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Penfolds Discovery Case tasting

by Tom Cannavan, 12/04

Exclusive to Majestic, this case of Penfolds wines covers pretty much the gamut of grapes and styles in the Penfolds portfolio, from unoaked, intensely mineral riesling to buttery, tropical chardonnay, and from wonderfully up-front, cheeky merlot to the altogether more serious St Henri Shiraz.

I'm not entirely sure what the story is of this case, with some of the wines from slightly older vintages - probably a clearance of warehouse or even winery stock - but at £95.50 it saves a huge £23.88 on the recommended price for this selection.

The wines are definitely not past their best: in fact, there are some great vintages that you might not find in single bottles now, and that extra year or so of maturity is a good thing for several of the wines.

The Discovery Case contains one bottle of each of the following wines. Call your local branch to check availability.

 

Penfolds (Australia) Rawson's Retreat 2001
When I first tasted this screwcapped wine a couple of years ago it was bursting with fresh, juicy lime fruit. Riesling normally ages really well, and now that aroma profile has been joined by lots of waxy, and typical paraffin-like aromas. There's a little exotic hint of pineapple and tropical fruit and floral nuances. The palate has plenty of richness, with medium-body, but the great cut and thrust is sweet yet sharp lime cordial flavours, with hints of juicy, ripe pear and apple. The finish is crisply-defined by pure, elegant acidity leaving it dry and fresh. Very good indeed.

Koonunga Hill (Australia) Sémillon Chardonnay 2002
Around 60% of the blend is Sémillon, and 25% of the wine is aged in used oak barrels, 75% on its lees in tank. This gives an attractive, buttery, vanillin lift to candied-fruit, apple and softer, quite smoky apricot aromas. It is bright and lemony on the palate, with hints of sweeter, more tropical fruits and an undertow of cashew nut and creamy richness. It is very fresh and clean, with the oak nicely understated, and a nicely balanced finish. Very good indeed.

Penfolds (Australia) Koonunga Hill Chardonnay 2002
Three months in small French oak barriques give a nutty, cashew aroma, juicy peach and tropical fruit and a nice hint of spice. On the palate a vanillin sweetness of oak layers over nectarine and pineapple, with a tangy grapefruit acidity freshening the finish. Very good/very good indeed.

Penfolds (Australia) Rawson's Retreat Merlot 2002
This has a really playful, raspberry fool nose, crammed with soft summer fruit aromas and hints of clove and spice. On the palate the sweetness of the fruit plays against quite a lot of charry, spicy oak and liquoricy tannins to give a precise, focused character of considerable intensity. Juicy and very fruity, it avoids being jammy and has lots of personality. This is a rather good, inexpensive Merlot. Very good indeed.

Penfolds (Australia) Koonunga Hill Cabernet Merlot 2001
My sample of this wine slightly corked, but beneath that I could discern a cedary, brightly-fruited wine. Past vintages of this have been good.

Penfolds (Australia) Koonunga Hill Shiraz/Cabernet 2001
This has a more rounded fruit quality, with blackcurrant/cassis intensity and a sweeter influence of American oak. The palate has plenty of sweet-edged black fruit. Again, a plum and chocolate bittersweet quality adds an edge to the mid-palate. Good balance, and though big-framed and pretty one dimensional, this is very good/very good indeed.

Penfolds (Australia) Thomas Hyland Shiraz 2001
This Thomas Hyland sees 11 months ageing in both French and American oak, but only 15% of it is new. It has a lovely bright nose of mulberry and eucalyptus, with some chocolate-coated raisin and cherry. Very individual and up-front. Good, spicy, velvety black fruit on the palate. Lots of sweetness and fudge-like quality, with punchy weight of alcohol and tannins. Long, focused and very good/very good indeed

Penfolds (Australia) Bin 2 Shiraz Mourvèdre 2001
Bin 2 was originally devised in the 1960s as a "Burgundy style" wine, hence the dollop of softening Mourvèdre added to Shiraz. It spends around six months in old (five or six years) American oak. The nose is fragrant and gently spicy, with lots of floral notes and Parma violet. There's a cedary quality and a background of soft red fruits. On the palate there is an intense fruit sweetness: a really ripe, juicy, svelte raspberry and sweet cherry fruit, with a balancing edge of firm, liquoricy tannins and peppery acidity. This is mouthwatering and very delicious stuff. Very good indeed.

Penfolds (Australia) Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2000
A lot of oaky influence on the nose here, a more subtle, nutty toastiness (French oak?) and a slightly rubbery note. Plum and cherry fruit emerges. On the palate this is quite lean and more European in style than the Bin 28, with savoury, cedary black fruit and a little olive note. It finishes well, with moderate tannins and oak. More Rhône-like in some ways, but not a totally convincing package. Good/very good.

Penfolds (Australia) Bin 138 Shiraz Mourvèdre Grenache 1997
This is a strikingly aromatic wine, with incense-like notes intermingling with kirsch and raspberry pulp fruit. There's a wild berry quality, and lots of pencil-shavings. On the palate it is quite lean and savoury. There's no shortage of fruit, but it is dry and sinewy, with plenty of smoky oak and drying tannins. A very interesting chance to taste an 8-year-old Australian wine, and very good indeed.

Penfolds (Australia) Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
The younger brother of Penfolds legendary Bin 707, in fact this wine benefited from the generally poor Cabernet vintage of 2000, when no 707 was made, and the grapes were instead used in this wine. It spent 16 months in French and American oak, about quarter of it new barrels. It has a lovely nose: a laid-back, complex cedar wood and blackcurrant, with a streak of bloody, gamy quality and hints of camphor and exotic spices. The palate is very fine, with a solid, chunky core of blackcurrant and damson plum fruit, a hint of vegetal, herbal flavour, and that support of cedary, smoky oak. The tannins are very ripe and fine, but quite grippy and the wine has real length, with lovely balancing acidity. Very powerful, yet elegant, this is a fine effort. Very good indeed/excellent.

Penfolds (Australia) St Henri Shiraz 1998
This is arguably Penfold's "purest" expression of Shiraz: it is made in 50-year-old 1,460-litre casks, not barriques, and sees no barrel ageing. Until the 1980's St-Henri sold for exactly the same price as Grange, it's oakier cousin. This has a very, very deep colour. It is concentrated and terrifically sweet, with an old wood character that is shiny and nutty, reminiscent of polished old wood and chestnut. The fruit is sweet and black, with cassis and damson, some tarry, mulberry quality too. Beautiful palate: sweet and shimmering like black silk with cassis and ripe summer berries, underpinned by chocolaty depth. Grippy tannins and good acidity add backbone. Great length and a fine wine. Excellent.

For all stockists of Penfolds see wine-searcher