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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
NEW RELEASES – DRY RIVER,  TE MATA,  PENFOLDS BIN SERIES


The three producers Penfolds,  Te Mata,  and Dry River make an interesting batch,  since all are highly regarded,  yet they range in size from huge to truly boutique.  For each,  their new releases are eagerly awaited each year.  And it is always interesting to see if there is wine-based substance in the exclusivity and mystique surrounding the boutique producer.

For their top wines,  Penfolds Australia now tend to make two releases a year.  The mainstream Bin Series wines are released around March 1,  and the premium wines on May 1.  This year's Bin reds are mostly the 2005 vintage,  a well-regarded year in South Australia, which Halliday rates 7 – 8 (Clare 9).  For the consumer,  it is worthwhile to note that Penfolds latterly has been making a special first-week offer on these Bin wines,  which amounts to about 30% off RRP.  At first this was restricted to the large supermarkets,  but this year Penfolds have acknowledged that fine wine retailers sustain their efforts more critically (if not volumetrically) than supermarkets.  Thus leading wine merchants such as the Fine Wine Delivery Company in Auckland,  Regional Wines & Spirits of Wellington,  and Vino Fino in Christchurch can this year (to varying degrees) match the supermarkets in price,  at least initially.  This step is to be applauded.

Te Mata in contrast make one release a year,  likewise around the beginning of March.  This year is 2007 whites and the 2006 reds.  2005 and 2006 were much of a piece in terms of nett vintage quality and results in Hawkes Bay.  Highly localised short rains influenced which year was the better for individual producers.  Both vintages are well worth exploring.  Te Mata added interest to their presentation this year,  by including two back-vintages for both Elston Chardonnay and Awatea Cabernet / Merlot.  Without the need to say a word,  this beautifully demonstrated the serious cellar-worthy quality of the Te Mata premium wines.  Notes below.

Dry River makes an autumn release centred around the Pinot Noir,  and a spring one centred around Syrah.  The whites vary from year to year,  as to which batch they are in.  Dry River releases are eagerly awaited,  as it is a real boutique winery,  aiming to pick (in a perfect year) a mere 45 to 50 tonnes of grapes from nearly 30 acres: a true grand cru cropping rate.  Note that in the short harvests of recent vintages in the Martinborough district,  tonnage has been half this.  2008 however is (at this pre-harvest stage) looking good,  proprietor Neil McCallum reports.

When it comes to the wines of Dry River,  this is a winery for which it is near-impossible to get objective wine evaluation,  for many commentators seem to suspend all critical judgment in reviewing their wines – some of the comment is little short of sycophantic.  McCallum is an Oxford-trained PhD in organic chemistry,  and like the equally well-known (but late,  and medico) Dr John Middleton of Mount Mary Vineyard in the Yarra Valley,  is a more-than-eloquent advocate for his wines and wine styles.  But as James Halliday so marvellously said of John Middleton in 1985,  when comparing him with fellow medico Dr Max Lake of the Hunter Valley:  Both ... came into winemaking  through an intense love and understanding of wine ...  Both have a curious mixture of sensitivity and Olympian aloofness in their temperament ... Both are given to Delphic utterances of such obscurity as to defy questions regarding their meaning.  And so it is with Neil,  and it explains much,  in terms of critical review of the wines.  As James goes on to say,  however:  their wines have the last say.  So,  one has to taste all the Dry River wines very carefully indeed,  not only since there may be great ones among them,  but also should the need arise,  to debate the reviews with a sometimes prickly Neil.

To add perspective to the syrah component of these notes,  there is a review of one the classic interpretations of the style,  1983 Jaboulet la Chapelle,  tasted alongside.  As palates worldwide have become more and more influenced latterly by the American approach to wine,  with its emphasis on and preference for bigger,  softer,  riper,  and more alcoholic winestyles,  so appreciation of the older more fragrant,  low alcohol and firmer wines of a generation ago has waned a little – temporarily I hope.  Indeed,  one has to sadly record that some younger wine palates almost dislike them.  Over the years since release,  many younger tasters have thought 1983 la Chapelle too tannic,  but in my estimation the wine in full maturity now proves them wrong.  

Broadbent,  M.,  2003:  Michael Broadbent's Wine Vintages.  Mitchell Beazley,  223 p.  
Halliday,  J., 1985:  The Australian Wine Compendium.  Angus & Robertson,  576 p.  [ p. 267 ]
Halliday,  J., 2008:  http://winecompanion.com.au/vintagechart.cfm?state_id=5






LAYOUT – AND THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
Chardonnay
2007  Dry River Chardonnay
2006  Penfolds Chardonnay Thomas Hyland
2007  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston
2002  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston
2000  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2007  Te Mata Sauvignon Blanc Cape Crest
Riesling
Pinot Gris
2007  Dry River Pinot Gris
Gewurztraminer
Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2007  Te Mata Viognier Woodthorpe
Red
Rosé
 Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2005  Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 407
2000  Te Mata Cabernet / Merlot Awatea
1998  Te Mata Cabernet / Merlot Awatea
2006  Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Awatea
2006  Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Coleraine
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2006  Dry River Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
2005  Penfolds Shiraz Bin 128 Coonawarra
2005  Penfolds Shiraz Bin 28 Kalimna
2005  Penfolds Shiraz Thomas Hyland
2006  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2006  Penfolds Shiraz / Grenache / Mourvedre Bin 138
All other red wines, blends etc
2005  Penfolds Cabernet / Shiraz Bin 389
From the Cellar. Older wines.
1983  Jaboulet Hermitage la Chapelle
 

White
Chardonnay
2000  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston   19  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ cork;  hand-harvested;  100% BF,  MLF,  LA and c. 11 months in French oak;  < 2 g/L residual;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw,  a touch of gold.  Bouquet on this Elston is marvellous,  showing the full beauty of a high-mendoza New Zealand chardonnay at full maturity.  There is glorious bottled golden queen peach fruit complexed by lees-autolysis,  MLF and oak,  into a (best) ice cream sundae and wafers beauty.  Palate is exactly the same,  even more peachy,  a delightful cashew nuttiness on the finish,  which winemaker Peter Cowley commented on,  suggesting time is running out for this wine.  Don't keep Elston beyond 8 years,  he said.  That depends I guess on how much you like older wines – for sure,  this 2000 is sensational at the moment.  On checking back,  I find in 2004 I offered the thought the 2000 was 'the greatest Elston yet',  which ties in nicely with the tenor of this report.  Luxuriate in it over the next year or two.  GK 03/08

2007  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston   19  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ supercritical cork;  hand-harvested;  100% BF,  MLF,  LA and c. 9 months in French oak c. 50% new;  < 2 g/L residual;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is vividly chardonnay,  but taut,  understated,  totally undemonstrative,  a wine tightly in bud,  needing a year to start to open.  At this stage,  there are clean citric-edged white stonefruits,  a touch of oatmeal and cashew lees-autolysis complexity,  plus some oak-derived aromatics,  all evident on bouquet.  Palate simply wraps these aromas in flesh,  all extraordinarily pure,  refreshing acid,  fair body,  total Puligny-Montrachet in style.  Comparing this wine alongside the very good 2006 Penfolds Hyland wine,  which has won gold medals in major Australian shows,  there is no contrast.  The Elston has a complexity,  succulence,  and texture free from added acid,  which is exemplary,  comparable only with fine burgundy.  Not having a complete vertical in front of me,  I cannot be dogmatic:  nonetheless,  this is probably at least equal to the best Elston so far.  Try and leave your case untouched for one year.  Cellar 2 – 10 years.  GK 03/08

2002  Te Mata Chardonnay Elston   18  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ cork;  hand-harvested;  100% BF,  MLF,  LA and c. 9 months in French oak;  < 2 g/L residual;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw,  attractive.  First sniff is a little muted alongside the 2007 and 2000 Elston,  just a faint French-style sulphur-related note taking the bloom off an otherwise attractive chardonnay / stonefruit bouquet.  Once in mouth,  any doubts are dispelled,  the stonefruit broadening out to golden queen peach with mealy and oaky complexities.  The wine is fully developed,  with spreading fruit still juicy on palate,  and buttered muffin (+ve) flavours.  In other company,  this would be a gold-medal wine,  but here it is up against tough sibling competition.  Time to finish up,  in the next 1 – 2 years.  GK 03/08

2006  Penfolds Chardonnay Thomas Hyland   17 ½  ()
Adelaide Hills,  Robe and other cool South Australian districts,  Australia:  13%;  $24   [ screwcap;  some of the wine is in French oak 20% new for 7 months,  plus a small % of BF and similar material left over from the premium Penfolds chardonnay programmes;  website not up-to-date;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Pale lemon,  an elegant colour.  Bouquet is explicitly chardonnay varietal,  a  clear expression of pale stonefruits and some honeydew melon,  with faint grapefruit,  oatmeal and oak suggestions,  all delightful.  Palate is not quite so attractive,  a little harshness in the Australian added-acid style.  However the lingering aftertaste reprises the bouquet (with a little more oak),  and is again delightful.  A more sophisticated wine by far than the Thomas Hyland Shiraz.  This will mellow in cellar 2 – 6 years. This affordable wine illustrates exactly how far Penfolds have come with chardonnay,  in a relatively short time.  GK 03/08

2007  Dry River Chardonnay   16 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $48   [ cork;  100% clone mendoza hand-harvested at no more than 1 t/ac;  100% BF and 10 months LA in French oak around 30% new,  15% or so MLF;  informative / stimulating / remarkable website;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is fragrant,  clean,  clearly varietal and high mendoza,  a little oaky,  and surprisingly,  a little Australian in total style – there is a honeydew melon quality to it.  Palate ties in totally with the Australian thought,  the total acid being too hard for comfort,  particularly alongside the sensual 2007 Te Mata Elston.  Barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis complexities are hidden,  at least at this stage,  so though the wine has good richness,  it is also austere now.  Alongside the 2006 Penfolds Thomas Hyland Chardonnay even,  the acid is more aggressive than that wine.  Not sure if this will develop pleasingly or not on the acid,  though it will certainly cellar for 5 – 8 years,  maybe longer.  GK 03/08

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2007  Te Mata Sauvignon Blanc Cape Crest   18 ½ +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ supercritical cork;  SB 85%,  Se 13 and sauvignon gris 2,  hand-harvested;  100% BF,  LA and c. 8 months in French oak c. 33% new;  < 2 g/L residual;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Pale lemongreen.  Bouquet is immediately complex and appealing,  and whether one thinks of barrel-ferment or ripe sauvignon blanc first doesn't matter,  for both are in balance,  the one optimising the other,  to give a premium Graves-style white wine without any of the clog or clutter of many French examples.  Below these top notes there is fruit suggesting red capsicums and black passionfruit,  and a suggestion of Vogel's Wholegrain bread,  all very attractive.  Palate is rich,  the aromatics of ripe red capsicum,  sweet basil and oak,  yet a real tactile quality and texture like the Elston Chardonnay,  as if the wine had a touch of purest MLF in the blend.  This is a glorious example of complex ripe New Zealand sauvignon fully handled in oak,  not as overdone as Te Koko,  gentler and subtler than the Sacred Hills Sauvage.  As suggested for the 2007 Elston,  this is probably Te Mata's finest Cape Crest yet.  Cellar 2 – 10 years,  as preferred.  GK 03/08

Pinot Gris
2007  Dry River Pinot Gris   18 +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $48   [ cork;  hand-harvested at well under 1 t/ac;  no oak or MLF;  RS around 10 g/L;  informative / stimulating / remarkable website;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Pale straw.  Bouquet is overtly varietal pinot gris,  not quite the primrose florals I find in top-notch Alsatian examples of the variety,  rather more wild ginger blossom,  white nectarine and a little cinnamon / nutmeg.  It treads a fine line between being very varietal,  and making one wonder – will this taste phenolic ?  Palate is intriguing,  confirming there are indeed signs of the phenolics for which this variety is noted (and which can easily get out of hand),  but the richness of the wine is sufficient to carry them.  If there were any doubt,  the careful residual sweetness also helps to balance the wine,  without being obtrusive.  Pinot gris is arguably the wine for which Dry River is most famous,  and this is a good example.  It is just a little bolder and more extractive than ideal.  Proprietor Neil McCallum noted in discussion that a 1986 bottle opened recently had been a pleasure,  showing that this variety,  appropriately vinified from a grand cru cropping rate,  can have a long and useful life in cellar – in New Zealand as much as Alsace.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  keeping an eye on the balance.  The phenolics should mellow,  and the wine may score higher.  GK 03/08

All other white wines, blends, etc.
2007  Te Mata Viognier Woodthorpe   17 ½ +  ()
Woodthorpe district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $29   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  c. 70% of the wine 7 months LA and batonnage on gross lees,  balance s/s;  all oak French third-year or older;  c. 6% through MLF;  < 2 g/L residual;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Palest lemon to lemongreen.  Compared with the other whites in the Te Mata release this year,  this year's viognier is quieter.  There are gentle citrus blossom and canned apricot qualities on bouquet,  both soft and ripe.  Palate is much rounder and more appealing than the 2006 wine,  with fair body and plumpness,  but gentle varietal character.  Where this wine wins out,  in contrast to many New Zealand viogniers,  is it does not fall into the tacky pinot gris approach to winemaking.  It is pure,  it is dry,  and it has body.  It should be a great food wine,  in its subtlety complementing / matching many foods very well.  Cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 03/08

Red
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2006  Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Coleraine   18 +  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $77   [ cork;  Me 49%,  CS 43,  CF 8,  hand-harvested from vines of average age 21 years;  100% de-stemmed;  20 months in French oak probably around 75% new;  this 2006 vintage marks 25 years of Coleraine;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet and carmine,  the richest / deepest of the 2006 New Zealand reds.  Bouquet is a little more open and giving than Awatea,  with somewhat softer and plusher cassis and black doris qualities,  on potentially cedary oak.  This wine shows exemplary purity,  and is clearly of classed growth quality – in an understated way.  Palate continues the trend,  a little richer than Awatea,  the merlot more evident,  as is the new oak,  with long lingering rich cassisy berry flavours to the aftertaste.  I don't have the '05 alongside,  but I imagine the 2006 to be fractionally lighter and fresher.  It will be great to see them alongside each other,  in later tastings.  This 2006 can be cellared with great confidence,  given on the one hand the performance of the 1982 and 1983 both still vital,  and on the other the predilection of both winemaker Peter Cowley,  and proprietor John Buck for the Bordeaux winestyle.  Alongside Penfolds 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 407,  Coleraine is not quite so concentrated,  but it is finer and more elegant,  with the natural acid of temperate climate viticulture really showing through on the palate.  Alongside the remarkable 2005 Penfolds Bin 389 cabernet-dominant,  it is not in that sumptuous league.  [ But then neither is it 14.5% alcohol,  so many – English winewriters,  for example – would rate Coleraine more highly for that. ]  Keep the Coleraine for at least five years before opening one,  and cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 03/08

2000  Te Mata Cabernet / Merlot Awatea   18  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS 52%,  Me 31%,  CF 16,  PV 1,  hand-harvested;  c. 18 months in French oak some new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby and some velvet,  a touch of age.  Alongside the squeaky-clean and modern 2006 Awatea,  this 2000 Awatea is wonderful.  Many will pick this up,  smell it,  drink in the wonderfully enticing savoury aromas which almost induce salivation,  and wonder:  why don't modern wines have this magical complexity – it's hard to know if it is New Zealand or Bordeaux.  And the answer is our little yeasty friend Brettanomyces,  which this wine shows at an optimal level,  with wonderful complexity,  no shortening of palate as a consequence,  just magical.  Unfortunately,  the wine technologists are so brow-beating us into their preferred sterile modern wines,  that beauty and complexity are being sacrificed on the altar of high technology.  But as to the wine,  there is fine cassisy berry,  plum,  and nearly cedary oak on bouquet (plus the savoury casserole note of the brett),  melded tobacco-y and plummy richness on palate,  and a long savoury aftertaste,  all beautifully balanced.  This is one of the best Awateas of recent years.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 03/08

1998  Te Mata Cabernet / Merlot Awatea   17 ½ +  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS 58%,  Me 30%,  CF 12,  hand-harvested;  c. 18 months in French oak some new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  close to the 2000 but a little older and richer.  1998 is the hottest year in recent Hawkes Bay memory,  and many of the wines are quite Australian in style,  that is,  verging on sur-maturité with consequent loss of florals,  vivacity and charm.  Instead,  they are bigger,  more massive,  some tending monolithic.  Even Awatea tiptoes in that direction,  with a faint stewed prunes hint in the berryfruit.  Palate is ripe rich and round,  still quite tannic and youthful.  Whether it will gain bouquet and complexity once it crusts in bottle is an interesting question.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  with interest.  GK 03/08

2005  Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 407   17 ½ +  ()
McLaren Vale,  Padthaway,  Barossa Valley,  & Robe,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $32   [ screwcap;  CS 100%;  12 months in American 60% and French oak 20 – 30% new,  all hogsheads;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly some carmine,  nearly as rich as the Bin 389.  Bouquet is the most dramatically varietal of this batch of Penfolds Bin wines.  Clear cassis,  green and black olives,  and red and black plums soar from the glass,  with almost a dark floral / savoury note suggesting capers and sage,  or similar.  Palate is infantile alongside the bouquet,  the tannins still fierce,  but the concentration of cassisy berry is excellent.  In a quality vintage such as this,  Bin 407 is now a much-refined wine compared with earlier offerings.  There is  much more emphasis on varietal berry,  and less on assertive oak.  The colour alone confirms this.  Winemaker Steve Lienert comments they want 407 to be more clearly varietal than the complex big-brother Bin 707.  There is a little mint character,  but the wine is not euc’y,  so this edition of 407,  like the Bin 389,  looks worthy of inclusion in future 2005 Bordeaux tastings.  Don't touch this for 5 years,  and cellar 5 – 20 years,  maybe longer.  GK 03/08

2006  Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Awatea   17 ½ +  ()
Havelock North district mostly,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ cork;  Me 38%, CS 36%, CF 15, PV 11,  hand-harvested;  20 months in French oak probably around 45% new;  this 2006 vintage marks 25 years of Awatea;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby and some velvet,  about the same weight as Bullnose but not such a fresh hue,  lighter than Coleraine.  First impressions on bouquet are,  aha,  a riper Awatea,  and one that is modern bourgeois cru Bordeaux in style,  and clearly from the Medoc – the cabernet is evident.  Good berry character embraces cassis and dark plum,  plus a hessian new-oak component and a complex tobacco-related quality.  Palate is very firm in youth,  trace retained fermentation odours still to assimilate,  but from memory riper and richer than the 2005 edition.  Total length and balance continues reminiscent of youthful Bordeaux,  demanding at least three years before a bottle is breached.  Given the price differential now between Coleraine and Awatea,  this 2006 example is a good introduction to Te Mata cabernet / merlot blends.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  maybe longer.  GK 03/08

Pinot Noir
2006  Dry River Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
New Zealand:  13.5%;  $82   [ cork;  hand-harvested at < 2 t/ac;  12 – 15 months in French oak around 25% new,  informative / stimulating / remarkable website;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  fractionally lighter than the Te Mata Syrah Bullnose – so a big colour for the variety,  but more appropriate than some previous Dry River examples.  Bouquet continues in the same vein,  with an immediate freshness that is appealing,  but it is not explicitly floral / varietal.  Yet,  there is some lift in that direction,  on rich red fruit which is more bottled omega plums,  blackboy peaches and grated almond than red or black cherry.  Oak adds a spicy nutmeg quality.  So though it is more varietal than McCallum's darker pinots,  on bouquet it still verges on sur-maturité.  It is not as floral and fragrant as the 2006 Te Mata Bullnose Syrah,  for example.  One therefore approaches the palate with heightened interest.  It is rich,  fleshy with blackboy peach more than cherry,  but sufficiently in style for a weighty plummy pinot.  Aftertaste is long and aromatic,  fruit melding with oak.  This will become an attractive food wine in cellar over 5 – 12 years,  and with any luck will become more fragrant and varietal in the process.  GK 03/08

Syrah = Shiraz
2006  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose   18 +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $43   [ cork;  Sy 100%,  the oldest planted 1990,  and now including the floral / fragrant clone 470,  hand-harvested,  de-stemmed;  16 months in French oak c. 33% new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  One sniff and the bouquet is floral and aromatic in the style of fine subtle versions of Cote Rotie,  striking that perfect equipoise between excess florality bespeaking under-ripeness,  and the no florals of over-ripeness.  This 2006 might be fractionally cooler than the 2005,  with both florals of the dianthus / pinks kind,  and the white pepper grading to black pepper ratio a little more apparent,  plus red fruits more than black.  Palate ripens the profile,  with more black pepper now,  good cassis berry,  and some black doris plum,  finishing on attractive acid.  This is another fine elegant Bullnose,  in its subtlety pursuing a totally French path to grape-ripening and thus wine beauty,  rather than the more heavy-handed over-ripe Australian one.  Alongside Penfolds Bin 128,  a subtler Australian shiraz of very good quality in the current 2005 release,  the Bullnose is more like pinot noir,  so fine and floral is it.  That is not to say it is better,  or worse – just it is dramatically and climatically a very different expression of the one grape syrah / shiraz.  It is still a little raw as yet,  give it another year or two to marry up,  and cellar to 12 years or thereabouts.  This 2006 Bullnose rates among the top six New Zealand syrahs of the vintage,  but in its subtle and fragrant Cote Rotie styling,  it is easily underestimated.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/08

2005  Penfolds Shiraz Bin 128 Coonawarra   18  ()
Coonawarra,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $31   [ cork;  Sh 100%;  11 – 13 months in French oak 20% new,  balance 1 – 3,  all hogsheads;  2005 a good year in Coonawarra;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly some carmine,  a similar hue to the Bin 389 but not so saturated.  Bouquet is rich and ripe,  and though there is the dark boysenberry of Australian shiraz,  there is also a surprising degree of syrah-like complexity,  with suggestions of black peppercorn and cassis.  In mouth the richness of the wine strikes you,  saturated cassis and black doris fruit as well as the boysenberry,  reasonably subtle oak all French,  great length of flavour and fruit sweetness (as if there  were 2 – 3 grams residual,  which seems unlikely for this label).  If this had been picked a little earlier,  to minimise the sur-maturité / typically Australian boysenberry / slightly jammy quality,  this would have been a remarkably syrah-like Australian red.  As it is,  it is still very good,  competitive with many wines costing far more.  It will cellar for 5 – 20 years,  and live longer,  becoming more graceful and food-friendly with every passing year.  Drinking it now,  as expressed for the Bin 389,  is simply sad.  There is a lot of potential here,  well beyond its pricepoint.  At its initial offer price of $20,  it is irresistible.  [ A week later,  one supermarket has this wine at $14 – surely the wine-bargain of the year. ]  GK 03/08

2005  Penfolds Shiraz Bin 28 Kalimna   17  ()
McLaren Vale,  Barossa Valley,  & Langhorne Creek,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $31   [ screwcap;  Sh 100%;  13 months in older all-American oak 2 – 4 years old,  all hogsheads;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly some carmine,  fresher than many Bin 28s.  Bouquet on this wine bespeaks an older-style Australian red,  showing a reasonable volume of boysenberry and red fruits,  but all slightly leathery.  Palate is rich but straightforward,  with a slightly saline negative suggestion.  Latterly Bin 28 has been the weak link in these Penfolds Bins,  though this is a better example.  It is all a bit sad really,  for Bin 28 was so good in the 1960s and early 1970s,  when it was in truth largely sourced from the Kalimna vineyard.  Those wines are still good.  But most of that fruit now goes into RWT and the like,  at eye-watering prices.  Incidentally,  there is a reality-in-labelling issue Penfolds need to think about here.  Kalimna is so well known as a premium South Australian Penfolds vineyard,  that to retain the use of that name in this wine’s title because it was formerly mainly sourced from there,  is now misleading.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  in its style,  maybe longer.  GK 03/08

2005  Penfolds Shiraz Thomas Hyland   15  ()
South Australia,  Australia:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Sh 100%,  some of the wine has oak contact (American and French) for 12 months;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is simple juicy berry,  with saline and reductive undertones,  very straightforward.  Palate is quite rich but plain boysenberry fruit,  clearly saline and tannic,  harsh on acid and phenolic too,  the kind of 'wood' / tannin component not clear,  not quite bone dry.  This is plainer than I remember earlier Thomas Hyland reds being.  Wholesome enough QDR,  better in a couple of years,  but scarcely worth cellaring.  GK 03/08

Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
2006  Penfolds Shiraz / Grenache / Mourvedre Bin 138   17 ½  ()
Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $31   [ screwcap;  Sh 40%,  Gr 30,  Mv 30 – these ratios vary from season to season,  for Bin 138;  16 months in old oak only,  typically fifth-year and older;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the most youthful colour of the Penfolds bracket.  Bouquet is amply fruity and berry-rich,  appealing,  though a little stalky / tangy / youthful / fresh at this early stage.  Dark plums dominate.  Palate is a little harder than the Bin 128,  partly from youth,  partly from the mourvedre (or mataro,  of earlier days),  which introduces firm black olive notes.  Finish is intriguing,  berry-rich but tannic and a bit raw at this stage,  though not obviously oaky.  It will be much better after 3 – 5 years in cellar,  will improve for 8,  and cellar to 15.  Total winestyle is modern Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  It will be much better with food later in its evolution.  GK 03/08

All other red wines, blends etc
2005  Penfolds Cabernet / Shiraz Bin 389   18 ½ +  ()
McLaren Vale,  Padthaway,  Barossa Valley,  South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $43   [ screwcap;  CS 52%,  Sh 48;  13 months in American oak 26 – 30% new,  all hogsheads;  some BF material from the Grange,  Bin 707 and other top-end red wine programmes;  www.penfolds.com.au ]
Dense ruby and velvet,  almost some carmine,  a classical and lovely red wine colour.  Bouquet on this red is first-rate,  exciting,  berry-dominant,  new oak but subdued,  a wonderful complexing suggestion of barrel-fermented material clearly detectable,  all fresh and fragrant.  There is clear cassis from the cabernet component,  melding insensibly into dark plum from the shiraz.  This is a sophisticated wine,  none of the obvious over-ripe boysenberry normally characterising Australian shiraz-influenced wines.  Nor is there any eucalyptus,  mercifully.  Flavour in mouth is poised,  fresh,  complex,  great fruit on palate,  beautifully balanced in an opulent style.  Though a big wine,  it is subtler and lighter than many previous Bin 389s,  and more obviously cabernet-dominant than some,  too.  It is an Australian cabernet blend ideally suited to running in future blind tastings of the promising 2005 Bordeaux classed growths,  despite the label commonly being thought of as primarily shiraz.  The wine is infantile now,  but will cellar wonderfully for 10 – 30 years.  Drinking it now is verging on the absurd,  or ignorant.  A classic,  even great Penfolds Bin 389 to buy by the case – especially at the initial offer price of $30.  GK 03/08

From the Cellar. Older wines.
1983  Jaboulet Hermitage la Chapelle   18 ½  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $ –    [ cork (superb 55 mm);  price at release in New Zealand $37.50,  cf an anticipated $390 for the 2005;  Broadbent on the Rhone vintage:  "a magnificent hot dry summer ... the red wines from both the north and the south were excellent,  rich and concentrated with hard tannins which have softened with maturity.";  www.jaboulet.com ]
Colour older ruby and garnet,  lightening to a burgundy weight.  Bouquet is simply beautiful,  syrah combining the cassis of Bordeaux with some of the florals of Burgundy,  as well as dianthus / carnations,  and fresh white and black pepper,  all melding into definitive piquant syrah mellowed into full maturity,  yet still so fresh.  Palate is firm in one sense (thinking of the claret analogy),  yet soft in another,  very fragrant,  absolutely pure,  still good fruit,  wondrous with food,  the acid balance fresh and refreshing throughout.  Those who have scoffed at this great wine,  and the tannins they claimed it would never outlive,  simply showed their lack of experience with the magic that happens when tannic wines crust in bottle – as here.  Fully mature,  but no great hurry in the next 5,  maybe 10 years.  GK 03/08