Grange and St Henri once were equals. But as Grange's fame grew, St Henri was eclipsed. Now St Henri is again re–emerging from the shadow of Grange. Matured in large, old vats that impart little or no oak character, St Henri is Shiraz au naturel. '…a wine of effortless, refined persistence', says Tyson Stelzer, '…with a silky, supple mouth feel and yet somehow still firm and enduring'. Says James Halliday: 'A great St Henri that will come into its own in a bare minimum of 10 years, and live long thereafter'.
Ned Goodwin MW and Langton’s Head of Domestic Buying Ramon Gunasekara discuss the newly released Icons, including Grange and St. Henri, from the Penfolds Collection 2020.
Deep crimson. Intense blackberry, mulberry roasted walnut aromas with herb garden, star anise notes. Inky textured wine with pure blackberry, mulberry fruits fine supple/ velvety tannins, lovely mid-palate generosity and underlying roasted walnut notes. Finishes brambly firm with plentiful espresso dark berry fruits. Very seductive and beautifully balanced St Henri with classic buoyant fruits and animated tannin ripeness. Lovely drinking now but keep for a while.
95 points (2020)
"I always love this wine. The breadth of larger format neutral French wood allows a vinous spread of fruit across the palate without the oak impingement. An explosion of blue to blackberry, mulberry, tapenade, Asian five-spice and smoked meats. This is a mellifluous expression of fruit over oak, making it a winning wine among those, perhaps, that often steer toward European expressions."
96 points (July 2020)
The cool, extended growing season of 2017 has given birth to a St Henri of multi-faceted complexity, contrasting tangy red berry fruits and mixed spice with hints of charcuterie, set against a backdrop of understated mocha. This is a vintage that plays to the classic tone and mood of this label, where detail and fruit are the mandate, a refreshing counterpoint to the Penfolds regime of density, tannins and oak. Tangy acidity and fine, supple fruit tannins drive a finish of excellent persistence.
95 points (July 2020)
The colour is impressively concentrated, dense and dark, the purple tinge staining the glass. The bouquet carries some apparent oaky nuances as well as very ripe blackberry fruit aromas. Concentrated dark berries, graphite, tar and tremendous depth and density of flavour that rolls on endlessly along the palate. Fresh acidity and ripely authoritative tannin grip to close. Hints of mocha and espresso coffee throughout. The texture is supple and smoothly rounded. No oak is apparent on palate. A powerful, lingering wine with great potential.
96 points, The Real Review (July 2020)
This has a very impressive, intense nose with a cool and spicy edge, as well as aromas of red flowers and fresh raspberries, set amid some wild-herb tones. The palate has very expressive raspberry and cranberry flavors, delivered among fine, crunchy and lithe, juicy tannins. The palate has a deep, red-plum core that’s quite tautly contained and wrapped up neatly for some time to come.
95 points, JamesSuckling.com (July 2020)
The St Henri point of difference is that it's aged in old, large wooden vats. Sourced from throughout South Australia, the 2017 St Henri Shiraz reveals no oak in its rather raw, unrefined notes of bloody beef, mixed berries, black olives and road tar. It's full-bodied and still tannic at this stage, with a bit of coarseness on the finish that hopefully time will soften. While not the best vintage for St Henri, it's a commendable effort that should age well.
93 points, Wine Advocate (July 2020)
This masterpiece of Australian red wine is largely shiraz with about 3% cabernet just to keep it honest. A completely different animal to most of the Penfolds stable with maturation in big old vats that are more than 50 years old. The colour is deep. The aromas have savoury meaty characters, with that mix of stewed plums and liqueur cherry. Dark swirling fruits of black cherry, coffee grinds and dark chocolate on the palate. The acid line maintains the linear dimension to a very long finish. Just classic.
98 points, The West Australian (July 2020)
There’s a lot to love about this wine: its calm modesty, assured sense of purpose, and long, steady procession of flavours. The elastic palate stretches and shifts through rich savoury notes over a measured meld of sweet berries. If you regard Shiraz as being too much a playful puppy, then this represents a more docile, loyal companion. It’s a comforting wine; reliable and secure. A slowly bowed cello rather than a shrill violin. An evocative slow dance to a timeless ballad. Watch its allure grow with time in the cellar.
96 points, David Sly, Decanter (July 2020)
There is a rather wonderful image floating around my brain as I type this note. In 2017, I see St Henri as a rather louche gentleman sauntering in a smoking jacket. – a sort of Benedict Cumberbatch-type, chuntering away, rather enjoying himself. It’s funny how different vintages change the character of a wine. Last years 2016 was so profound and well-built that it took my breath away. 2017, by contrast, makes me want to giggle. It is open, plummy, smooth and old-school, with a gentle side and the merest smattering of char and meatiness to retain some of its guile and reputation. Certainly forward-drinking, but with a surprising ability to hold, less robust vintages of St Henri often amaze with their propensity to develop and I would bet that this is one such wine. While my score might seem a little deflated, given that I like this silky wine enormously, this is just because I prefer the more macho St Henri vintages. I bet that this goes down a storm with classicists though and this makes this wine such a genuine product of both its winery and also its year.
18+ points (July 2020)
It’s a jubey, floral, perfumed wine. You could call it pretty. It’s up and about, lively, fresh, sweet fruited in a boysenberry-plum jam-and-blueberry way. Drinking it is like letting the sun burst in through a window, its rays striking at the fruit bowl. If you can imagine Maggie Beer as a 21-year-old then you can imagine the joyous, bubbly, great-to-be-around character of this wine. St Henri used to come in a plain bottle and I always liked that; at some point they started stuffing it into heavy dark glass; it used to be fashionably unfashionable, plain and adorable; now it plods like the rest of ’em. Fortunately the wine doesn’t seem to mind. You twist the top and it beams straight at you, its eyes brimming with sweet spice. You know, I don’t think this wine has yet been told that it belongs to a publicly listed company. It feels free of care. Its future is bright because of course it is. I haven’t yet swallowed a mouthful but it’s been terribly hard not to. It’s not a great wine or necessarily a great release but it’s beautiful and I don’t know what more can you ask.
94 points, The Wine Front (July 2020)
Dark purplish crimson. Pure, intense, Australian, silky saline Shiraz on the nose. Already smooth and approachable. Tarry finish but not aggressively chewy. Hint of molasses on the (dry) finish. This is my style of Oz Shiraz with finely polished edges. The cool vintage doesn't seem to have left any unpleasant traces – but I suppose there was extremely strict selection.
17.5 points, JancisRobinson.com (June 2020)
The cool and late vintage kissed the wine on both cheeks, making the classic maturation in 50yo vats doubly welcome. A glimpse of the future is the inaugural use of fruit from Port Lincoln joining the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, and Eden Valley in the blend. This has none of the hardness that sometimes gives an edge to St Henri, purity stepping in to its sculpted palate. Includes 3% cabernet sauvignon.
96 points, Wine Companion (July 2020)
South Australia is the driest state on the world’s driest continent. Covering almost 1 million (984 377km) square kilomteres, it represents 12.8% of the Australian land mass. Sweeping plains are intersected by a spine of relatively low lying ranges, the Mount Lofty/Flinders Ranges which extend through the heart of the State. Over 50% of the state is elevated at under 150 metres. The Great Artesian basin covers almost one-third of the State. The major river is the River Murray which lethargically makes its way into the Southern Ocean. This water mass has a moderating effect on climate, particularly in the southern regions of South Australia where most vines are planted.
Summers are generally hot and dry with relatively mild nights. Winters are cool. Rainfall occurs mostly during late autumn/winter (May, June, July, August). Drought and salinity are major concerns.
The principle wine regions in South Australia are; the Adelaide Hills, Barossa (comprising the Barossa and Eden Valleys), Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Coonawarra and the Riverland. Vineyard expansion has also extended to Wrattonbully, Mount Benson, Bordertown, Robe, Southern Fleurieu and the Flinders Ranges.
It is a tradition for many wine companies to make multi-district blends from South Australian fruit – the idea of house style taking precedence over regional definition. Penfolds pioneered this concept. The vagaries of vintage variation can be evened out by fruit selection, ensuring quality at a high level. However there is debate that this concept comes at the expense of the ‘soul’ of the wine. Penfolds Grange is probably the most famous multi-district blend and is an excellent counter-argument.Andrew Caillard MW, Langton's
Penfolds is probably the most extraordinary of the world’s wine brands with an enviable reputation for quality at every price level. The original Penfold was an English doctor who, in 1844, planted grapes at Magill, now a suburb of Adelaide. However, it was not until the late 1940s that Penfolds began to forge a reputation for red wine.
The Penfolds house style emerged from a fortified wine producing culture and evolved as a winemaking philosophy which has had a profound effect on the entire Australian wine industry. Many of the techniques initially adopted to make Penfolds Grange would become part of the wider Penfolds winemaking culture. The number of techniques employed in the research and development of Penfolds wines is astonishing. Max Schubert and his team pioneered: major advances in yeast technology and paper chromatography; the understanding and use of pH in controlling bacterial spoilage; the use of headed down/submerged cap fermentation and the technique of rack and return; cold fermentation practices; the use of American oak as a maturation vessel and perhaps most critically, partial barrel fermentation. Nowadays, the use of American oak and barrel fermentation for instance is considered traditional Barossa winemaking practice!
Today, Penfolds house style embraces the concept of multi-regional blending, optimum fruit quality, the use of fine-grained American or French oak, barrel fermentation and maturation. Overall, the Penfolds style is about highly-defined fruit aromas, fruit sweetness, ripe tannins, richness, power and concentration. The number of iconic wines that have emerged from the Penfolds stable over the years is remarkable. Bin 389 a Cabernet Shiraz blend released in 1960 is now considered the quintessential Australian wine blend. Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz and Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz released in 1962 pre-empted the contemporary enthusiasm for regional definition by about 25 years. Improved vineyard management, site selection and winemaking brought about subsequent releases of Bin 707 and Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Penfolds Wine Making Philosophy is the accumulation of more than half-a-century of knowledge and winemaking practice initiated by Max Schubert and subsequently refined by Don Ditter, John Duval and Peter Gago. Their collective commitment to multi-regional and vineyard blending contributed to a consistency of style and quality that has cemented Penfolds reputation as the foremost producer of premium age-worthy red wines in Australia.