Closing August 21 at 6pm Langton’s Classic Penfolds Wine Auction is underway in Melbourne. It acknowledges and celebrates a remarkable Australian wine house. The sheer reliability and age-worthy reputation of Penfolds Grange down to the highly regarded Koonunga Hill have captured the imagination of several generations of wine drinkers. For the first time Langton's exclusive Penfolds Grange Guide is available as a free PDF download. Simply click on the panel to the right to receive your copy.
Langton’s Classic Penfolds Wine Auction Catalogue comprises a wonderful array of vintages for laying down and drinking. The brilliantly conceived and ongoing Penfolds Red Wine Clinics, Penfolds Rewards of Patience publication (now in its fifth edition) and occasional release of Special Bins – including the en-primeur offerings of 2004 Bin 60A and 2004 Block 42 in this auction – underpin and progress the Penfolds Story into contemporary times.
Technical expertise, an innovative and revolutionary winemaking philosophy and practice along with a substantial back-catalogue of pioneering marketing ideas have contributed significantly to the development of Australian wine at almost every level. At a recent Single Bottle Club dinner held at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney, collectors, sommeliers, wine merchants, wine writers, wine makers, the great and the good shared an extraordinary diaspora of Penfolds vintages going back to the early 1960s.
For many the experience was something of a revelation or re-discovery. There is no other Australian wine company that could put on such a convincing and utterly unique extravaganza. Penfolds is a cornerstone of the Australian wine heritage, the Australian secondary wine market and the great Australian wine cellar. The Penfolds Bin range – released at almost every conceivable price point – is made for everyone who enjoys wine. It is just this wondrous diversity and ageless appeal that sets Penfolds apart as the most democratic and egalitarian of all wines.
Penfolds is one the most extraordinary of the world’s wine brands with an enviable reputation for quality at every price level. The story of Penfolds is inextricably linked to South Australia’s colonial settlement and Australia’s subsequent journey to nationhood and the modern era.
In 1844 Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife Mary purchased “choicest land” at Magill, now a suburb of Adelaide. Since the late 1940s Penfolds has forged a remarkable reputation for its red wine. The emerging winemaking ethos of multi-regional blending was a natural progression from the days of fortified winemaking where house style was paramount. The development of Penfolds Grange Hermitage during the early 1950s by Max Schubert reflected a national mood, a sense of purpose and an enthusiasm for progress.
The winemaking philosophy and culture of experimentation established by Penfolds, and underpinned by Ray Beckwith’s ground breaking science, resulted in the release of a plethora of new red table wines including St Henri, Bin 389, Bin 707 and Bin 28. These wines – including Grange – played a critical role in developing the palates of Australian fine wine collectors and the Australian fine wine market. Overall, the style is about highly-defined fruit aromas, fruit sweetness, ripe tannins, richness, power and concentration. While multi-regional blending is at the core of Penfolds winemaking philosophy, the selection and ownership of distinguished vineyard sites is an essential element of wine style and the future direction of the Penfolds Brand.
Penfolds owns substantial holdings of high quality South Australian vineyards in the Barossa, Clare, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale and new areas including Bordertown and the Limestone Coast sub-regions of Robe and Padthaway. The release of experimental and special Bins, including the extraordinary 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, are part and parcel of Penfolds winemaking culture. These wines are developed to highlight the superb vineyard provenance, a culture of winemaking craftsmanship and technical expertise at Penfolds. The realization of new Special Bins and permanent additions to the Penfolds range including Bin 407, RWT and Yattarna are the result of trial blends, new ideas and research.
Penfolds is a favourite with wine collectors because of its strong focus on quality, consistency and reliability. Penfolds Grange is a significant performer on the secondary wine market and is regarded as something of a bell weather indicator. Established Special Bins (and experimental wines) are heavily traded at auction with a strong track record of performance. The introduction of the Penfolds Red Wine Clinics – a re-corking and top up service – has allowed a strong relationship between wine collectors and winemakers. In times of automation and standardisation, Penfolds continues to make ultra-fine quality wines with marvellous differentiation, individual house style and character.
Penfolds Grange has enjoyed a very high profile on the Australian ultra-fine wine market for many decades. It heads up Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine – an unofficial but very conspicuous honour roll – of Australia’s most highly regarded ultra-fine wine. Penfolds Grange has enjoyed an unbeatable frequency and permanency on the Australian secondary wine market. Price realisations and performance provide some insight to overall market sentiment. It makes Grange an important and fascinating market indicator.
While there is a secondary wine market focus on wine price movements and wine investment, the market for Grange is not entirely dominated by investors. Indeed price realization thresholds are generally based on drinking value rather than investment potential and rarity. This – of course – does not include ‘collectibles’ which now comprise the 1950s and early 1960s. Nor does it include speculative vintages such as 1990 and 1998 which after early exponential growth predictably settled down at more realistic values.
About the 2004 Penfolds Special Bin Releases
2004 Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2004 Penfold Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Shiraz continue a famous tradition of experimentation and research at Penfolds exemplified by the work of the great Max Schubert and his research scientist Ray Beckwith. The wines reflect a connection with the past, a growing understanding of vineyard site and a search for something “extra, different and unique.” The release of Special Bin wines coincide with a great Penfolds vintage. In 2004 Penfolds Kalimna and Koonunga Hill vineyards in the Barossa Valley and Block 20 vineyard in Coonawarra experienced a “once or twice in a decade” vintage.
About this En Primeur Auction Offer
The en primeur/futures wine market is a firmly established method of selling ultra-premium wine in Bordeaux, France. Each year – approximately six months after vintage and while the wine is still in barrel – various chateaux offer their wine for sale en primeur to the wine trade for delivery at a later date. This method of selling is also known as the futures market.
Langton’s is offering – for the first time – a bundle of the highly sought after and critically acclaimed 2004 Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2004 Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Barossa Shiraz. The sale will include magnums and a pair of very rare imperials. The wines are expected to be ready for delivery in May 2007. Successful buyers will receive a certificate of purchase. Langton’s will dispatch the wines to your chosen delivery address on receipt of the wine.
Penfolds Special Bins
Penfolds Special Bin wines have a strong appeal among wine collectors and a long history of trading on the Australian secondary wine market. These limited release wines allow Penfolds winemakers to make something “extra, different and unique” without the constraints of established expectations. These early Special Bins – including the first releases of Penfolds Grange – forged a clear pathway for Penfolds during the early days of the modern Australian wine industry.
Many enjoyed stellar Australian wine show careers including 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A Cabernet Shiraz, 1966 Bin 620 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1967 Penfolds Bin 7. Others were in-house experimental bottlings or obscure releases especially bottled and labelled for avid collectors. In more recent times Special Bins including 1980 Penfold Bin 80A, Bin 820 1990 Penfolds Bin 90A, Bin 920 and 1996 Block 42 were made to capture the essence of Penfolds wine making ethos and vineyard resources. All these wines have enjoyed significant interest from wine collectors, wine critics and show judges. The wines have been described as “a remarkable body of work comprising the good, the great, the avant garde, the postmodern and the curious.”
The packaging and design of the 2004 Special Bins are reminiscent of the original bottlings of the 1950s and early 1960s. The white capsule, famous postage stamp label and amber bottles hark back to earlier times when bottles were drawn from their Bins and labelled by hand. The postage stamp labels – with type written Bin numbers – were the only constant in a period of ad hoc bottlings and an emerging fine wine market. After bottling the wines were binned for further bottle maturation at Magill. The wines were dressed for market on demand. The Bin numbers simply denoted the Bins from which the wines were taken. The Bin number culture – established by the experimental Grange bottlings and Special Bins – is a Penfolds tradition which has extended into recognised proprietary brands including Bin 95 Grange, Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon and Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz.
The 2004 Vintage
2004 promises to be a great Penfolds vintage. A cold winter marked by good rainfalls and intermittent spring rains replenished soil moistures and provided an excellent beginning to the growing season. Summer was largely warm and dry. February was hot and accelerated ripening. A cool autumn and mild growing conditions at Kalimna extended the vintage resulting in very impressive quality Cabernet and Shiraz.
Coonawarra experienced one of the latest vintages on record. Excellent flowering and fruit set in spring was followed by a warm/hot summer. Cooler weather and intermittent rains during March allowed the Cabernet Sauvignons to ripen to optimum Baume levels and achieve strong regional character. Peter Gago (Penfolds Chief Winemaker) says “2004 is a very strong vintage for Penfolds. Our low yielding Barossa and Coonawarra vineyards produced superb parcels of quality fruit reminiscent of the great 1962 South Australian vintage. Some astonishingly good parcels of Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon, Kalimna Shiraz and Block 20 Cabernet Sauvignon were selected for special attention. The fruit all showed tremendous flavour definition and texture without being compromised by excessive Baume levels. The sheer finesse and character of the 2004 Penfolds Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2004 Penfolds Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Shiraz are a statement of Penfolds remarkable vineyard resources, teamwork and winemaking philisophy.”
Penfolds 2004 Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon
2004 Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon is a single vineyard wine from one of South Australia’s great 19th century vineyards located in the Barossa Valley. The 2004 vintage was an exceptional year for Block 42 resulting in beautifully aromatic and perfectly balanced fruit. The fruit was hand picked and fermented in traditional open “headed down” fermenters. The wine completed fermentation entirely in seasoned new American oak hogsheads. This ethereal and perfumed wine is evocative of its origins yet shows all the hallmarks of Penfolds winemaking philosophy. The dense colour, intense blackcurrant dark chocolate liquorice aromas, fine slinky tannins and richly concentrated flavours are in perfect harmony. The sheer volume and weight of fruit explodes across the palate giving tremendous depth and flavour length. The 2004 Block 42 is a complex palimpsest of flavours and texture which will evolve and intertwine over time.
“There is something really magical about the 2004 Block 42. It has an ethereal dimension and a saturated blackness on the palate that reveals the true class of this vineyard site. The wine is extraordinarily perfumed with layer upon layer of flavour. The wine will last for decades in the cellar.” Peter Gago, Penfolds Chief Winemaker
“There are 550 cases of this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Its opaque purple color is followed by intense aromas of blueberries, blackberries, flowers, truffles, and damp earth. Voluptuous, rich, beautifully textured, and seamless, this fabulous effort dwarfs the outstanding Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon. Interestingly, Penfolds has decided to package these wines in a tall, heavy bottle with a retro-looking Penfolds label (I loved the packaging) as well as screw caps. This sensational Cabernet should have an uncanny aging potential of 20-25 years.” 94-96 points. Robert Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate
The ethereal and perfumed 2004 Block 42 is evocative of its origins yet shows all the hallmarks of Penfolds winemaking philosophy. The dense colour, intense blackcurrant dark chocolate liquorice aromas, fine slinky tannins and richly concentrated flavours are in perfect harmony. The sheer volume and weight of fruit explodes across the palate giving tremendous depth and flavour length. The 2004 Block 42 is a complex palimpsest of flavours and texture which will evolve and intertwine over time. 96 points. Andrew Caillard MW, Langton’s
Variety: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Origin: Block 42, Kalimna Vineyard, Moppa sub region, Barossa Valley
Fermentation: Stainless steel tanks with wooden header boards to submerge cap. Temperature: maintained at less than 22 degrees C. Daily rack and returns.
Maturation: Fermentation completed in new American oak hogsheads. Approximately 13 months maturation in oak.
2004 Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Barossa Shiraz
This wine is a homage to the great 1962 Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Shiraz. The wine played a defining role in establishing Australia’s credentials as a fine wine producer. It brought attention to the benefits of cross regional blending and in part established the quintessential Australian wine blend of Cabernet and Shiraz.
The 2004 Bin 60A is not only a homage to this great wine, but also a statement about Penfolds superb vineyard resources, teamwork and winemaking skills of today. Exquisite parcels of Block 20 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Koonunga Hill and Kalimna Vineyard Barossa Shiraz were identified and separately vinified at Magill and Nuriootpa in open and closed headed down fermenters. Towards dryness the wine was racked into 100% new oak barriques where the wine completed fermentation. After malolactic fermentation individual components were classified and then selected for inclusion into the 2004 Bin 60A blend.
The wine – still in barrel – is very deep in colour and elemental yet shows a miraculous overlapping of aromas and flavours. The regional characters of both Coonawarra and the Barossa Valley are finely poised. The highly perfumed camomile/violet/mocha aromas, immense concentration, savoury flavours and classically structured palate are in superb balance. Showing all the class of a great cross-regional and vineyard blend, this beautifully defined wine with its meaty nuances and fine grained tannins will continue to evolve with further bottle development.
“This wine is bloody close to the mark. The original Bin 60A looked very similar at this stage.” John Bird, former Penfolds senior winemaker and consultant, 1958 to present.
“The 2004 Bin 60A is destined to become one of Penfolds great special Bin releases. The restraint, pure fruit and elegance of 2004 Block 20 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon is complimented by the power and richness of the 2004 Kalimna and Koonunga Hill Barossa Shiraz. Barrel fermentation in oak has woven all the fruit and oak elements into a wine of immense generosity, depth and complexity. This classically structured, beautifully balanced wine has all the finesse and integrity to develop and evolve in the cellar for many decades.” Peter Gago, Penfolds Chief Winemaker
“The 1,000-case cuvee of 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz Bin 60A is a special wine. Along with intense blueberry, camphor, and graphite characteristics, it reveals incredible concentration, great density, an unctuous texture, fresh acidity, and fabulous purity as well as length. It should drink well for 30+ years. I don’t suggest this aging potential lightly, having recently had a bottle of the 1962 Bin 60A Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz (the last vintage this wine was produced) which I rated 96 points. It was still an extraordinarily complex wine that was reminiscent of a great 1947 or 1949 right bank Bordeaux. Seemingly the 2004 has every bit as much potential as the 1962.” 96 points. Robert Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate
“Deep in colour, this youthful elemental 2004 Bin 60A shows a miraculous overlapping of aromas and flavours. The regional characters of both Coonawarra and the Barossa Valley are finely poised. The highly perfumed camomile/violet/mocha aromas, immense concentration, savoury flavours and classically structured palate are in superb balance. This beautifully defined cross regional and vineyard wine with its meaty nuances and fine grained tannins will continue to evolve in the cellar for decades.” 99 points. Andrew Caillard MW, Langton’s
Variety: 56% Cabernet Sauvignon – Block 20, Coonawarra
Origin: 44% Shiraz – Kalimna Blocks 4 & 14; Koonunga Hill Block 53G, Barossa Valley
Fermentation: Stainless steel tanks with wooden header boards to submerge cap.
Vinification: took place at Magill and Nuriootpa.
Maturation:Fermentation completed in new oak. Blending of components took place at Magill.
The History of Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon
1948 Penfolds Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon was a significant wine produced in Australia during the 1940s. This deeply concentrated single vineyard wine was the pre-cursor of the Penfolds red wine style and Penfolds Grange. The wine was described as “magnificent” by Australian vigneron and wine writer Max Lake in his authoritative “Classic Wines of Australia” published in 1966. The last known bottle – with its duck-egg blue capsule and classic postage stamp label – was consumed at a Royal Sydney Wine Show dinner over ten years ago. Enjoyed at its peak of maturity this long-lived, beautifully evocative wine, crammed with intensely sweet fruit and balanced with chocolaty tannins, showed all the character and hallmarks of a great single vineyard wine.
Block 42, located at the edge of the Kalimna Vineyard in the Moppa sub-region of the Barossa Valley, was planted in 1888 and comprises Cabernet Sauvignon vines of ancient genetic origins. It belongs to a national heritage of great old 19th century pre-phylloxera Australian vineyards including Henschke’s Hill of Grace located in the Eden Valley sub-region of the Barossa and the astonishingly small central Victorian Shiraz vineyards planted by Bests and Tahbilk. Planted only 30 years after the great 1855 Bordeaux Classification, the 10 acre Block 42 comprises the oldest plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon in the world. These original, very old, low yielding, contorted, knotted and serpentine vines have deep penetrating roots which extend through alluvial sands, rich brown soils and into the fissures and cracks of bedrock. For over 110 vintages the vines – planted on their own roots – have produced flavour-intense mineral rich fruit with exceptional concentration and balance.
Max Schubert experimented with parcels of Block 42 Cabernet during the development phase of Penfolds Grange. He recognised the extraordinary potential of this vineyard site through the special bottlings of the late 1940s. Those early but very limited wines – made from pressings and matured in old oak puncheons – were deeply concentrated with immense flavour and classical fine grained tannins. Impressed and inspired by the wines of Bordeaux, Max Schubert had initially hoped that his “different and lasting” Grange would be Cabernet based. On closer scrutiny he realised that the variable supply and overall quality of South Australian Cabernet would compromise Penfolds commercial objectives for a consistent “high-grade wine”. While the story of Grange is inextricably linked to Shiraz, a 1953 Penfolds Grange Cabernet entirely sourced from Block 42 was in fact commercially produced, illustrating that Cabernet was never far from Schubert’s mind. The complex and fully mature 1953 Grange Cabernet is still a magnificent testimony to the perfume and staying power of exceptional vintages.
Block 42 Cabernet made important contributions to Grange during the early years providing “lift and structure” but never officially amounting to more than a few percentage points of the overall blend. Interestingly at auction a number of individual and experimental Grange bottlings have appeared. 1953 Bin 9a Grange Shiraz Cabernet, 1958 Bin 46 Kalimna Vineyard Cabernet and Grange Vineyard Magill Shiraz and 1959 Bin 465 Grange Shiraz Cabernet are all compelling examples of the winemaker’s strong affinity with Block 42 Cabernet.
The dream of making great Cabernet off this vineyard continued during the early 1960s. 1961 Bin 58 Cabernet (Shiraz), 1963 Bin 64 Cabernet (a Jimmy Watson Trophy winner) and 1963 Bin 62 Cabernet Malbec all illustrate an extraordinary period of research and experimentation. The remarkably perfumed and beautifully structured 1964 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon (entirely sourced from Block 42) remains one of the classic wines of the 1960s.
This valuable and historic vineyard remains an essential source for the wine providing backbone and substance to the overall style. In the context of the Penfolds portfolio Bin 707 is an important foil to Grange and a mainstay of the Penfolds Brand. Accordingly there are no compromises. This partially explains why Penfolds rarely releases a single vineyard wine from Block 42. The intriguing mystery and rarity which surrounds the unforgettable 1948 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon and its link with 1953 Grange Cabernet also partially explains the renewed winemaker curiosity and interest in Block 42.
The 1990s have seen exceptional advances in vineyard management. The hugely successful 1996 vintage allowed the release of a single vineyard Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon for the first time in over 30 years. The superbly concentrated and exquisitely balanced 1996 Penfolds Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon illustrates the impeccable provenance and unique character of this vineyard site.
1962 Penfold Bin 60A is recognised as one of the world’s greatest wines. The 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Shiraz was the only Australian wine to reach the Top 10 ranking of “Wines to try before you die” in the UK’s authoritative Decanter Magazine’s (August 2004) 100 Greatest Wines of all Time”.
1. 1945 Mouton Rothschild
2. 1921 Chateau D'Yquem
3. 1961 Chateau Latour
4. 1959 Domaine Romanee Conti Richebourg
5. 1978 Domaine Romanee Conti La Tache
6. 1947 Huet SA, Le Haut Lieu, Moelleux, Vouvray
7. 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Shiraz
8. 1982 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse De Lalande
9. 1978 Domaine Romanee Conti Montrachet
10. 1990 Jean-Louis Chave, Cuvee Cathelin, Hermitage
Thirty-four of the world’s top wine experts were on the panel that selected Decanter’s Top 100. They included Michael Broadbent, Jim Budd, Ch’ng Poh Tiong, Clive Coates MW, Rosemary George MW, Howard G Goldberg, Anthony Hanson MW, Andrew Jefford, Hugh Johnson, James Lawther MW, John Livingstone-Learmonth, Jasper Morris MW, Michael Palij MW, David Peppercorn MW, John Radford Norm Roby, Anthony Rose, Michael Schuster, Tom Stevenson, Serena Sutcliffe MW, and Australians Len Evans, James Halliday, Huon Hooke and Michael Hill-Smith MW
“The first attempts at blending Shiraz with Cabernet hit the jackpot early. One of the most highly prized wines in Australia's history is Penfolds Bin 60A, a 1962 vintage blend of Barossa Shiraz and Coonawarra Cabernet. More than 30 years later, it remains a heady, rich, incredibly profound wine, one of the greatest wines I have tasted anywhere”. Harvey Steiman, Editor at Large, Wine Spectator
Bin 60A was one “of the great reds I cut my palate on, and proved forever that the two varieties can blend beautifully together.” Len Evans, OBE
“Made by Grange pioneer Max Schubert, this legendary wine is considered by many to be the finest Australian wine ever made.” Decanter Magazine 2004
“Kalimna is and always will be the backbone of Grange Hermiatge. To Max Schubert, it is the best red wine vineyard in Australia. End of discussion.” Huon Hooke, Max- Schubert Winemaker 1994
The History of Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Shiraz
2004 Penfolds Bin 60A is a “homage” to one of the greatest Australian wines ever made. In a world where egos readily clashed, the 1962 Penfold Bin 60A Kalimna Shiraz Coonawarra Cabernet unified wine critics and show judges. It is Penfolds most successful show wine winning 19 trophies and 33 gold medals. It remains an astonishing wine. James Halliday – a doyen of Australian wine show judges – described it as a glorious absolutely wonderful wine. A finely woven tapestry of innumerable flavours.”
In 2004 Decanter Magazine’s “100 greatest wines of all time” 1962 Bin 60A was ranked seven after 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, 1921 Chateau d’Yquem and 1959 Domaine de La Romanee Conti Richebourg! The late Andre Tchelistcheff, the grand old man of the Californian wine industry, once demanded of his fellow dinners, “Gentlemen, you will all stand in the presence of this wine!”
1962 Bin 60A was a confluence of oenological, physical and philosophical achievement. This cross-regional blend exemplified the emerging Penfolds house wine style and highlighted the extraordinary synthesis of aromas and flavours derived from blending Cabernet and Shiraz. Max Schubert understood the variability and nuances of individual vineyards through the development of Grange and the experimental wines of the 1950s and early 1960s. He noticed that selection across various vineyard sites could improve his palette of blending options. The Shiraz “fruit profile” from Kalimna was certainly different to Magill and Morphett Vale Shiraz. The overlapping of aromas and flavours would allow a consistent and “all round” style. Cabernet was more problematic as it was a very scare commodity. In 1960 Australia produced only around 300 tonnes of Cabernet and Penfolds had a call on most of it. Yet Max Schubert instinctively knew the potential of this variety despite its variability and availability. The options were limited and forced Max Schubert to compromise and experiment. There are numerous bottlings of experimental and commercially unreleased Bin numbers which show the extraordinary research and work in progress.
In the late 1950s Coonawarra was barely known as a premium winegrowing district. Max Schubert was initially skeptical of Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon believing it was difficult to achieve the optimum ripeness required by Penfolds from this cooler wine district. In 1960 he changed his mind and Penfolds consequently purchased Sharam’s Block from the pioneering Coonawarra vigneron Owen Redman. This mature vineyard named after the original “blocker” who supplied grapes to John Riddoch in the 1890s is planted on prime weathered terra rossa soil and the original source of the Cabernet component for Bin 60 Kalimna Shiraz Coonawarra Cabernet and its more famous reverse “on-blend” 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Kalimna Shiraz.
“Max Schubert is, quite simply, a winemaking genius who had the courage and imagination to ignore completely the conventional winemaking philosophies and techniques of his day.” James Halliday
The success of Bin 60A and the launch of Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz paved the way for a generation of new Cabernet Shiraz styles and coincided with a substantial investment in Coonawarra. In 1962 Penfolds purchased 60 hectares of land and began to plant substantial tracts of Cabernet and Shiraz vineyards on the friable red clay – terra rossa loams over well drained limestone subsoils. At the time Coonawarra was a very isolated, emerging wine region with only two operating wineries and no electricity.
Everything ran on generators and steam. Italian immigrants – still largely unrecognized – were brought in to help establish these new vineyard blocks. Without their contribution the opening up of Coonawarra would have been extremely difficult. Penfolds investment created a renewed and irrevocable confidence in the future of Cooawarra. Nonetheless, in 1962, the fruit was trucked up overnight to Adelaide and then crushed and fermented in open wax-lined fermenters in the cellars at Magill.
“The Bin 60A was fermented in the last Magill open fermenter closest to the Magill reception door. Old timers say that the grapes were foot-crushed. Max Schubert fermented the wine in the classical Penfolds winemaking style using header boards and rack & returns. Towards completion of fermentation the wine was basket pressed and barrel fermented.” Peter Gago, Penfolds Chief Winemaker
Block 20 is located in the original Penfolds plantings, adjacent to the Riddoch Highway 3 km south of the Coonawarra township. This is one of the district’s best vineyards and an important cornerstone of the Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon style. The 35 year old vines are located on classic terra rossa soils and have achieved a reputation for exceptionally well balanced fruit with small concentrated berries and superb flavour. During the 2003/2004 growing season Peter Gago was alerted to the exceptional flavour balance and texture of the developing vintage. With the idea of making a Special Bin Coonawarra Cabernet Barossa Shiraz winemakers Steve Lienert and John Bird visited the vineyard and tasted the fruit. While ultimate selection would take place after vinification, vineyard rows were identified for special attention. Peter Gago says 2004 is a prodigious year for select Coonawarra Cabernet fruit, “At a very early stage we recognised the superb quality of the vintage. There is no question that the quality of the fruit is on the same scale as the great Penfolds vintages of 1990, 1976 and 1962. At classification our winemakers past and present including John Duval, Don Ditter, John Bird and Steve Leinert all recognize it as a particularly special parcel.”
The Kalimna Vineyard
The Kalimna Vineyard has played a significant influence on Penfolds red wine style and quality. It is sometimes referred to as the “mother vineyard” of Penfolds Grange. Many of the vines are over 75 years of age, illustrating the extraordinary provenance of this vineyard. A classic First Growth vineyard in Bordeaux rarely reaches an average age of over 40 years. These un-irrigated but well-balanced vines are planted on rich brown soils and alluvial sands. The root system extends into bedrock. The vines struggle through summer producing exceptional quality fruit with small berries and thick skins. Indeed the rich flavours and chocolaty tannin structures of Kalimna Shiraz are an essential element in Penfolds portfolio of Special Bins including Bin 95 Grange, RWT Barossa Shiraz, St Henri, Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz and Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz.
Kalimna Shiraz is identifiably Barossa in style but has it own unique vineyard character. The seductive plum dark chocolate aromas, fruit intensity, flavour richness, immense structure and aging potential are hallmarks of Kalimna Shiraz. In seeking his “ethereal” wine, Max Schubert identified that such warm climate characteristics could compliment the perfumed cassis/violet aromas, elegant flavours and fine grained tannins of Coonawarra. In 1962 he experimented with a 2/3rd Kalimna Shiraz, 1/3rd Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon and an “on-blend” of 2/3rd Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, 1/3rd Kalimna Shiraz. Both bottlings were entered into the Australian Wine Show circuit generating plenty of debate among wine judges and winemakers. Bin 60A – the “on-blend” – significantly out-performed its sibling rival Bin 60 winning 19 trophies and 33 gold medals. Its brilliant show career and success challenged the traditional views of the day and showed a way forward for both Penfolds and the fledgling modern Australian wine industry.
Kalimna is one of the Barossa’s greatest vineyards. It’s evocation of place and character woop and warp through some of Penfolds most famous wines and wine styles. The Kalimna Vineyard, however, had unspectacular beginnings. Its original owners were Thomas and Richard Victor who later sold to John Kelly, an Adelaide buyer. In 1888 local fruit processors D&J Fowler purchased the property as a source of firewood for their Lion Preserving Works in Nuriootpa. George Swan Fowler, the local manager, recognised that the fertile rises, gentle under and sandy flats would prove suitable for viticulture. The property was planted with Shiraz, Mataro, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Block 42 – planted around that time – stands out as very special piece of viticultural dirt. The vines are thought to the oldest surviving Cabernet Sauvignon in the world.
In 1896 George Sage was appointed vineyard manager, the stone homestead and cellars were constructed and the property named “Kalimna”, a local aboriginal derivation meaning “pleasant view”. William Salter – a member of the famous Barossa winemaking family which established Saltram near Angaston – was appointed manager a few years later. During his tenure, the dry red table wines from the Kalimna vineyard were highly prized and much of it exported to the United Kingdom. War and economic depression impacted severely on the wine trade. Fowlers subsequently sold the vineyard in 1945 to the Adelaide Wine Saloon Limited (Penfolds). It was purchased as a going concern with 55,000 gallons of dry wine from the 1944-1945 vintages. Interestingly, John Davoren – the creator of St Henri – managed the Kalimna Vineyard from 1946 to 1948.
While it is romantic to think of old vines as the determinant of quality, the Kalimna vineyard’s age is only one of several contributing factors to its unique character. The science and craft of vineyard management has evolved considerably over the last 50 years. Vine selection, refinement of trellising systems and shoot positioning, optimizing soil moistures as well as reducing pest and disease pressure are all finer points of getting the best out of vineyard site.
Koonunga Hill Vineyard
Koonunga Hill, planted on rich brown earth and heavy clays in 1973, is an important mature Barossa vineyard providing exceptional quality fruit for both Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon and Penfolds Grange. This gentle undulating vineyard – about five kilometers north-east of Kalimna – was established to allow for “precision” viticulture.
The Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz vines are trellised on single wire. “Capacitance probes” are situated throughout the vineyard to measure soil moistures. While much of the vineyard is mechanically pruned and harvested, a very special parcel of Block 53G Shiraz was hand picked at vintage and vinified at Nuriootpa. At classification this parcel was earmarked for inclusion in the 2004 Penfolds Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet, Barossa Shiraz. Penfold winemaker Steve Leinert says, “Koonunga Hill is now a very mature 32 year old vineyard producing very impressive Shiraz fruit. The flavour intensity, volume and overall balance of the 2004 Koonunga Hill Block 53G Shiraz was sensational. It gives the essential bass notes to the wine.”
Andrew Caillard MW, Langton’s
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Charity Lot - 123 Classified Wines
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Parker Review - Tuscany 2006 & 2007
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