For part one of this three-part Penfolds Ultra-Premium Experience, click here.
Next up was Penfolds’s own take on the Rhône signature blend commonly referred to amongst wine folk as “GSM”, or Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre.
Nothing in wine is ever simple however, with one pertinent example being wine grape names which can vary quite differently depending on the country in which it is being produced; bear in mind that wine growing far, far precedes transnational uniform agreements on naming and standards, so differences in grape naming can cary widely. Not good news for newcomers trying to get their heads around the wine game, unfortunately.
So when it comes to GSM, the French name Grenache may be translated into the Spanish Garnacha, but not usually in this case; Syrah may cast off its French yoke and take on the blasphemous Aussie ‘Shiraz’ moniker, which is quite common nowadays; and Mourvèdre may, rarely, become turncoat and turn its back on its (again) French heartland to rechristen itself as Spanish Mataró, though this is less widespread.
Penfolds have placed a foot in each camp with a French-Spanish-Australian triumvirate it calls its Shiraz/Grenache/Mataró blend: Bin 138 2011. But that’s SGM and not GSM you’ll note, and to make matters more confusing they refer to Mourvèdre and not Mataró in their supporting material in direct contrast to what it says on the wine’s label on the facing page, but there you have it. Best not force the issue.
Anyway, this was the joker in the pack as far as this event’s lineup was concerned: all the other reds consisted of either Shiraz, Cabernet or both, yet here was a mongrel of a wine seldom referred to in the usual Penfolds schtick. With a cherried, pomegranite and rhubarb nose and a candied cranberry palate, I found it to be a bit two-dimensional and not terribly exciting, though it did retain just enough tannin to keep the structure sound. Best move on then in other words.
The intense and concentrated Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2010 came next, a multi-region blend with the Barossa featuring strongly, a single plot in which the Bin 28 was originally sourced and from which it takes its name. I have to admit that this was already a favourite of mine coming into the tasting so I have to say I’m prejudiced. It didn’t disappoint though: deep, concentrated and intense, it’s perhaps a little too tightly wound and maybe needs to loosen up a little, though for al the better. Some coffee and black pepper on the nose with a touch of liquorice leads a tautly mineral palate. There was a flash of unwanted heat from the alcohol, which confirmed the need to leave it be for a few years, but then there was coffee, mocha, blackberry… it was powerful and full-bodied but elegant, tight tannin and fantastic length. Incredible in other words, one of my favourites of the day, and given the royalty on show this is very good value at €30.
Interestingly it was then straight on to another Shiraz, the Bin 150 Marananaga Shiraz 2010, which provided an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast styles. The Bin 150 is Penfolds’ experimentation in sub-regional expression, sourcing its fruit entirely from the Marananga vineyard in the Barossa valley. I thought it was strange to place the Bin 150 straight after the Bin 28 however, since the former was more lifted and forthcoming than the dark and brooding Bin 28. That’s not a bad thing though, of course, it’s just different. Again some black pepper on the nose, though this time with some dried cranberries and juniper I thought, and a livelier, lighter palate that unfortunately didn’t have the length of the Bin 28 but was nevertheless noteworthy. Still, I may have appreciated it more had it been served before the Kalimna, and given it’s exactly twice the price I know which one I’d choose.
Then it was on to the first Cabernet of the day, the Bin 407, which ticked all the boxes of good Cab with blackcurrant and cedar dominating, but as I’ve never had it before: fresher, more floral, softer, but still maintaining the touches of cassis, green pepper and pencil shavings typical of the style. This wine has class. A fantastic palate, smooth and silky, a tingle of tannin, excellent length, a real quality drop. A beautiful wine.
Finally (for now) it was on to the distinctly Australian blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon in the form of Bin 389. I find Shiraz/Cab blends to be somewhat hedonistic, offering up lots of ripe, lush, varied fruit in an easily-approachable style. In this case it was no different: an absolutely beautiful nose in which, surprisingly, the Cab was dominant with its cassis and pencil shavings with some Shiraz pepper underneath. The palate was tight and tingling and surprisingly unforthcoming with the fruit – in fact it was a little closed and may need a couple of years, and some time in the glass suggested this as it opened up to a silky, classy, yet still restrained drop. Another winner for Penfolds.
Phew! And if you though that was a rush of exhilarating fine wine, we’re not even on to the top flight yet…
Penfolds Bin 138 Shiraz Grenache Marató 2011
€32 approx. from good specialist off-licences
65% Shiraz, 20% Grenache, 15% Marató
Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2010
€30 approx. from good specialist off-licences
Penfolds Bin 150 Maranaga Shiraz 2010
€60 approx. from good specialist off-licences
Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
€58 approx. from good specialist off-licences
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2010
€61 approx. from good specialist off-licences
51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 49% Shiraz