china daily wine column #32

We continue this week with more of the glory that is Penfolds, one of Australia’s great wine traditions. Wines reviewed this week ranged from good to great. All are approachable while young, but would improve considerably with time in the cellar.

The 2008 Bin 407 cabernet sauvignon is rich, even regal. It tastes of ripe brambles and blackberries and offers aromas of cinnamon and violets. It could be cellared for up to 20 years, such is the quality of the fruit and winemaking, at which time it would be magnificent.

But keeping this wine for two decades would require a strong will because of the temptation to open it sooner. Its soft tannins make it easy to drink now. It paired wonderfully with grilled steak plus mashed potatoes and fried onions.

Fruit for 2008 was sourced from the southeastern corner of South Australia, which enjoys the cooling influence of the Great Southern Ocean. Sea breezes ensure an extended ripening period. Some fruit also came from the formidable cabernet sauvignon regions of Coonawarra, Robe, Wrattonbully and Padthaway.

Penfolds’ senior red winemaker Steve Lienert predicted the 2008 Bin 407 could be the best since the first release of the wine, the 1990 vintage. “Invest,” Lienert said. “One for the cellar.” Indeed, the Bin 407 has reached a new level of quality. It has a recommended retail price of $55 in Australia.

My first taste of the 2010 Bin 23 pinot noir did not leave much of an impression. But a return visit a week later after a bad cold left me most impressed. It smells of cherries and macaroons, and the cherry motif carries into the mouth, with hints of sour cherry and dark chocolate.

In the mouth the wine has a plush texture with supple and chewy tannins. This wine cries out to be matched with duck. Drink it with Peking duck while young and pair it with roast duck after five years in the cellar.

The wine is beautifully balanced with a captivating nose that offers aromas of roasted coffee and liquorice. The pinot noir has a recommended retail price of $40 in Australia.

We have space for a little more on the 2009 Bin 138 grenache shiraz mourvèdre blend, often shortened to GSM, mentioned briefly last week. It is made from Barossa Valley fruit. The wine is well constructed with each of the grape varieties contributing a range of nuances and flavours, and the wine has pleasant tannins.

But I detected a slightly muddy note in the aftertaste when I returned to the same bottle after a week. Almost all Penfolds wines need time in the cellar. Indeed, probably the best book about Penfolds wines has the subtitle “the rewards of patience”.

But this GSM is probably best drunk while young. The 2009 Penfolds Bin 138 grenache shiraz mourvèdre has a recommended retail price of $30 in Australia.

* “Penfolds, the big sellers for your cellars” in China Daily, 26 March 2011, page 12. Find a link to the story here.

Categories: Not home, wine

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