“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





29 January 2015


Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna ® South Australia Shiraz 2012 
$40 Vintage Cellars, $37 Dan Murphy's; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 80++ points 

Kalimna is a priceless old vineyard property at the north end of the Barossa. There's a very very special 1880s Cabernet Block 42 there, whose wine sells at around Grange prices. If you wanted to, you could have paid $168,000 for 750 mls of the 2004 in the ravishing Ampoule, which quickly sold out in 2012.

On the other hand, Kalimna's Shiraz vines start in 1948. Somehow, instead of revering that special place, some marketing genius decided to make Kalimna a registered brand name in a more generic sense, so the grapes in this wine come, as the label vaguely admits, from South Australia, which is a fair bit bigger than little ol' Kalimna. Not to mention quite a lot cheaper, as far as buying grapes goes.

Pushing it even further, the back label says "It is Penfolds [sic] oldest Bin wine." So we have the "oldest Bin wine" which is actually 2012 and it may or may not include fruit from Kalimna.

It sure as hell includes quite a lot of fruit from somewhere else.

Not to mention the notion that the 1951 Bin 1 Grange and 1952 Bin 4 may indeed be somewhat older.

Maybe the buyer of Penfolds red at these prices is expected to be so breathlessy aspirant that they won't notice such polish from the propaganda division which somehow lives on in the ruins of Foster's old Melbourne ramparts. I seriously doubt whether these people actually drink wine.

It was quite raw and brash on first opening. Now, four hours later, it seems to fit the modern Penfolds 'claret' style: tight and velvety; not exactly jumping with juicy or openly alluring fruit. There are gradual insinuations of dried fig and juniper berries and nuts like you get in panforte. And there's a nice summer prickle about it, like red dust. It's the sort of wine that might gradually suck the patient drinker, as we say, in. In the sense that it reluctantly releases glimmers of this and that. And it's leathery, like old dry harness. It's very dry to schlück, and, as I say, velvety and dusty. It's on the verge of sucking all the water out of your eyes. It's right wing wine. Its American oak is not too intrusive, but it's certainly there. I reckon it'll start to show the beginnings of a sense of humour in another two days. If in doubt, double-decant. Or wait ten years. Or have it now with tart cheddar. Or buy something else.

Like Jacob's Creek, Kalimna was once a small vineyard. 

Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Barossa Shiraz 2012 
$75 at Dan Murphy's; $63 at Langton's (both Woolworths); 14.5% alcohol; cork; 94++ points 

The old rocks that underlie Marananga are about as old as rocks get inside your actual Barossa Valley, which is otherwise mostly very young geology. This is not to guarantee that these old rocks  produce better wines, but they tend to. Wines like Greenock Creek's Roennfeldt Road grow in 'em. When he discovered that Michael Waugh had bought that tiny block, Peter Lehmann complained that too many of his trophies came from that particular vineyard. So while the location of its actual vineyard remains annoyingly vague, and both sides of the label are laden with ordinary Penfolds fluff, this newish Bin number should be good.

It is indeed a simmering, glowering, provocative brute. With unusual finesse for such machismo. It stares you down. It is overtly masculine. It is the blacksmith pushing the wife aside and making the bloody blackberry tart his way. He puts mint leaves on the top, and then great gloops of cream, and way beneath, his awkward pastry is not particularly fine as far as its sieving and rolling went. Then, like old Burgundians eat their tiny forest strawberries, he's ground white pepper over it.

Drink it. Oooyez. I know we're getting into the heady nether regions of pricing, but let me guarantee you this is three times the wine of the Bin 28. It's intense, and yes, velvety, but up the middle of its stony lane there's an open gutter full of the oozing gooey juice of many luscious fruits, most of them black and not yet growing on Earth. I mean they're obviously extant in the wine, but the things they remind me of are too black and mysterious and jungly to have yet evolved.

I'll leave you with blackberry, pepper and aniseed. And that wicked black syrup.

A shoulder of venison stewed ever so slowly with juniper, blackcurrants, whole beetroots and all the business in a mixture of vintage port and champagne should set you off nicely, served with a spinach jam and mashed potato, parsnip and carrot, with chopped raw Spanish onion whisked in at the end with some Paris Creek butter and the Italian parsley. Grurgle sounds from me.  Yep, grurgle.

Bloody good job, Gago and gang. Knockout. 

Grange men past and present: Penfolds winemakers Rod Chapman, John Bird, Ray Beckwith and Peter Gago at Ray's 100th birthday lunch at the old Kalimna homestead north of Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley ... photo Philip White

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