Tag Archives: Grenache

The Aldi Wine Lover’s Sale, August 2017

I was grateful to be invited to the Aldi Wine Lover’s Sale preview last week, a first glance at a range of wines the German discounter has brought into Ireland for a limited run.

There wasn’t a massive offering, which made the tasting gloriously concise. On a similar note, this post will be similarly as brief, highlighting some of my picks rather than detailing every wine tasted.

These are available in all 129 Aldi stores nationwide from yesterday, Thursday 3rd August, while stocks last. For other opinions on the sale, check out these

Tom Doorley
John Wilson
Carol from Gin & Griddle
John from ProperFood
Cathal from Glass of Red Wine


My Top Red Pick
El Casatero, Old Vines Garnacha, Spain. €9.99

I’m not the only one to single out this wine as either the best of the bunch, or at least very close. Old vines tend to give more concentrated and ‘serious’ wines, and El Casatero is an exemplar of this.

For a cent shy of a tenner you’re getting ripe, concentrated strawberry and blackberry fruit, with a density and length you wouldn’t expect for this price. Excellent – grab a few bottles if there’s any left this weekend.

 

One To Impress Your Friends
Uva Pirata, Petit Verdot, Spain. €11.99

… if your friends like edgy, alternative packaging that is. The bottle is undoubtedly an eye-catcher, but thankfully the juice lives up to the promise too.

This has bright and crunchy red and blue fruit flavours, with a warm and spicy body and even a nice light bite of tannin coming through. It’s a great package, and sure to impress.

 

The High-Octane One
The Restless Wine Merchant, Shiraz, Australia. €10.99

There is a significant market out there that enjoys nothing more than full-throttle, chunky, balls-to-the-wall red wines, and this one would hit the spot nicely for them. Thankfully for everyone else, it’s heavy but not overbearing, meaning it won’t be a struggle to get it down your gullet.

It’s a full-on, typically Aussie shiraz, with tons of distinctive menthol and lush blackberry fruit. Definitely one for the barbie. Strewth!

 

The Contemplative One
Punta de Lobos, Carménère Gran Reserva, Chile. €9.99

It’s the bouquet on this one that most appealed to me: there was attractive lavender, blueberry and herbal tinges in this fragrant and calming wine. The palate was soft and juicy and dense, appealing to richer tastes, and though the palate didn’t quite match up to the nose it was a pleasant all-round experience nevertheless.

 

The Party Wine
Grand Sud Merlot, France. €8.99 for 1 litre (equates to €6.74 for a regular-sized bottle)

It looks cheap, it is cheap, but it’s great value for the price. It’s nothing more than pleasantly drinkable, which is far more than you’d expect at this price. Perfect for glugging at parties.

 

The Top White Pick
The Forgotten Row, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand. €9.99

Yawn. Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc – I’m pretty tired of the style at this point, despite its unprecedented and ongoing popularity generally.

But what’s this? An inexpensive Savvie from NZ that not a tropical fruit-bomb? Yes please!

OK, so it’s still quite ripe and flavoursome, but in the herbal, pea-and-asparagus style that nods to the grape’s European roots. A nice refreshing alternative for any Kiwi Sauv Blanc lover.

 

The Sparkling One
Gardo & Morris, Sparkling Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand. €19.99

It’s Sauvignon Blanc passed through the commercial winery’s version of a Soda Stream, basically. If you love Savvie, you’ll love this. Quite fun and interesting, though at near €20 there are a few Cavas I could recommend in it’s place. A curiosity.

 

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Penfolds: A Liaison with a Legend

Wine regions are often classified as either “Old World” or “New World”, a convenient, if blunt, dichotomy that in reality means Europe and everywhere else, respectively.

But many “New World” producers are quite uncomfortable with being called ‘new’, given a lot of them have been around for over a century. They’re also wary of the negative connotations the label has with most regular consumers, where it is often thought that the ‘new’ can’t ever be as good as the ‘old’.

But until a more satisfactory and snappy categorisation can be agreed on, then the old Eurocentric terminology will be with us for some time yet. That doesn’t stop New World producers understandably raising the issue in exasperation every now and then, however.

Once such occasion was in 2013, when Australian winery Penfolds was named Best New World Winery by the respected Wine Enthusiast magazine in the US. At the same time the publication also named the famous Spanish producer Marqués de Riscal as their European Winery of the Year, colloquially known to all involved as the ‘Old World Winery of the Year Award’.

penfolds-collage-1

Peter Gago, the Penfolds Chief Winemaker, accepted the award in New York on behalf of the winery, and though he was truthfully very honoured he couldn’t help but raise the old bête noire in his acceptance speech.

Gago pointed out that the ‘historic’ Marqués de Riscal was founded in 1858, a full fourteen years after Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold established a small winery at Magill Estate, near Adelaide in South Australia, in 1844.

So, effectively, the best “New World” winery that year was older than the best “Old World” winery. And though Gago didn’t labour the point, the inference was crystal clear: the hackneyed terminology we so casually use is not only condescending and potentially damaging, it’s also simply factually incorrect in many cases.

Though it was generous of Gago to raise the flag once again for the “New World”, he personally didn’t need to fret as his winery has perhaps done more than most to take on the big boys of the “Old World”, often winning out in many cases. For Penfolds is one of those wineries that induce misty-eyed admiration from all creeds of wine lovers, given their history, prominence and aspirations – and now thanks to a new innovation by their Irish importers we’ll have a chance to ‘Experience’ Penfolds more easily this Autumn.

In The Mix

Sam Stephens, European Brand Manager for Penfolds, relayed the above anecdote to us this August while he was in Dublin to launch for the first time a set of four mixed cases of wine dubbed The Penfolds Experience Collection.

Tackling the range of Penfolds wines can be a bit daunting, it has to be said. Apart from their critically acclaimed Koonunga Hill range at the introductory level, the vast majority of their wines are known by their ‘bin numbers’, which historically indicated where in the warehouse they were stored.But there isn’t any hierarchy nor any obvious pattern to the numbering, so getting your head around the Bin Range can often be a case of rote learning rather than deduction.

penfolds-collage-2

This is where this new collection of mixed cases comes in. Bringing “learning by doing” to a new context, Irish consumers now have the opportunity to taste through themed cases of Penfolds wines rather than choosing one – often at random – from your off-licence shelf.

 

A Journey of a Thousand Sips…

The experience begins with The Explorer’s Collection, a set of five wines that serve as a wide-ranging introduction to the rarefied world of Penfolds’ Bins, allowing a glimpse of Penfolds’s blending prowess, a taster of a number of grapes they’re adept at producing, and a side-by-side comparison of two takes on that most Australian of grapes, Shiraz.

The case contains the Bin 8 Cabernet Shiraz, their approachable version of the famous “Aussie Blend”; the Bin 138 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre, Penfolds’s take on the famous trilogy of grapes that call the Rhône their home; the Bin 2 Shiraz Mourvedre, originally released in 1960 and again recently reinstated after hiatus of a few decades; and finally two ‘straight’ Shirazes: Bin 128 which is sourced exclusively from Coonawarra, and Bin 28 Kalimna which is a multi-regional blend.

As the name suggests this is the perfect set from which to start your Penfolds exploration and, despite being from the same producer, offers a wide range of styles to enjoy. Ideal for Christmas, if I may be allowed to mention ‘The C Word” this early!

penfolds-collage-3

A Good Year

Things start to get serious pretty quickly from then on in. Next up is The 2013 Vintage Collection, a set of three pairs of wines retailing at €350 which – you guessed it – were all harvested three years ago.

But it’s not a random assortment, thankfully, and it’s clear some thought has gone into the wines that make up the mix: a 100% Cabernet in the guise of Bin 407, the 100% Shiraz Bin 150 Marananga, and then a Cabernet / Shiraz blend via the famous Bin 389.

This innovative assembly not only allows the chance to hold your own ‘horizontal tasting’ – that is, sampling wines across a common vintage – but it also allows the opportunity to experience two 100% varietal wines before seeing what they taste like blended together. It’s almost like being a winemaker for the day. Almost.

 

The Wine from Dr. Penfold’s Back Garden

If you were paying attention earlier then the name ‘Magill’ will ring a bell – yes, it’s where Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold established his winery in 1844, so these wines are literally from where it all started.

I’d highly recommend searching for “Penfolds Magill Estate Winery” on Google Maps to witness the unusual sight of what is today a fully-fledged vineyard and winery in the suburbs of a major city, an oddity resulting from the city gradually extending out to – and eventually around – the original Magill Estate vineyard.

The Magill Experience Collection contains three pairs of vintages of the eponymous wine – 2008, 2010 and 2011 – allowing the superb opportunity to taste through the seasons of this tiny walled vineyard that is a mere 8kms from Adelaide city centre.

It’s truly the serious collector’s case and a chance to taste 170 years of history.

 

The Wine at the End of the Earth

The pinnacle. The zenith. The wine that was initially made in secret, such was its revelatory approach. The wine that is only one of a handful in the world to ever achieve 100 points in both the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator for the same vintage. One of the most collectible wines in the world and the only wine to be listed as a Heritage Icon by the South Australian National Trust, such is its prominence.

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So Penfolds Grange is an important wine, to say the least; a legend in the truest sense. Many wine lovers would consider themselves lucky to even taste Grange, let alone get their hands on a flight of three different vintages.

But that opportunity is a distinct possibility today, thanks to The Grange Experience Collection. Though not cheap at a hearty €3,000, to buy a single bottle on its own can cost roughly €700-€800, depending on the retailer. If you can find a bottle, that is.

The 2009 is best enjoyed first with its generous lush fruit. Then you can argue over whether to sample the concentrated and intense plum and baking spice of the 2010, or the supple eucalypt tinge of the 2011.

Or, indeed, get the Coravin out and enjoy a tasting glass of each over the course of a decade or more. Either way, these wines are in for the long haul.


THREE TO TRY

The Explorer’s Collection
€180 from select specialist off-licences this Autumn.
This really is an excellent intro to the world of Penfolds.

Penfolds: The Australian Wine Legend you Can Count On

The 2013 Vintage Collection
€350 from select specialist off-licences this Autumn
I really enjoyed the thoughtful, straight-forward approach of this case, from the rich but elegantly balanced Bin 407 Cabernet to the heady and opulent Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz, finishing at the famous “Baby Grange” that is the decadently delicate Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz.

Penfolds: The Australian Wine Legend you Can Count On

The Magill Experience Collection
€600 from select specialist off-licences this Autumn
A real collector’s case, offering three different styles of wine from three distinctly different vintages. Start with the austere, maturing 2008 then move on to the fuller but still restrained 2011 vintage, before finishing on the opulent 2011 tinged with baking spice and blackberry.

Penfolds: The Australian Wine Legend you Can Count On

 

This post originally appeared on TheTaste.ie

Two New Aussies Hit Irish Shores

Australian wine can often be misunderstood here in Ireland, with many (maybe most?) people directly equating all output from this immensely diverse country – nay, continent – with the cheap and nasty stuff with pretty animals on the labels.

The real truth is that Australia has an incredible array of wines: from cheap to ultra-expensive; simple quaffers to multi-layered and complex bottles; from old reliable grapes to new and exciting plantings of obscure varieties. Really, Oz wines are amazing nowadays, but that’s for another day’s blog post.

But lest we forget what Australia does best, two new wines have come to the Irish market to remind us of the characteristics that made us fall in love with Aussie wine in the first place.

Barossa Valley Estate (or BVE for short) have recently launched both a straight shiraz and a blend consisting of grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre. The latter is an age-old, traditional blend from the Rhône valley in France which is often abbreviated to its acronym, GSM. So you could call it a “BVE GSM” if that kind of thing takes your fancy.

As if the name wasn’t already a giveaway, the estate is based in – you guessed it – the Barossa Valley, perhaps the most famous quality wine region in Oz that holds some of the oldest vines in the world, with some amazingly over 150 years in age.

Coincidentally, the same week I received the two bottles of BVE I spotted the same said Barossa Valley Estate on the cover of The Tasting Panel magazine. If you’d like to read more I’d highly recommend clicking the link or the image below for the full run-down on the brand – they’ve said it much better than I ever could (plus copy-and-pasting isn’t my thing).

The Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz is made in the reliable, beefy, rich, soft style that we’ve come to love from Oz. Supple and rich, it has choc-loads of plummy dark fruit and toasty vanilla oak, and is sure to be a hit with anyone who loves big Aussie shiraz or similar chunky wines such as Argentine malbec.

The Barossa Valley Estate Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre, meanwhile, consists of 45%, 41% and 14% of those grapes respectively, and is a touch lighter than the straight shiraz though still on the beefier side of this style. The fruit flavours are more on the red berry end of the spectrum with strawberry more evident, and to be honest I preferred this style which was a little more balanced and poised.

The two wines are available from SuperValu for €16.99 (down to a fantastic €13 at the moment), while the straight shiraz is available in O’Brien’s for €16.99 also. Both will be loved by anyone who tends towards the bigger, richer, more unforgiving style of wine.

And in this weather at this time of year, something hearty and warming may just be the ticket.

Disclaimer: I was offered these bottles as free samples, but I was never asked to write a review, whether positive or negative. As always all opinions are honest and completely my own.

TASTING PANEL November
Click here to read more about Barossa Valley Estate

The “Wine Days” of 2015

Here’s an interesting graphic sourced from the www.americanwineryguide.com: a guide to all the “wine days” that we can look forward to this year.

Though a few are obviously American-centric – I can’t see myself raising a glass to Michigan Wine Month any time soon – it still provides a nice focus and a good excuse to crack open a bottle of something you wouldn’t normally reach for.

I won’t need any convincing to enjoy Champagne Day, but the days allocated to Moscato, Grenache, and even Sauvignon Blanc (which I normally avoid) will hopefully provide enough excuse for me to finally buy a bottle of that variety and, in the case of the latter at least, set aside ingrained prejudice and give peace a chance.

Here are the days most relevant to us in Ireland:

9th May: Moscato
15th May: Sauvignon Blanc
21st May: Chardonnay
2nd August: Albariño (Spain) / Alvarinho (Portugal)
27th August: Cabernet Sauvignon
18th September: Grenache
23rd October: Champagne
7th November: Merlot
12th November: Tempranillo
19th November: Zinfandel

And here’s the full chart:

See you on Moscato Day…!

Highlights from The Corkscrew Winter Wine Fair – Part 2

 For Part 1 – which included my sparkling and white wine choices – click here.

Looking back over my notes now I realise that I regretfully missed quite a few wines that I would really loved to have spent some time over: a tableful of Portuguese dry wines ruefully skipped; another table that held nothing but sherries, a missed opportunity to  fill in a major gap in my knowledge; the reds of Domaine La Perriere and Domaine Sagat, whose whites I really enjoyed; the first ever craft beer section; and so on.

But such is life, and these things roll around again. Anyway, below are some reds that jumped out at me on the day:

Allegrini La Grola 2010
€27.95 from The Corkscrew, Mitchell & SonWineOnline.ie

A beautifully rich and intense wine, herb-tinged and deliciously structured. Another cracker from Allegrini, and an interesting mix of 80% Corvina, 10% Syrah and 10% Oseleta, the previously ‘lost’ grape native to the Veneto recently ‘resurrected’ by Masi.

 

Rodet Bourgogne Pinot Noir
€15.99 from The Corkscrew

For me the generic ‘Bourgogne Pinot Noir’ is something of a minefield. Burgundy is the home of Pinot Noir and where the best expression of the grape can be found, albeit at a price. The more affordable bottles – simply labelled Bourgogne (i.e. Burgundy) – mostly don’t do the region any justice and tend to be thin and cheap-tasting in my experience.

But this is the best generic Bourgogne I’ve come across. It’s noticeably light but has a lovely mineral streak over some delicate savoury flavours. Refreshing and elegant.

 

Niepoort Rótulo, Dão 2012
€17.50 from The Corkscrew

Dry Portuguese reds are definitely in the ascendancy at the moment, but it’s a style I’m ashamedly not familiar with. Interestingly,  Niepoort have opted to prioritise – nay, exalt – the Dão region very prominently on the colourful label ahead of the historic and famous Niepoort name, or indeed even its given

It’s very intense, taut and concentrated but with elegant floral and dark fruit flavours; the tannin is just right and calls out for food. But I won’t event try and pronounce the grapes: Touriga Nacional, Jaen and Alfrocheir.

 

Ziereisen Tschuppen 2011
€23.95 from The Corkscrew

“This is Pinot Noir”, said the man behind the table (who I later discovered was Ben Mason of Origin Wines). “Or do you mean … Spätburgunder?” said I, twinkle in my eye. “Ho ho ho” we chuckled together, knowingly, for what fun we trade insiders have .

Seriously, this was an amazingly impressive wine, a steal at under €25. It toes the line between the New World and Old World style of Pinot deftly, taking the savoury elegance of the latter and combining it with some headonistic richness of the former. A really notable wine.

 

Château du Cèdre Heritage Malbec 2011
€14.95 from Le Caveau, The Corkscrew, TheWineShop.ie

Another great value wine from Le Caveau with fresh, juicy, ripe sweet fruit. Given it’s organically produced the value is even more impressive.

 

Chaume-Arnaud Côtes du Rhône 2012
€16.55 from Le Caveau, MacGuinness Wine Merchants

Another VGVFM (Very Good Value For Money) wine; medium-bodied, spicy and noticeable tannins that cry out for some meaty food. A traditional blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Cinsault.

 

Maison Ambroise, Cotes de Nuits Villages 2010
€28.90 from Le Caveau and MacGuinnes Wine Merchants

A delicious, fresh wine of cherry and red berries but also an underlying savoury note, light but packed with flavour, really beautiful. Again organic; chapeau to Le Caveau for sticking their neck out and producing such ethical, delicious wines for such amazing prices.

 

Mouchão 2007
€38.95 from The Corkscrew

An incredible, amazing nose of smoky complexity. Outstanding stuff, deep, intense, multi-layered, meaty, taut and with tingling acidity. An outstanding heavy-hitter, made predominantly from Alicante Bouschet with a small percentage of Trincadeira

 

Château de Pierreux Brouilly Réserve 2007
€24.95 from The Corkscrew

A Beaujolais no doubt! I’m usually wary of the region, which I’m aware is a sweeping generalisation, but good examples for me tend to be few and far between, diamonds in the rough. This is one such wine, though; smooth and delicious with some gentle spice , noticeable tannin and a lip-smacking finish.

The Ely Big Rhône Tasting 2014

Though a little late in the posting – given this is based on a tasting conducted on the 6th November – if you’re reading this before Christmas Day then in theory this is actually perfectly well timed for the festive season. That’s how I’m validating the delay to myself anyway.

Last month I popped in to the Big Rhône Tasting that took place in the atmospheric subterranean vaults of Ely CHQ to get my chops around the wines of the famous southern French wine region.

This is the second iteration of Rhône Wine Week, organised by Rhône experts and general all-round lovely people Tyrrell & Co. (Wine Importers) Ltd with a little help from Inter Rhônes. It’s heartening to see the love and support Simon Tyrrell et al receive from the wine community before and during this week, all of it absolutely warranted.

Events are run up and down the country in the shape of everything from light and fun intro evenings to serious tastings and brain-churning quizzes that would make the most expert wine buff sweat.

Throw in radio spots, dinners and lots more besides, and you have an amazingly well-assembled and comprehensive paean to a region Simon Tyrrell feels is under-loved; at this rate there no fear of that being a reality for much longer.

You can read more about the week on the Rhône Wine Week website, as well as Jean Smullen’s Wine Diary and plenty of other places if you Google it.

 


The Findlater Selection

My first port of call was the Findlater Wine & Spirit Group stand to call in on some friends and former colleagues who on this occasion were showing a nice broad range of wines from renowned – and sometimes controversial – Rhône producer M. Chapoutier. I’ve written extensively about the living legend that is Michel Chapoutier and his company which you can swot up on again here.

 

Chapoutier ‘Belleruche’ Rouge Côtes du Rhône 2013
€15.99 from O’Brien’s nationwide; The Vintry, Rathgar, Dublin; Molloys Off-Licences, Dublin; Martins of Fairview, Dublin; Next Door Off-Licences nationwide; Mitchell & Son, Dublin
Soft and sweet but still some nice drying tannins at the end; cherry and coffee with some of the expected spiciness, but not excessively. Quite good value for money and another wine that dispels my quickly-fading fear of generic Côtes du Rhône.

 

Chapoutier Gigondas 2011
€25.99 from O’Brien’s nationwide; WineOnline.ie
A really lovely wine with a much more floral nose than expected, underlaid with some herbal characteristics and leather. The palate is light and silky but has a slightly bitter, tannic finish that cries out for food. Great tasting on its own at a table but would be amazing with some meaty fare.

 


Chapoutier ‘Les Meysonniers’ Crozes-Hermitage 2012

€20.99 from O’Brien’s nationwide; Millésima
This wine was much more the ‘typical’ Rhône style I had come to expect with noticeable spice and a kick of heat over savoury, leathery flavours and dark red fruit. Despite this the palate was again much lighter and silkier than expected, with tannins nice and integrated.

 

Chapoutier ‘La Bernardine’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012
€34.99 from O’Brien’s nationwide; The Vintry, Rathgar, Dublin; WineOnline.ieMillésima
Much more deep and concentrated this one, with brambly fruit, damson and blackberry with some grilled meat notes too. The palate is taut with only a gentle lick of black pepper spice – again another food-hungry wine.

 

Chapoutier Rasteau 2012
€19.99
I’ve written “more tactile than flavoursome” in my notes, but that’s not in a negative way: apart from some nice but general savoury, blackberry, slightly spicy characteristics, for me the wine was better enjoyed for its silky, taut, brooding palate. At this price it’s really good value for money, a sort of little brother to the ‘La Bernardine’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape perhaps. Really good value for money.

 

 


 

Best of the Rest

It’s incredible in retrospect, but I didn’t get to taste any white wines, most definitely a loss on my part as I rarely (correction: ever) get to taste white wines from the Rhône normally. But given the tight timing (I had to rush off to a dinner with friends) and the fact I was with a friend who was definitely a ‘red’ guy, then the whites had to be sacrificed in order to prioritise those wines that the region is most noted for. Next year I’ll be sure to sample some whites!

 

Simone Joseph ‘Les Vignes Paralleles’ Côtes du Rhône 2012
€13.45 from TheWineStore.ie; TheDrinkStore.ie
I had to do a double-take at the price of this wine – at €13.45 it’s incredible value for money. Though hardly the most complex wine of the evening, understandably, for some decent change out of €15 you get a lightly pleasant, interesting wine from Simon Tyrrell’s own négociant business.

 

Domaine Brusset Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Villages ‘Les Travers’ 2010
€19.99 from Mitchell & Sons, Dublin
Initially I got some worryingly ‘green’ aromas on the nose, which thankfully faded quickly enough to give way to deeply brooding, interesting, dark fruit aromas, and a taut, rich, long and spicy palate of black fruit and dried currants. Really quite excellent, another excellent value for money wine.

 

Domaine La Monardière Vacqueyras 2010
€22.85 from JNwine.com and WineOnline.ie
Another wine with little by way of tasting notes, but this time due to chatting away to the affable Jonathan Tonge of JN Wines. What I do have recorded, however, is that this was a delightfully light wine but with a palate that defied its weight with taut, heady, savoury flavours and a long delicious finish.

 

Domaine Brusset Gigondas ‘Tradition Le Grand Montmirail’ 2012
€25.99 from Mitchell & Sons, Dublin
A really good wine made somewhat unapproachable by its immense tannins. Paired with some intensely meaty dishes – an/or a little time – this would soften out to be a really notable wine.

 

Pierre Gaillard Cornas 2012
€45.99 from Mitchell & Sons
One of the highest of highlights of the evening. I remember it taking my breath away, but evidently it took away my ability to write also as I simply have one word scrawled beside it in the booklet: “Wow!”

So I’ll have to refer you to Frankie Cook – who liked it also – who noted that, “it’s a delicious wine that showcases some of the best that Rhône Syrah can do.  There is bacon and black olives, pepper and spice, but above all refined power from the fruit.” Read the full review here.

 

Domaine M. et S. Ogier d’Ampuis Côte-Rôtie 2010
€74.95 from TheWineStore.ie
Wow wow wow – incredibly alluring and multi-faceted aromas above a saline, gorgeous palate of coffee, dates, cassis; long and luxurious, a stunner.

The Penfolds Ultra-Premium Experience: Part 2 of 3

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.

S KPenfolds 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.

4. Bin 28 Kalimna ShirazThe 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.

S KInterestingly 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.

6. Bin 407 Cabernet SauvignonThen 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.

7. Bin 389 Cabernet ShirazFinally (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
ww.penfolds.com
€32 approx. from good specialist off-licences
65% Shiraz, 20% Grenache, 15% Marató

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2010
www.penfolds.com
€30 approx. from good specialist off-licences
100% Shiraz

Penfolds Bin 150 Maranaga Shiraz 2010
ww.penfolds.com
€60 approx. from good specialist off-licences
100% Shiraz

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
www.penfolds.com
€58 approx. from good specialist off-licences
100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2010
ww.penfolds.com
€61 approx. from good specialist off-licences
51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 49% Shiraz