Penfolds New Vintage Release Tasting & Winemaker Dinner – 20/11/14

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I’ve always shied away from Penfolds. Big, fruity, high alcohol wines with not much in the way of complexity...or so I thought. A big brand whose wines I was probably put off due to Uni days swilling the absolute rubbish of other big brands from Australia and California. It’s easy to get put off and in a world with such amazing choice it’s even easier not to go back. So that’s how I’ve felt about Penfolds for a number of years and I’ve never really revisited to give it another chance. I never really felt the urge. Until last week that is…

A good friend of mine here in HK emailed me to say she’d got a couple of spare seats at the Annual Penfold’s New Vintage Release Tasting and Winemaker Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton (Grange 2010 included!) and would I like to come along. It didn’t take me long to reply. I naturally jumped at the chance to give Penfolds another go and by the end of the evening my views had indeed changed somewhat.

There is no doubt that at the bottom end of the Penfolds range there are lots of wines that don’t fit my personal bill of enjoyment. However, I’m sure there are many out there who like that rich, full, fruit forward style and that's great. That’s part of what’s so brilliant about wine, its sheer diversity and the fact there really is a wine out there for everyone.

What this tasting taught me was that despite my own personal preferences, Penfolds does indeed make some very high-class wines, Grange of course included. For the most part I have to admit the wines are a bit too big for me. It’s great to be able to taste them and appreciate them for what they are but would I be able to drink a bottle of Grange or RWT? Probably not. I’ll stick to my Italians and Spanish for that. But for those of you who love big flavours, lots of concentration and power, and smooth velvety tannins, these are the wines for you!

Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2014

Floral and sherbet aromas with lime and green apple tones typically of young Riesling. Tropical fruit flavours on the palate with moderate acidity. 15.5

Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2013

Lemon and tropical fruit aromas with some subtle oak character and creamy notes. A toasty yet fresh finish. 16

Yattarna Chardonnay 2012

Plenty of savoury oak character with ripe lemon notes and a creamy touch. Quite soft on the palate with nice fresh acidity. 16.5

Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2012

Very jammy black fruit notes, black berry, spice, smooth tannins, warm alcohol. 15.5

Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Cassis notes with herbaceous touches, particularly menthol, very aromatic. Full flavour on the palate with firm tannin. 16

Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2012

Lots of black fruit and eucalyptus with pepper spice, full body and good levels of acidity and tannin. 16.5

St Henri Shiraz 2011

Scented black fruit character, black pepper, oak and savoury notes. Nice rounded tannins and full body. 17

RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2012

Opaque, purple in colour with very scented, deep black fruit, dark chocolate, liquorice and a floral violet hint. Soy sauce and a meaty touch alongside oak, toast and sweet vanilla spice. High alcohol (14.5%), very smooth tannins, good balance, very complex. 18

Grange 2010

Deep purple with aromatic blackberry and herbal touches including eucalyptus and pepper spice. Plenty of new oak here with tons of milk chocolate, vanilla and coconut character. Full bodied, very smooth tannins, medium acidity, high alcohol. A very prolonged, concentrated, complex finish. 18.5

Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon 1996

Savoury on the nose with notes of leather and barnyard accompanying eucalyptus and black berry notes. Very smooth, rounded tannins and a long, complex, spicy finish. Very nice. 18.5 

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