|Town Hall was a great setting. Love the ceilings|
As a result of this relative importance (perceived or not) I feel sort of compelled to try the wines each year, almost as if every self respecting wine person should know what the recent vintages are like.
This year the opportunity to try them came from Penfolds themselves, with the range launched to the trade at Sydney's Town Hall last week in typically Penfoldian grandeur: Think multiple small courses; a rockstar entry from winemaker Peter Gago and a guest appearance from legendary Penfolds maker Don Ditter. There was even take home copies of the new Penfolds Rewards of Patience, complete with nifty Penfolds pens. It all added up to one very serious launch indeed, the scale of which is simply not seen in the Australian wine industry any more.
Ultimately, I still couldn't help but question the need for such pomp and ceremony (not that I was complaining really - it was entertaining in the least). I mean, they don't do this sort of function every year (or at least not with such magnitude) so the question of motivations had to be asked.
The answer, I've decided, may lie in the fact that the Bin range is one of the focal points for Penfolds, which makes it a focal point for Treasury Wine Estates, a business which is presently attempting to reinvent itself ahead of the impending demerger from the Fosters mothership. All of which adds up to increased importance for this range and thus some serious spruiking to go with it.
But enough of the politics. What of the wines?
Well, the main vintage on show in this 2011 release is 2008, one of the more problematic (South Australian) harvests in recent history. It's a vintage that is plagued by overripeness, Jekyll and Hyde tannins and a general lack of freshness. Yet, perhaps unsurprisingly, the wines in this Penfolds range seem to have made the best from the year (on certain wines at least).
Of particular note (talking of the better wines from the vintage) is the new, rather limited, sub regional Shiraz sourced from Marananga in the Barossa. It's a goodun' (and may well be a damn goodun' in better vintages) and shows a good direction for Penfolds (lets hope they don't try and trademark Marananga now though, as suggested by Regan Drew on twitter). The 389 is also entirely proper this year, built in a very 'typical' style. But my favourite wine of this release is the Bin 138, which just showcases the brilliant 2009 Grenache vintage to a tee. Big like from me.
On with the notes then (My ramblings have only been lightly edited, so forgive the haughty style. Notes in Italics are from the winery):
|Gago = rockstar winemaker|
12.5%, TA 7.9g/l, pH 2.91
Straw yellow green in colour, the nose is quite classic with a lemon lime, green tang to it in a lifted, sherbety and quite correct form. Palate too is initially quite green, but fans out into something quite generous and full, the first (surprising) toastiness in there too. I'm quite puzzled by that forward richness actually, for the finish is bracingly, firmly acidic. In the end it's a good wine, given, but one that doesn't quite seem complete. Big question mark on how the fruit for this was handled - some machine harvested fruit in there? 17/90
Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay 2010 (Tumbarumba, NSW)
12%, TA 6.6g/l, pH 3.29. 7 months in seasoned French oak.
Very lean, grapefruit and very fine wood on the nose. Pure, expressive and very acid driven nose. Dry, acid driven and quite lean grapefruity palate. Lovely purity of expression and superb acidity, but this looked far too young and barrel sample-ish. Still, loads of class in this wine. Big yes from me. 17.8/92+
Penfolds Bin 23 Pinot Noir 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
14.5%, TA 6.4g/l, pH 3.65. 9 months in new (22%) and seasoned French oak barriques. Cold soaked, naturally fermented with just one racking. Filtered not fined. "This is unashamedly a Penfolds red wine. No attempt has been made to create a Burgundian look-a-like. Not for the fainthearted". Peter Gago
Seasoned oak hessian characters apparent on the nose. Stewed red fruit with a bit of hardness on the nose. Smells quite hard, if freshly bottled. Palate has much more freshness than the nose. Aggressive and raw finish. There is reasonable fruit in there, and it should improve, but it's just a hard dry red at present. 16.3/87+
Penfolds Bin 138 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2009 (Barossa Valley, SA)
14.5%, TA 6.2g/l, pH 3.47. 68% Grenache, 21% Shiraz, 11% Mourvedre. 12 months in seasoned American oak hogsheads. One of the few Penfolds wines that remain in component form during older, small oak maturation and is blended just prior to bottling.
Lifted nose. Redcurrant, red fruit, lightly confected, glacé Grenache fruit. So bright and red! Lovely ripe Grenache goodness on the nose. Palate is a juicy mouthful too, with everything lengthened out by some chocolate 'Penfolds style' tannins on the finish. Fabulous richness and ripeness. Yum. 18.1/93
Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2009 (Coonawarra, SA)
14%, TA 6g/l, pH 3.59. 12 months in new (28%) and seasoned French oak hogsheads.
Red licorice. Peppery red fruit, cool mintiness in there too. Quite correct really. Palate looks a little warmish, but still quite medium weight. It's quite withdrawn actually, the finish looking particularly skinny and sullen. It's going to get better, but it looks quite awkward at present. 16.5/88
Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna 1996 (South Australia)
Thrown in as a comparison wine to the 2008. Cedar, bubble gum, blueberry. Oak oak oak. Pepper and spice. Sweet fruit palate is fully resolved and quite elegant. Would have been a very oaky young wine (I can't remember it as a younger wine though). Nice enough drink though. 17.2/91
Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna 2008 (Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, TA 6.5g/l, pH 3.55. 12 months in seasoned American oak hogsheads. Quote from the stage 'aiming for no new oak flavours in this wine'. 'picked before the heat'.
Juicy rich, black and red fruit on the nose. Enormously sweet and fruity nose. Like a fruit mince pie. Sweet chocolate/blueberry oak quite obvious in there too (erm, it may not be 'new' but you can still smell the stuff). Rounded, choc berry fullness to the palate, with very light tannins indeed. Round and soft. Quite pleasant really. Not for the long term, but certainly plenty of simple appeal. Pressed off before dryness methinks. Extra point for upfront appeal. 17.3/91
|Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2008|
14.5%, TA 6.7g/l, pH 3.43. Matured for 13 months in new French (22%) and new American (13%) oak hogsheads, with the balance in seasoned American oak barrels.
Lightly stewed, dull nose. Initially oak sweet then just hot and dry, the fruit stewed and lacking vitality. Disjointed palate, with intrusive (American) oak. Desiccated edges. Some good bits, but not much fun really. 16/86
Penfolds Bin 150 Maranga Shiraz 2008 (Marananga, Barossa Valley, SA)
14.5%, TA 6.6g/l, pH 3.59. 12 months in new French (25%), new American (25%), seasoned French (25%) and seasoned American (25%) oak.
Sweet blue/back fruit nose. A little port like concentrated fruit richness, set against red dirt sub-regional characters. Sweet black cola fruit, edged with chocolate oak. Palate is big and quite forward, but still with reasonable length. Soft tannins. Really good to see the proper expression here. Good stuff. Might be a point miser here. 17.8/92
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2008 (Barossa Valley, Cooanwarra, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, TA 6.6g/l, pH 3.48. Cabernet Sauvignon (52%) Shiraz (48%). 12 months in 34% new American oak hogsheads with the balance in seasoned American oak.
Tight tight nose. Volatile. Rich, chocolatey and very Penfolds nose. 389ish! It's just very South Australian. Dense and quite sweetly oaked. Palate shows typical oak-meets-fruit style of 389. Some liquered red fruit on the back end, and it's not completely convincing on the finish, but what's there is hearty and full enough that the fans will love it. Serious booze. 18/93