93 points - The 2007 RWT Shiraz is 100% Barossa Valley Shiraz matured 13 months in French hogsheads, 71% new. Very deep garnet-purple colored, it presents youthfully mute aromas of warm blackberries, stewed plums, kirsch, cedar and cloves with an array of Indian spices opening out with air. In the full-bodied mouth it gives very firm, coarsely grained tannins, very crisp acid and good concentration, finishing long and chewy. It should be more open and approachable after a year or two in bottle, drinking to 2022+.
With a lot of changes happening around the Foster’s Group, it is business as usual at Penfolds...which seems to operate within its own world. But this is no small world. The vineyard holdings here are vast and the connections with growers go back generations. Chief winemaker Peter Gago is the very well spoken front-man for the production team backed-up Kym Schroeter in charge of the whites and Steve Lienert crafting some very fine, consistent and sometimes inspired reds. If Champagne is all about the art of blending, then Penfolds is the Champagne of Australian wine. Those that think large companies producing wines that emphasize blending can’t make great wines need to think about the Champagne model or simply try some of Penfolds top wines to become believers. That said – check out their recent single vineyard release: the very special 2004 Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon, the first release of a wine made purely from this 100+ year old single block (perhaps the oldest block of Cabernet in the world?) since 1996.
The development of Penfolds Red Winemaking Trial (RWT) reflects extraordinary progress in viticulture and winemaking. The two disciplines are increasingly intertwined, as growers and winemakers work together in search of optimum balance, ripeness and flavour.
RWT draws fruit from 20 to 100 year-old vineyards arcing across the west and north-west of the Barossa Valley, mostly independently grown. The best vineyards produce fruit of voluptuous intensity, ripe tannins, and juicy flavours. The RWT Shiraz has a very seductive style with a plum/blueberry fruit profile and fine ripe tannins underpinned by savoury French oak.
Since its first vintage in 1997, collectors have recognised the sheer class of RWT. Already the wine has a strong secondary market following, illustrating its collectability and cellaring potential.
|Duck, red curry ’ice cream’, split rice porridge, lychee, tamarind and pineapple
Rabbit, pork and duck terrine
|Australia’s winemaking history of less than two hundred years is brief by European measures though, like Europe, punctuated by periods of extreme success and difficult times. From the earliest winemaking days Penfolds has figured prominently and few would argue the importance of Penfolds’ influence on Australia’s winemaking psyche.
Without the influence of Penfolds the modern Australian wine industry would look very different indeed. Sitting comfortably outside of fad and fashion, Penfolds has taken Australian wine to the world on a grand stage and forged a reputation for quality that is without peer.
Penfolds’ reputation for making wines of provenance and cellaring potential might suggest a mantle of tradition and formality is the preferred attire of a company with so much history to defend. But to label Penfolds as simply an established and conventional winemaker, would be to confuse tradition with consideration and to overlook the innovative spirit that has driven Penfolds since its foundation, and continues to find expression in modern times.
If there is anything traditional about Penfolds, it is the practice of constantly reviewing the wines it already does well, and continuously evolving and refining styles as vineyards mature and access to ever older and more varied vineyard sites improves.