Penfolds Grange 2004 (South Australia)
$600, Cork, 14.3%
Now here is a challenging wine to review. The reviewers are swooning, the faithful are lining up at the Magill cellar door, even the mainstream press is giving it coverage (great to see, more please). In short, it is a ‘loaded’ wine: A bottle of fermented grape juice that comes so full of preconceptions, myth & mystique that actual tasting notes are redundant with reviewers serve to only agree or disagree with the greatness.
So, at first, I thought I would just not score this, to be a self righteous knob and just rattle off some descriptors and the odd opinion, before leaving a hole where the score would be at the end. But, instead, I sat there trying to work out what, if anything, was wrong with it. Approach a tasting with the idea that all wine is perfect until proven not. Its actually great fun, but also seems counter intuitive with the whole critical tasting idea. In the end, I decided that if you were to hold up a wine as the model for The Ultimate Young South Australian Shiraz, you couldn’t really go wrong with this.
Purple, dark red in colour. Sweet, malted coconut oak, interwoven with really bright red fruit, like a raspberry bounty & just a smidgen of (classic for Grange) VA. Cocoa. Black fruit. Impossibly youthful. Actually, it reminds me a lot of the 2005 Moss Wood on the nose, with it’s surreal, sweet youthful fruit and oak amalgam. Its a purity of fruit and well judged oak at its zenith, and its hard not too love. I think, however, that as a young wine, many European palates would find this too sweet. Leave it for a decade before serving it to the Poms then.
On the palate, well, it is drier, deeper and blacker than the sweet nose, much like 70% dark chocolate. Palate wise its red/black fruit dominant and utterly Penfoldian in its firm, quit sweet tannins. It’s sweet, but so structured and balanced that it feels velvety. Velvety like Burgundy. Effortless softness that is so seductive that you don’t notice the tannins, even though they hang in the background, ready to kick. I think that’s called balance. And it makes this wine the hero that it’s purported to be.
So in the end, in my quest to examine this wines perfection credentials, I really couldn’t find much wrong with it. Perhaps its a bit too sweet, otherwise it really is a brilliant South Australian Shiraz. The only question, perhaps, is whether it is ‘that much’ better than the 04 St Henri. And that question is largely answered by your wallet…19.3/97