By Lorcan O'Brien | Wine Content Specialist
The O'Briens Wine Team are delighted to announce our exclusive partnership with the iconic Australian winery, Penfolds. Their new vintage releases will land in our stores in October, exclusive to O'Briens.
To celebrate, this week I am taking a look at the wines that cemented the status of Penfolds as Australia's 'First Growth'.
Where else can I start than with the most iconic Australian wine of them all: Penfolds Grange?
First made in 1951 as an experiment by then winemaker Max Schubert, Grange has gone on to be recognised as Australia's First Growth and one of the most sought-after wines in the world. It is a blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, sourced from some of the finest vineyards in South Australia, including the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and the original Penfolds Magill Estate.
At five years old, the 2016 vintage is still a baby and, if well-cellared, could age for many years to come. In 2018 a good friend shared a bottle of the excellent 1996 vintage and it was still wonderfully perfumed and chock full of vibrant dark fruits and mouth-tingling spiced complexity. Penfolds Grange is an aspirational, once-off wine to mark life's grandest occasions, and one to be shared with our very nearest and dearest.
The 2016 vintage of Grange was awarded a whopping 98 Points by Decanter Wine Magazine:
"So much going on in the glass; it’s a tempestuous opera with a big cast. On the nose, there’s high lift from a big, generous swirl of fruity aromas that carry a hint of fermented fig among the blackberry, dark plum and aniseed. Investigate further on the palate and there’s a lot going on within its dense hedge of dark berries and secondary flavours of mocha and liquorice. Ultimately, it’s the heavy black notes that win out and persist, but there is so much to ponder, even after the event has concluded. A Grange worth mulling over.
Drinking Window 2022 - 2065"
Peter Gago, Chief Winemaker Penfolds
Penfolds Bin 389 was first made by iconic winemaker, Max Schubert in 1960, and is often referred to as ‘Baby Grange’, as its component wines are matured in the same barrels that held the previous vintage of Grange.
This is a more accessible wine and ready to drink younger than Grange, but still offers all the same winemaking dedication and skill as the estate's top wine.
The 2018 vintage is wonderfully fragrant, with aromas of cassis and juniper, subtle hints of vanilla and coconut from ageing in American oak barrels. On the palate concentrated flavours of black cherry stand out, with the firm tannins adding structure to this rich, robust, full bodied wine.
"Put simply, Bin 389 manifests all that is Penfolds… a wine that so many of us have grown with. This style extolls the wisdom of blending, as it does the synergies afforded by varietal and sourcing freedom."
– Peter Gago, Penfolds Chief Winemaker
Another iconic Australian wine, Penfolds Bin 144 Yattarna Chardonnay epitomises the finesse, restraint and character of modern Australian Chardonnay. 100 percent barrel fermented, aged 8-10 months on lees to build complexity and texture. Yattarna Chardonnay is a multi-regional blend from the cooler climate Adelaide Hills, Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales. Pale gold in colour, Intense pink grapefruit, lemon curd, lime and bitter lemon aromas with flinty yeasty notes. A richly expressive wine with grapefruit and lemon flavours, textured creamy palette with crisp acidity delivers complexity and grace.
Together with the Riesling below, this is my pick of the range: affordable and ready to drink upon release, but also has the depth of fruit and structure to age for many years.
First made by Max Schubert in 1951, Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz has similar pedigree to the more illustrious reds above. It is full-bodied and multi-dimensional, with an assortment of flavours, including blackcurrant, dates, beef and stout pie, dried fig aligned with solid firm tannins, culminating in a long, lingering finish. A real benchmark South Australian Shiraz.
"Warm-climate blend of Barossa, McLaren Vale and Padthaway fruit. Deep, primary dark ruby colour. And yet it's from a cool growing season, with the harvest finishing a month later than the previous year. It displays a subdued, spicy richness of aroma spliced with a hint of cooler vintage pepper. The palate though is typically generously fruited, with blackberry fruit infused with Penfolds’ trademark toasty vanillin American oak - an umami feel, it's underpinned by nicely resolved tannins that are very much present in the mouthfeel, gradually softening as the wine tapers towards its sumptuous conclusion. Bring on the chilli con carne or braised pork belly.
Drinking Window 2020 - 2030"
- 92 Points, Decanter Wine Magazine
Penfolds Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling will always have a special resonance for me- it was the very first wine I bought when I joined O'Briens- and seems to improve each year.
It is produced from certified sustainably farmed grapes, sourced from the Eden valley and other locations in South Australia. It is a highly aromatic style of wine, offering freshly cut lemon aromas, backed up by mandarin and red grapefruit, alongside a lifted floral character.
This is a bone dry Riesling with a crisp acidity and long finish that would pair wonderfully with a wide range of foods- from slightly spiced Asian cuisine to simply baked fresh white fish.
Lorcan is O’Briens Wine Content Specialist, charged with spreading the wine word and keeping our customers and staff up to date with news of our wines and winemakers through his dedicated and passionate writing. Previously an O’Briens store Manager, Lorcan has written about wine in Ireland and Spain and is currently studying for the WSET Diploma. In his spare time Lorcan hosts wine tastings, blogs about wine and judges in wine competitions.
*Pricing correct at time of publishing. For the most up to date prices see our stores or website.