‘We’ve taken the old roller and painted it red.’
‘To make it go faster, to be fun and breezy. So that everyone can enjoy the ride. And appreciate the timelessness of a new beginning.’
They’re the words plastered over the Penley Estate website. A mission statement, if you like, to set the tone for Penley’s new approach.
I like the sentiment. It’s a welcome modern push from a typically conservative Coonawarra winery, and one that suggests there is more to life than full-bodied Cabernet in Bordeaux bottles. A life beyond the stereotypes (which I’ve talked about (here and here).
Moreso, I’d like to think as this pair of reds as part of the New Coonawarra.
New Coonawarra will feature wine in the mode of these fun reds. Like the new Punch Down Boys Field Blend from Dan Redman and Tim Bailey, or Steven Raidis’ array of Pinot Gris. All, welcomingly different.
Still, it’s early days, and this duo hasn’t nailed the brief yet. The start of the evolution, not the end point. The packaging and the intent, however, are exactly what is needed for Coonawarra to be dragged into the modern wine world.
Penley Estate Spring Release Cabernet Franc 2017
Ah, this is what we like to see. A wine that captures the fairly herbal, vital, peppered red fruit flavours that Loire Cab Franc does so very well. It’s a slightly tangy wine but not unripe, the fruit understated and indeed elegant. It won’t be to all tastes – the acid is still prominent, but the resulting energy is something often missing from Coonawarra. We don’t need to the green monsters of the 80s, but a little more elegance like this would be welcome. A signpost wine, if still just a little light and simple to be a classic. Still, more please! Best drinking: Good new, but will look good for six years, likely more. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $35. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Penley Estate Wild Ferment Shiraz 2016
By contrast to the Cab Franc, this is a reasonably conventional Coonwarra Shiraz, save for the wild ferment. If you want a singular illustration of the conservatism in Coonawarra you only need to realise that it’s unusual just to have a wild fermented red in the region. Mad! Also mad that Coonawarra, which has a climate well suited to organic viticulture, has only one certified organic producer (Koonara). Anyway, this Shiraz excellent packaging and promises plenty. Cranberry meets more riper plum, the mode again mid weight with that milk chocolate berries Coonawarra style, and quite firm, slightly astringent tannins. It’s again a fresh wine, if not quite the vital style of the Franc, the vintage delivering something a bit more rough-edged and robust. Still, pleasure here. Best drinking: Wait until next year, then for a good decade as a start. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? A glass.