Tasting Penfolds Reds


On a bleak and windy autumn’s evening we got together at the Masonic Hall in Harrogate to taste some of the older wines of Penfolds. They came from the private cellar of HMWS member Ian Botwright. We chatted and sipped Joseph cattin’s excellent Cremant D’Alsace Rose which was purchased at the winery during our recent Alsace wine tour, till all the reds were poured. Ian presented the wines.




1. Penfolds Bin 138, 2006

“The Barossa Valley was planted extensively with Shiraz, Mataro and Grenache by the early settlers. In the 1950s Penfolds started experimenting with table wine blends of Shiraz and the robust grape variety Mourvèdre (Mataro). In response to a growing international market for the highly perfumed wines of the Southern Rhone, Penfolds introduced the 1992 vintage of the Old Vine Barossa Valley Shiraz Grenache Mourvèdre. The wine was elevated to the Bin range with the 1998 Bin 138. Sourced from old, low-yielding Barossa Valley vines, this is one of the few wines that remains in component form during older, oak maturation and is blended just prior to bottling.”

Rather dumb nose. Lacks fruit. Hot but not jammy. (15)

2. Penfolds Bin 128, 2005

“Created in 1962, Penfolds Bin 128 is a regional wine that reflects the unique climate and growing conditions of South Australia’s Coonawarra district and the relatively elegant style of cool-climate Shiraz. From the 1980 vintage, French oak replaced American, highlighting the pepper, spice and floral characteristics that define this style. Since this time, greater attention to fruit flavour ripeness has structurally resulted in a more complete and complex wine style.”

Cool climate, non-spicy Shiraz. Pleasant to drink now. (15.5)

3. Penfolds Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz, 2008

“Penfolds Bin 28 is a showcase for warm-climate Australian Shiraz – ripe, robust and generously flavoured. First made in 1959, Bin 28 is named after the famous Barossa Valley Kalimna vineyard purchased by Penfolds in 1945 and from which the wine was originally sourced. Today, Bin 28 is a multi-region, multi- vineyard blend, with the Barossa Valley always well represented, providing a substantial proportion of the fruit for this vintage.”

Dark and still youthful. (15)

4. Penfolds Bin 389, 1998

“Bin 389 is often referred to as ‘Poor Man’s Grange’ or ‘Baby Grange’, in part because components of the wine are matured in the same barrels that held the previous vintage of Grange. First made in 1960, by the legendary Max Schubert, this was the wine that helped to build Penfolds solid  reputation with red wine drinkers. Combining the structure of Cabernet with the richness of Shiraz, Bin 389 also exemplifies Penfolds skill in judiciously balancing fruit and oak.”

Dark and aromatic. Probably at its peak.(16)

5. Penfolds St Henri 2007

“St Henri is a time-honoured and alternative expression of Shiraz, and an intriguing counterpoint to Grange. It is unusual among high quality Australian red wines as it does not rely on any new oak. It was created in the early 1950s (first commercial vintage 1957) and gained a new lease of life in the 1990s as its quality and distinctive style became better understood. Proudly, a wine style that hasn’t succumbed to the dictates of fashion or commerce. St Henri is rich and plush when young, gaining soft, earthy, mocha-like characters as it ages. It is matured in old, 1460 litre vats that allow the wine to develop, imparting minimal, if any oak character. Although a small proportion of Cabernet is sometimes used to improve structure, the focal point for St Henri remains Shiraz.”

Dark, fragrant and lovely. An absolute delight to drink now. (17)

6. Penfolds RWT 2001

“Penfolds RWT Shiraz presents an admirable alternative to the multi-regional sourcing and American oak maturation that are hallmarks of Grange, expressing instead, single-region Barossa Valley Shiraz matured only in French oak. The initials RWT stand for ‘Red Winemaking Trial’, the name given to the project internally when developmental work began in 1995. Naturally, now no longer a ‘Trial’! RWT Shiraz was launched in May 2000 with the 1997 vintage. Its style is opulent and fleshy, contrasting with Grange, which is more muscular and assertive. RWT is made from fruit primarily selected for its aromatic qualities and fine texture rather than sheer intensity or power of flavour. The result is a wine that helps to redefine Barossa Shiraz at the highest quality level.”

Dark, still youthful 100% Shiraz. (16.5)

7. Penfolds Grange 1989

“Grange is arguably Australia’s most celebrated wine and is officially listed as a Heritage Icon of South Australia. Grange boasts an unbroken line of vintages from the experimental 1951 and clearly demonstrates the synergy between Shiraz and the soils and climates of South Australia. It utilises fully-ripe, intensely-flavoured and textured Shiraz grapes. The result is a unique Australian style that is now recognised as one of the most consistent of the world’s great wines. The Grange style is the original and most powerful expression of Penfolds multi-vineyard, multi-district, blending philosophy.”

Probably past its best. Still a lovely mouthful. (17.5)





Supper was an excellent Seabass with julienne vegetables and Pernod and herb butter followed by caramelised lemon torte and coffee. Albarino Lagar da Costa 2014 which was the top wine at this year’s Cambados Albarino Festival in Galicia, was poured with the fish. Tony Lee who walked the length of the Camino de Santiago this year and visited the Cambados Festival gave a short account of the event. Ann Joslin thanked Ian for parting with some of his precious stock and Dr. Alisdair Stewart reminded us all of the HMWS Australian Wine Weekend with Tony Keys way back in 1994 when Grange was drunk with lunch!


  • “This was an out of the ordinary tasting, seldom would you have the opportunity to taste so many of the top Penfolds Shiraz wines excellently tutored by Penfold wine lover Ian Botwright. We learn many things about the Penfold brand and its specialist wine makers. I truly memorable evening, thank you Bernard for arranging this. Looking forward to test Lehmanns.”
    – Tony Stanier ( Penfold wine lo lover !), 23 October
    • Tasting was excellent last night and the food was especially good. Thanks for an interesting event. – David Lees, Wetherby, 23 October
    • “I very much enjoyed Ian’s enthusiastic presentation of the best of Penfold’s Shiraz. The meaty, tannic St Henri was my favourite and the elegant, somewhat chocolatey Bin 136 was best value in my opinion. I agree with the general view that the 1989 Grange had lost most of its fruit and was past its best. I was looking for an epiphany moment like my first taste of La Rioja Alta 904 and hope to have the opportunity of trying Grange sometime in the future.” – Dr. Peter Goulding, Harrogate, 23 October



3 thoughts on “Tasting Penfolds Reds

  1. Hi Bernard, we really enjoyed the Penfold tasting last night. It was interesting to taste the range presented. My favourite was the St.Henri it stood out from the rest. The 1989 Grange was past its best , having drunk this wine in the past I would say it was not a great vintage, that said some 5 years ago it was a most enjoyable wine. I agree with the general opinion of the group that the Penfold style has changed. I am not sure that the current vintages will have the same lasting power as previous vintages. This may be due to the fact that quite a few grape growers who previously supplied fruit for Grange now make their own wines. Our thanks to Ian for a most interesting presentation, and our thanks to you Bernard for organising a most interesting and informative event. Peter Murphy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A wonderful tasting and interesting to hear the history of Penfold excellently presented by Ian.
    For one who is not experience in drinking Penfold wine it was a marvellous opportunity to taste a superb showcase of different vintages and experience the Penfold Grange which was most enjoyable. My personal favourites were the Bin 28 and Bin 128 .
    Another excellent evening in superb company and wonderful wines and food . Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Bernard, I did enjoy the Penfold tasting – I first tasted the wines in Australia in 1989 and thought them the best ever ! but they have changed over the years, I remember a Bin 37 as being super. Having read todays Hedonist – I presume that you have included Rhiannon and myself in the tasting on 5th November; the lunch on 15th November and the Xmas lunch on the 13th December — I hope so ? Thank you for the Chablis payment is in the post. Love, Gwynneth


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