PENFOLDS Special Bin 111A Shiraz, Clare Valley, Barossa Valley
It is a tradition at Penfolds to experiment, research and develop new wines. The large number of mostly one-off, bin-numbered wines produced, beginning in the 1950s, initially shows a company diversifying away from its core business of fortified wines. In the 1960s, the primary aim was to make ‘show wines’, but the program also resulted in the development of current-day staples like Bin 707 and Bin 389 and, more recently, of Bin 407, RWT Shiraz and Yattarna Chardonnay.
In effect, the first two ‘Special Bin’ wines were the then-experimental 1951 Grange and the ‘control wine’ Max Schubert made alongside it so he could see what the wine would be like matured in a single, old 4500 litre cask rather than the new, 300 litre American oak barrels in which he put the ‘real’ Grange.That wine is now forgotten, but, said Schubert (in 1979): ‘It did... set the guidelines for the production and marketing of a whole range of special red wines which have been sought after, vintage by vintage, to this day’.
Schubert’s successors, the late Don Ditter, John Duval and Peter Gago, continued the tradition, making small-batch wines (1000 dozen or less) for comparison with existing styles, to try out something new in the way of varietal or regional combinations or simply to spotlight a brilliant parcel of fruit. Some may be forgotten in time, but others are considered among the greatest Australian wines of all time.
A new addition to the Penfolds lineup, the 2016 Bin 111A Shiraz is a blend of Clare (54%) and Barossa (46%) fruit from vineyards that have previously contributed to Grange. Aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak, it's a rich, luxuriously textured wine that's packed with ripe fruit and finely textured tannins. Hints of grilled meat and exotic dried spices accent red raspberries and redcurrants in this full-bodied but exceptionally silky and elegant red that meets the high expectations... yet another unique expression of Shiraz and the quality lives up to the lofty price tag... it'll provide immense pleasure for decades to come.
100 points, Wine Advocate, August 2019
Deep crimson. Intense black cherry, blackberry cedar dark chocolate mocha aromas. Well concentrated inky dense wine with plush dark cherry, dark chocolate flavour, fine chalky but vigorous textures, plenty of mid-palate richness and viscosity and integrated mineral acidity. Finishes muscular firm. Starts in the Barossa and finishes in the Clare. A brilliant blend of both giving a new Penfolds perspective on South Australian Shiraz. Drink 2028-2050.
100 points, Andrew Caillard MW
Shiraz from the Clare and Barossa valleys. Two vineyards. 54% Clare, 46% Barossa. 18 months in French oak, 100% new. This wine is part of the long and glorious history of Penfolds’ one-off “specials”. I tasted this back in July and it streeted the 2015 Grange. Which doesn’t leave much room.
In a word it’s superb. It opens up the throttle and lets you have it. The flavours reach far, deep, wide and long. Coffee grounds, red and black berries, brightness and shadows, a bitumen road in full sun, extraordinary length, we’re heading straight over the mountains. Pretty much an example of magnificence in the form of a red wine. They don’t come much better.
98 points, Wine Front, October 2019.
This new Special Bin shiraz is stunning and has such wildly deep and dark fruit, in particular very rich dark cherries and plums and plenty of attractively spicy oak on offer here. Intense and packed with youthful fruit. There’s an entrancing build of really fine tannin, carrying pure, pristine and deep-set flavours of blackberries and ripe dark cherries. The finish is carried on incredibly long, muscular and velvety tannins. Such power and elegance, really setting a new style. This is exceptional. A glorious new rung at the top of the Australian wine ladder. 51% Clare, 49% Barossa, two single plots blended and matured in French oak for 18 months. Seductively drinkable now, but this will live for decades. Best from 2028.
100 points, Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com, December 2019.
This brand new Special Bin Shiraz is sourced from fruit which regularly makes it into Grange, from two single-vineyard sites in the Clare (51%) and Barossa (49%) valleys. A new kid on the Penfolds block, it's framed by new French oak, and is deep, dark and brooding, with fine spicy aromatics of savoury pepper, liquorice and vanilla. This is followed by a richly chocolatey and concentrated dark berry character wrapped in a firm structure of tightly wound tannins and a fine blade of acidity. A beautifully balanced and well-crafted cross-regional blend, this has a lot of finesse and the potential for substantial ageing. Drink 2023-2040.
95 points, Anthony Rose, July 2019
The Clare ValleyThe Clare Valley is located two hours north of Adelaide in the Mount Lofty ranges. The region was settled by John Horrocks who encouraged his servant James Green to plant the first vines in 1842. Climate in the Clare Valley is continental with hot summers, cold winters and low rainfall that necessitates supplementary irrigation. Soils in the valley are predominantly red brown loams over shale, permitting excellent drainage. Many of the best vineyards are located at higher elevations of 400-500m on sites that take advantage of the cool breezes that funnel up the corrugation of hills from the south. The Clare Valley is renowned for its zesty fruit-pure Rieslings particularly from the sub-regions of Polish Hill and Watervale. The region also produces intense age-worthy sturdy reds from Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
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.