Penfolds Grange Vertical Tasting
Alba Restaurant, London
Friday 7th July 2006

2000 Penfolds Reserve Bin 00A, 13%
100% chardonnay. A rich, buttery nose with smoky melon. Big palate with lots of fruit, but feeling a bit austere. Finishes a touch short. I prefer this to the Yattarna, and it's much better with the carpaccio of salmon - the Yattarna's too blowsy for the salmon.

1999 Penfolds Yattarna, 13%
100% chardonnay that's spent 10 months in 80% new and 20% one-year-old French oak.
A sweet oaky nose with loads of vanilla. Rich and a touch sweet on the palate. Very big and blowsy with a bit of a leesy feel.

1968 Lindemans Huntery Valley Semillon, Bin 3470, 738ml, 9.8%
Mid- to deep-yellow gold. Lemony with a bit of furniture polish on the slightly oxidised feeling nose. Full and fully mature on the palate. Ripe, slightly raisined citrus and melon on the palate. Very Good Indeed.

1999 Vilmart Grand Cellier d'Or Brut 1er Cru, 12%
Granny Smith apples on the nose. Good light palate. Not overly complex, but it's a nice, light, fresh, crisp mouthful.

1991 Grange, 13.5%
95% shiraz, 5% cabernet from Kalimna, Barossa and McLaren Vale.
Leathery nose with very concentrated plummy fruit. Sweet fruit on the palate with a bite of concentration. Fairly big tannic structure.
Re-tasted around 10 p.m. It now has a more open nose with sweet blackberry fruit. The palate is pretty much the same, but the tannins are much reduced.

1990 Grange, 13.5%
95% shiraz, 5% cabernet from Kalimna, Barossa, Clare and Coonawarra.
Smoky tobacco and leather on the nose. Rich attack. Feels very mature on the palate and has a real blackberry fruit character with huge elegance. Big power on the finish.
Re-tasted around 10 p.m. Very little change.

1990 Bin 90A, 13.5%
Opened around three and a half hours earlier. A big blackcurrant nose, but with aeration it gains considerably in complexity. Very attractive immediately. Much clearer than the Grange 1990 and somewhat more approachable, but ultimately a bit simpler.
Re-tasted around 10 p.m. The blackcurrant on the nose is more in check now. Lovely sweet fruit on the palate. Very pure. 92/100

1989 Grange, 13.5%
Blend unknown. Opened and double decanted late morning.
A big, sweet nose with lots of cassis and some eucalyptus and some obvious espresso notes. Sweet ripe fruit on the attack. Very pure flavours on the palate. For me, this seems just a bit overdone, and the fruit still feels very young at the moment. It would be interesting to come back to this in ten years.
Re-tasted around 10 p.m. Very little change

1987 Grange, 13.8%
90% shiraz, 10% cabernet.
An integrated, complex nose that promise loads with a variety of opulent black fruits. Velvety opulence on the palate. Lots of ripe fruit and very big tannins on the finish. This is the most tannic so far. Unfortunately, it seems to lack the complexity that one might expect.
Re-tasted around 10 p.m. Very similar, just feeling a bit riper.

1986 Grange, 13.9%
87% shiraz, 13% cabernet.
A complex nose, though feeling rather closed. Lovely palate. Elegance and power in the same glass! There are remains of grippy tannins on the finish. Really good depth. A very interesting wine.
Re-tasted around 10 p.m. Still fairly closed on the nose and the palate is pretty similar to earlier.

1985 Grange, 13.1%
This was the highest percentage of shiraz of all the Granges on show tonight, with 99% shiraz and a mere 1% cabernet.
This has a rich, plummy, blackberry nose. Ripe and lovely on the palate. This seems to be in a more elegant style, but with a real spicy power on the finish.
Re-tasted around 10 p.m. Now it's much more pruney and chocolatey on the nose. This is the most changed - and most improved - so far. Elegant ripe fruit, very soft, with a gentle tannic structure on the finish. 93/100

1983 Grange, 13.3%
94% shiraz, 6% cabernet.
A smoky, leathery, plummy, blackberry nose that would make you think it's a lot younger than 1983. Ripe and full on the palate. Remarkably young feeling. Lovely balance. I think this works really well, but give it five years for perfection.
Re-tasted around 10 p.m. This has opened up quite a bit, but it's clear it will still repay further cellarage.

1982 Grange, 13.5%
94% shiraz, 6% cabernet
A sweet ripe nose with rather more blackcurrant fruit than there should be. Very ripe, rounded and fruity on the palate. Very integrated. A lovely drink.
Re-tasted around 10 p.m. Still superb and just a touch better.

1981 Grange, 12.7%
89% shiraz, 11% cabernet
Concentrated black fruits on the nose. Big and young on the palate, with quite a lot of heat and spirit. Tannins tend to hollow out the finish.
Re-tasted around 10 p.m. Very similar.

1980 Grange, 12.5%
96% shiraz, 4% cabernet
A much more mature nose than the 1981 with lots of gorund coffee and black fruit. Lovely attack, lovely palate. Elegant and fully mature. A bit short on the finish maybe.
Re-tasted around 10 p.m. Essentially similar.

1979 Grange, 13%
87% shiraz, 13% cabernet.

1978 Grange, 13.3%
Blend unknown. A mature integrated nose with gentle fruit. Big, powerful attack. This is a huge wine. Massive on the palate. Remarkable stuff. But it's also very enjoyable. Quite a sour cherry flavour on the finish.
Re-tasted around 11 p.m. This has quite a definite tar burner nose now with a good soft fruit character. Very, very big. The palate hasn't changed much, if at all.

1976 Grange, 13.9%
89% shiraz, 11% cabernet
Bit of a flat nose with hints of mocha and coca cola. There could be some very mild TCA in this. On the palate, a bit weedy and lacking fruit.
Re-tasted around 11 p.m. Unchanged. Still thin and weedy.

1975 Grange, 13.4%
90% shiraz, 10% cabernet
A very attractive, mature nose - very integrated with some soft black fruit and a touch of tar. This is going well. Nice restrained fruit on the palate. Gentle, soft tannins and a hint of spirit on the finish.
Re-tasted around 11 p.m. The tannins are softer and the spirit has gone, leaving all the positive characteristics pretty much unchanged. 93/100

1976 Moulin de Sanxet, Monbazillac, 15%
Deep copper colour. Very interesting nose - like raisins coated in orange juice and marmalade - that I don't find entirely attractive. Light attack. Fairly sweet, but with a bit of a dried out feel.


Alba Restaurant on Whitecross St near the Barbican in London did us proud. Service was excellent and the food much improved on my last dinner here.
The starter was a Carpaccio di salmone con capperi e cipolla rossa, which was a nice , light fresh dish: the salmon was lightly cooked/cured in an oil dressing with impeccably rinsed salted capers.
Next came Risotto ai funghi porcini. This was a touch under-seasoned, but had a good depth of flavour, though it seemed to lack a bit of the earthiness one might expect, perhaps because it's not the porcini season.
Main course was a Stinco di maiale al forno con cuori di zucchine in salsa agrodolce. This was a large slow roast pork shank. The sweet and sour was very subtle. Courgette hearts are a waste of time!
A selection of really good Formaggi Piemontesi rounded the meal off.

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Last updated: 17 July 2006