Penfolds Wines

A Tasting run by the Wine Society

Lancashire Cricket Club, Manchester

Tuesday 15th May 2001


Although introduced by Toni Patterson, an oenologist and winemaker for Penfolds, the tasting was an informal walk-round affair.  I mention this as it allowed most wines to be tasted at least twice, to even out bottle variation, which was particularly significant in someof the whites (notably 1 and 4 below). 

Some of the bottle variation was so significant that I asked Toni Patterson about Penfolds approach to alternative closures: she said that Penfolds are experimenting with alternative closures and were very likely to introduce them for the lower end of the range in the near future.  She wasn't revealing precisely which closures, but I suggested maybe we'd see Grange (unfortunately no Grange at this tasting!) with a screw top, which she said sounded like a very good idea as they'd then be able to guarantee the quality.  She said that she would expect around 5% of the wines to be affected by some form of cork failure.  

Onto the wines ...  

1.  Eden Valley Riesling, 2000  Not priced.  

Rather pale yellow with greenish tinges.  Light, fresh nose - slightly minerally with some lime-y notes.  On the palate, fresh and light, but quite full at the same time.  Bit flat and develops a rather odd, not entirely pleasant taste in the mouth, a bit like wet flannel and chalk, which grew even further on finish. A second glass from another bottle was cleaner and a bit fresher, but not an especially notable Riesling, being rather muddy and unfocussed. Came back to this at the end of the evening, so another bottle (the last half glass at the end of the bottle) proved to have much clearer citrus notes on nose and in the mouth.  Really quite a refined nose, with cirtus and mineral notes well balanced.  Some refreshing acidity makes it a very dry mouthful. A taste of a fourth bottle was very much the same as the third.  

2. Bin 21 Rawson's Retreat, 2000  [Semillon, chardonnay, colombard blend]  GBP 4.15  

A fairly deep yellow gold with a marked green tinge.  Quite a light nose - fragrant and a bit herbal or even grassy.  Good full attack, but a bit lacking in character and depth.  Quite a nice creamy texture, but perhaps not entirely in balance with the intense dryness, which was vaguely reminiscent of dry melba toast.  Plenty of oak evident on the palate, but in control.  

3. Koonunga Hill Chardonnay 2000  GBP 4.95  

A deep, rather luscious gold.  Fantastic nose - complex and fragrant with distinct melon notes together with some of the lees clearly coming through.  The deep and rounded nose would lead me to expect a wine with more age.  Very rich attack.  Very rounded and buttery (perhaps a bit fat?).  Develops well and finishes with an interesting pepperiness and nice clean acidity.  

4. Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 1999 Not priced  

Slightly duller colour than 3 and tinged with green.  Bizarre nose - very toasted and with a definite toffee streak.  Lots of character and showing a surprising amount of finesse.  Very toasty, rich and rounded in the mouth.  I found this very interesting, but suspected that there was probably something a bit wrong with it. A taste from another bottle later in the evening did not have the same dominant toffee scents - or rather much less marked, though I think I could still find them.  This second bottle was much fresher, and undoubtedly a very notable wine given a bit of time.  

5.  Bin 35 Rawson's Retreat 1999  GBP 5.50 [Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Ruby Cabernet]  

A deep, very dark inky purple.  Cherry, mint and blackcurrant nose - very up-front fruit, perhaps a little cooked (the fruit, not the wine!).  Good clean attack wtih bags of fruit.  Fills well and develops a peppery spiciness, which becomes rather too sharp on the finish.  Clean and well round.  Not especially distinguished, but a good house wine.  

6.  Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet 1998  GBP 6.95  

Dark dark young purple, almost black.  V. intense nose, but not particularly forthcoming.  Distinctly more varietal than 5.  Spicy, plummy and minty nose when you coax it out.  Bit dull on attack.  Round & soft in the mouth, but feels rather reticent.  Nice soft tannins after.  I'd sum it up as rich but reticent.  Needs time.  

7.  Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 1997 GBP 12.95  

Again a very intense dark inkiness.  Unfortunately rather a lot of gunk in suspension dur to sloppy pouring, but I'll persevere.  Much more sharply defined Cabernet than 6.  Intense, deep oaky nose with just some blackcurrant showing through.  Rich but very well balanced with a nice freshness.  Pretty mighty, almost aggressive tannins on finish and after. A second taste from much nearer the top of a new bottle was much clearer and brighter in the glass, but otherwise pretty much the same, though the tannic mouth-feel on the finish was much ameliorated.  Notably fresher tasting than most of the reds on show tonight and probably benefitting (perhaps unduly) from that.  

8.  Bin 138 Old Vine Red 1998 Not priced [Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre]  

Slightly lighter colour, but still remarkably dark - ripeness of fruit, I suppose.  Very very young purples at rim.  Lovely nose, spicy and Rhone-like with lots of stewed red fruit and plums.  Very forward nose.  Good attack, but then rather uni-dimensional, somewhat lacking depth.  Powerful, but fairly soft tannins on finish.  Seems much younger than it is.  Needs more age.  

9. Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 Not priced  

Deep colour again, but perhaps more garnet.  Interesting nose with lots of layers, but v. resolutely an intense Cab Sauv along with some fresh hedgerow notes.  Fresh on attack.  Very full and ripe.  Develops some rather ferocious tannins which dominate utterly.  Bit of a thug - at the moment at least.  

10.  Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 GBP 35.00  

Deep, slightly brickish red.  Fantastic nose.  Very ripe fruits with cedar and touch of mint.  Really promising nose.  Mmmm.  (I actually wrote that in my notes at the time!)  Something special.  Quite lush in the mouth - masses of ripe fruit in really spot-on balance with good tannins that are beginning to soften.  Very fine finish with remarkable length. A subsequent taste, from a different bottle, confirmed most of the above with notably intense flavours. It was, however, now apparent that this was still very young and needs a lot more age.  

11. Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 1997 GBP 8.95  

Good rich colour with more of a ruby tinge that previous wines.  Nice concentrated Shiraz nose, but not over the top.  Youngish with some tannins.  Very definite, fruity, hot climate Shiraz.  Deep rich flavours, though with a slight hint of astringency on finish.  Rather cooked fruit flavours.  Finishes cleanly, but without distinction.  A taste later on from a different bottle confirmed this - very much a textbook, off-the-shelf Oz shiraz.  

12. Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 1995 Not priced - "Penfolds museum bin"  

Not a great deal different in colour to 11.  Perhaps just a bit more dilute and mature in colour.  Nose is significantly more complex and interesting.  Much more together on the palate.  Flavours are largely the same, but all just more knitted together.  It would be interesting to try the 1997 (no. 11) two years on, to see if it has developed the same way, lifting itself out of the merely textbook to something more distinguished.  

13.  Bin 12 Coonawarra Shiraz 1994 Not priced - "Penfolds museum bin"  

Deep ripe ruby.  Remarkably fresh nose - lightly stewed plums and some hedgerow notes.  Good round flavours.  Nice fruit, but a bit unexceptional perhaps?  Still some fairly heavy tannins.  Finishes with some elegance, but a bit unexciting overall.  

14. RWT Barossa Shiraz 1997 GBP 35.00  

Very deep, dark, inky ruby, but also very bright in the glass.  Fascinating nose - very forward vanilla notes masking the very ripe fruit.  Good, smoth, rich - very attractive attack.  Fills very well in the mouth, developing real spiciness.  Tannins a bit green on the finish.  Needs significantly more age.  

15. Botrytis Semillon 1998 Not priced, but I see it's GBP 6.25 at Lay & Wheeler  

Lush heavy gold.  Honeyed citrus nose, which remains remarkably fresh.  Good attack - fresh and clean.  Develops lots of attractive flavours in the mouth, with perhaps a lemon-y flavour to the fore.  Not at all cloying - indeed rather more intensely flavoured than it is noticeably sweet.  Very elegant, with good acidity.  

16. Magill Bluestone Tawny NV Not priced

Pinkish light caramel colour.  Rather undistinguished nose - dilute tawny port characteristics, and suggestive of a bit of age in the blend.  Certainly well made and with a good balance.  Smooth and clean on the palate, with notably raisiny characteristics.  Sufficiently different to port to make it interesting, but perhaps a little unexceptional.


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Last updated: 15 December 2005 13:51