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.
Described by Peter Gago as the antithesis of a ‘show wine’, Penfolds' much loved and admired St Henri Shiraz continues to plough its own furrow in glorious style. In many ways it is a superb counterpoint to the more senior Grange, having been aged in large, old oak vats. The nose here is cocoa powder and summer pudding with a touch of mocha. This segues onto a palate of red and black fruits, dark chocolate, graphite and liquorice. St Henris are usually built for the long haul thanks to their acidity, fruit and densely populated tannins, and this is no exception. Superbly structured, juicily vibrant, sweet and balanced, this is tempting to broach now. However, I’d leave it for a couple of decades and wait for the magic to unfurl. Drinking window: 2017-2040.
96 points, John Stimpfig, September 2017
St Henri Shiraz is an atypical Penfolds icon, an echo of the so-called ‘Hidden Granges’ when Max Schubert was denied new oak by the Penfolds board. Matured for 12 months in large old oak vats, it’s a cross-regional blend of 93% Shiraz and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon from McLaren Vale, Robe, The Peninsulas, Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills and Mt Benson. Its youthfully fine crème de mûre perfume is complemented by spicy cardamom and cinnamon, notes of game, fruitcake, cherry and cassis. It has good concentration and seamless textural finesse, supported by a fine backbone of fresh acidity and a savoury finish with great ageing potential. It would suit darker game such as grouse, or even ostrich. Drinking window: 2022-2042.
94 points, Anthony Rose, September 2018
If ever there was a muted St Henri release, this is it. You’d reckon they laced the screwcap with cork, such is its reticence. Raspberry coulis, the sternness of herbs, a sinewy aspect to the tannin and a late onset of anise. This is an arthouse St Henri; it watches you as you drink it. It feels earnest and young; it feels like it didn’t want to come to the tasting, and only did because Head Office said it had to. Saltbush notes roll through like tumbleweeds. Settle in. Cue Morricone. This story won’t be revealed in a hurry.
93+ points, Campbell Mattinson (October 2018)
Medium deep colour. Expressive inky dark cherry, dark plum, blackberry aromas with roasted walnut notes. Beautifully modulated wine with a core of dark plum, mulberry, blackberry fruits, fine plentiful slinky tannins and roasted walnut herb garden notes. Finishes graphite firm with superb length and inky complexity. Lovely density, volume and texture. Has the power and structure for long term aging. The sum may well prove to be greater than the parts, so wait a while. 96 + points – 14.5% alcohol – Drink 2025-2045.
96+ points, Andrew Caillard MW (October 2018)
A St Henri of character, depth and room-filling exuberance. The great 2015 season has yielded a wine of deep, dark, spicy fruit presence that entices from the outset. It’s framed consummately in firm, fine tannin structure that propels its glorious fruit fanfare and promises effortless life in the cellar, lingering with undeterred line and great persistence. Drink 2020-2030.
96 points, Tyson Stelzer (October 2018)
With more grip and tannin and also more dryness and tang, St Henri is a beauty in 2015 and it looks back to its history with butcher’s apron meatiness and smoke as well as looking forward with pristine redcurrant and prune tones reflecting the freshness and depth of this wine in equal measure. Superb and also impressively regal, this is a St Henri worthy of a reverential bow before you take a sip.
19+ points, Matthew Jukes (October 2018)
Deep, bright red/purple colour with a bright, fresh-fruit aroma of blueberry, blackberry and spices, with a lick of aniseed and an earthy overtone. As usual, it lacks the charry-oak and graphite note that other Penfolds shirazes possess. A lovely soft, rounded, fleshy shiraz, which is supple and smooth and yet full-bodied as well, and structured for cellaring. Full-bodied and with a core of sweet fruit, this is a delicious shiraz. Succulent, indeed. I could drink it right now. (7% cabernet sauvignon).
96 points, Huon Hooke (October 2018)
Black olive and plum notes form the base of the 2015 Shiraz St Henri, a wine that sees no new oak (it's aged entirely in old foudres). This vintage includes 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, which gives a bit of lift and a leafy, floral note on the nose. It's medium to full-bodied, with a firm, structured feel and ample tannins to ensure 20-plus years of longevity.
93 points, Joe Czerwinski (October 2018)
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.