A gift from Peter Gago – Penfolds Bin 389 1983
|1953 Grange. In blue. Peter likes it.|
Penfolds Bin 389 1983 (South Australia)
From the same year as the infamous Ash Wednesday bushfires, this was theoretically never going to be a great wine. What a welcome surprise to see it looking so genuinely good.
Actually, the context behind this particular bottle is as good as the wine itself. It was a gift you see, given by Penfolds Chief Winemaker Peter Gago to a colleague and myself recently at the Sydney leg of the Penfolds recorking clinic. We weren’t actually attending the event to ‘clinic’ any wines ourselves, more just wine writer nerds keen to gawk over a few old Penfolds wines (and such).
Happily, we weren’t let down by the qualty of the wines that passed through the recorking clinic either. Most particularly, there was a half bottle of the famous 1953 Penfolds Grange – complete with that famous ‘duck egg’ blue capsule – which was ‘clinicked’ whilst were there. That capsule had Gago excited actually, just because those wines are so rare now (and I think he really likes the colour light blue).
|1961 Penfolds Sauternes.
What do you top this up with?
Also passing through were some cracking old wines, including an early 70s St Henri, a 1961 Penfolds Sauternes and some early 707s, all in a range of conditions and formats. As ever the joy of these events is that not only do you get to see what people bring, but samples of the wines tend to flow too (including a bar with all of the new releases on tap). Given the quality of this experience – and the fact that it is free for anyone who has a specifically old bottle of Penfolds wine – its not surprising that the recorking clinic itself tends to turn people into Penfolds zealots – walking, talking brand ambassadors, brandishing freshly recorked bottles of Penfolds reds and a sense of brand connection. Smart marketing that (if much more expensive than just some plain old magazine ads like every other winery).
As for this bottle of 389, I must confess that I have no idea where it came from (check your cellar). Gee it was an interesting experience to to try it before and after addition though, having been opened in front of us an example of the process, tested by Peter and then topped up with 2009 vintage Bin 389, the wine then gassed and recorked for us to drink at a later date (just one later day in this case).
Perhaps the main question that I wanted to raise was whether that addition diluted the ‘time capsule’ nature of the juice in the bottle? Having tasted the results, I think it did indeed made the wine look fresher and more vibrant at the edge, a factor which some may see as sacrilege. Yet I can say that the recorked wine certainly tasted better than the unadjusted older wine which is a convincing conclusion if ever there was one. A small price to pay for what was a better drink?
But back to how it tasted – it had quite a heavy nose actually, signalling that it would have been a rich and rather concentrated red in its youth. Amidst that meaty red fruit there was plenty of development too, hints of brown mushrooms, red dirt and black pepper, the fruit largely a remnant but still sweet enough to carry the wine forward.
That weight carried through onto the palate which looked bulky and quite sweet, still punctuated by obtuse tannins and with soft acidity. What drives this wine really is the richness of the mid palate, along with the joy of the ‘mushrooms in red wine sauce’ style development that shows no sign of decay.
Whilst I don’t think this 389 is going to get better I like the rich, earthen old Penfolds red palate and the fact that it still carries the length of fruit to impress. Mid weight but weighty, this even started to show more dark fruits as it opened up. Never a superstar wine, but a perfectly respectable drink.
Drink: Now – 2017 (according to how mature you like to drink them)