with a hint of cheesy/creamy malo notes. The palate is also very expressive, presenting a fullness of creamy fruit flavour offset by linear, shapely and well defined acids. I found a slight pineapple-like astringency to its acidity, which some have remarked on in Shaw and Smith's 2008, so if you didn't like that then this might not be for you. Good for me though. (full review soon) 94

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2007 ($130) Tasmania/Adelaide Hills/Henty. The 07 Yattarna kinda pales in comparison to the cheaper 08A; it's instantly very closed and restrained, yet much more mineral and refined. The palate however, seems a bit flat and lacking genuine shape, with a faintly oily/nutty expression of white fruit and lemon flavours. It could come around with a little more bottle age, but I still find it a bit disappointing considering some of the beauties this label's pushed out lately. 92

Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2006 ($95) Barossa Valley/McLaren Vale/Robe. 11% Cabernet Sauvignon. To be honest St Henri isn't usually my favourite Penfolds red, but I really like this vibrant, polished wine from the 2006 vintage. It's very fragrant, with a big, ripe, sexy berry compote and sweet fruit nose, that also reveals true elements of spice and tobacco leaf which add further interest. Any oak influence is decidedly soft in the classic St Henri mould. Its palate is soft and fleshy in a more medium-bodied style, with some of the brightest, most vibrant fruit I've encountered from the label this century. Good length and polished tannins complete a compelling wine. (full review soon) 95

Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2007 ($100) Typical of the vintage this is a more dark fruited and tannic Magill Estate, but it also contains a level of freshness missing from many 07's. It's ultra-ripe but nice, with strong black and red plum aromas partnered by some very snazzy, nutty chocolate/mocha oak. Silky and velvety on entry, its even palate finishes very long and fresh with some genuinely strong, grippy and dry tannins. A touch of tartness also reveals itself in the finish, but it's pleasingly kept in check. (full review soon) 93

Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2007 ($170) Big, tart, dried apricot-edged nose of very ripe plum and berry fruits with clean cedar oak. Once again it's a more medium-bodied Barossa shiraz, with a simultaneously sweet, savoury and sour edged expression of richly flavoured red and black cherry fruits. A dry, dusty tannic structure frames the palate from front to back, leaving a lingering impression of strength and dryness. 93

Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($185) Wow! Another great 707 that successfully harmonises the minty edged freshness of Padthaway cabernet sauvignon (roughly two thirds) with the deep richness of Barossa cabernet and the strength and structure of Coonawarra. Its lovely, fresh, minty and cedar oak aromas overlie a deeper presence of chocolate coated dark berry fruits. Considering the difficulties of the vintage there's an even ripeness evident throughout its full, bursting and bruising palate of unrelenting cabernet intensity, but it's also vibrantly fruited and flavoured, with a long finish and powerful structure. Its sheer power reminds me of the 2006 wine but the 2007 surprisingly seems a bit fresher. 96

Penfolds Grange 2005 ($549) Barossa Valley/McLaren Vale/Coonawarra. 96% Shiraz, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. 18 months 100% new American oak hogsheads. Full review separate post under the Shiraz tag. 95


  1. You weren't tempted by the 'buy a bottle of Grange, get a bottle of RWT' cellar door special mate?

  2. Nah, bit out of price range mate, if I did have the cash for a Grange I'd definitely be hunting down the '04 over the '05. Oddbins are having a live wine auction in Adelaide tomorrow so I thought I'd save some pennies for that. Oddbins prices are much more respectable too. Having said that I did spend a bit more moolah at Penfolds than what I originally intended :(