Saturday, March 1, 2008

Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz, 2003

Max Schubert, the Penfolds winemaker who created the famous Grange Hermitage--now one of the most expensive wines in the world--originated the numbered "bin" system of identifying the winery's best wines. The idea was to give a clear identity to each wine that serious wine drinkers could rely on from year to year. Penfolds is now a large corporation, but fortunately it has tried to maintain the traditional profile and personality of each bin numbered wine.

Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz is one of my favorite New World wines, matured in French oak casks to preserve the subtlty of the flavors and aromas. I find the suggested retail price of $20 to $25 a bit pricey, but the wine is sometimes discounted to $16--at which point I snap up a few bottles for the Australian wine lovers in my family.

The 2003 is still a bit young; it is a deep, bluish color but has some amber developing around the rim. The aromas are mostly oak-influenced (cedar and spice) but they're very lifted and pleasant. The flavors are flush with fruit--currants, black raspberries and hint of citrus zest. It's supple and smooth from front to back, full bodied and ripe. There's a lot to like in this wine, and it's going to get better over the next five years or so.

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