Wine Advocate 91 points - A blend of 66% Shiraz, 23% Grenache and the balance Mataro, the deep garnet-purple colored 2012 Bin 138 Shiraz Grenache Mataro opens to red currants and black raspberry fragrances with hints of Chinese Five Spice, roses and black pepper. With tons of sweet, red berry fruit in the mouth enhanced by a gentle spiciness, the structured, medium level of rounded tannins and lively acid holds through the long finish. 1,842 bottles were made. Drink it now to 2019+. (Feb 2014)
Vintage conditions and ultimately the nature of the fruit are the elements that determine the final blend. Hence each year the varietal make-up can vary. In some vintages shiraz will lead the blend, in others grenache will be the principal element.
Unusually for Penfolds, all three varieties are matured independently, owing to their tendency to mature at different times on the vine and the need to mature under different conditions in the barrel.
Mourvedre will often contribute a unique combination of violet-like floral notes and a range of earthy, savoury complexities. Structurally it can be lean and sinewy, providing a worthy frame upon which shiraz and grenache can sit. Grenache is typically lighter in colour and body, presenting the perfume of the wine and is often the first component noticed when the wine is poured. Shiraz provides the body and shape of the wine.
Bin 138 is more of a fruit-driven style than the other Bin wines and displays a chalkier tannin texture. Its rich, earthy nature becomes more nuanced with age.
|Braised lamb shanks
Twice cooked cheese souffle
|Australia’s winemaking history of less than two hundred years is brief by European measures though, like Europe, punctuated by periods of extreme success and difficult times. From the earliest winemaking days Penfolds has figured prominently and few would argue the importance of Penfolds’ influence on Australia’s winemaking psyche.
Without the influence of Penfolds the modern Australian wine industry would look very different indeed. Sitting comfortably outside of fad and fashion, Penfolds has taken Australian wine to the world on a grand stage and forged a reputation for quality that is without peer.
Penfolds’ reputation for making wines of provenance and cellaring potential might suggest a mantle of tradition and formality is the preferred attire of a company with so much history to defend. But to label Penfolds as simply an established and conventional winemaker, would be to confuse tradition with consideration and to overlook the innovative spirit that has driven Penfolds since its foundation, and continues to find expression in modern times.
If there is anything traditional about Penfolds, it is the practice of constantly reviewing the wines it already does well, and continuously evolving and refining styles as vineyards mature and access to ever older and more varied vineyard sites improves.