I was in the mood for something a little different when I saw a Penfolds Australian Cabernet Sauvignon – Shiraz blend hiding in the back of the Wine Concepts cellar. Hmm, the wine needed a few more years of bottle age to reach its peak. But, on the other hand, I was curious, life is uncertain, and a bottle in hand is worth two in the cellar -- so out came the cork!
Penfold’s has a strange tradition of naming some of its wines after the storage area in the cellar where they’re aged. The tradition started in the late 50s, when it named a Shiraz wine from one of its Barossa Valley vineyards “Bin 28.” (Perhaps their marketing budget was smaller in those days, or maybe folks were just less creative back in the day.) This was followed by “Bin 95” -- the legendary (and brutally expensive) Shiraz also known as Penfolds “Grange.”
- Shiraz, of course, is “Aussie-speak” for the same Syrah grape that dominates the Northern Rhône Valley.
- “Bin 389” is made from grapes sourced from various South Australia regions, including Barossa Valley, Coonawarra and McLaren Vale. We chose the 2018 vintage – the 60th anniversary edition -- for our wine of the week; more on that below.
- Interestingly, “Bin 600” is produced in California from vine cuttings imported from some of Penfolds best Australian vineyards. We’ll compare this California version to the native version in a future post.
Our wine of the week is the 2018 Penfold’s Bin 389 Cabernet – Shiraz ($50 retail). It’s a blend of 57 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 43 percent Shiraz – an intriguing blend that integrates the Cabernet’s structure and fruit with the savory richness of the Shiraz. Penfolds refers to this wine as its “Baby Grange” because some of its components are aged in barrels that held the previous vintage of Grange.
- Bin 389 is deep purple, with earthy aromas, notes of dark fruit, cedar and cocoa, and a distinct alcohol “burn” on the finish.
- On the palate, it’s a dry, full-bodied, intense wine. It has velvety tannins and black raspberry, black currant, plum and cocoa notes with a hint of smoke. The wine has a nice complexity that reveal itself in waves, and a pleasant, longish finish with a touch of bitterness.
- The verdict: an excellent wine well worth the price. Pair it with lamb, game, or grilled beef and you’ll have a very pleasant evening!
- The 2018 Bin 389 is still developing and will improve for a few more years – so patience will be rewarded. You can cellar it for a couple of decades if you have the willpower.