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Posted by Michael Franz on February 14, 2017 at 7:19 PM

A Phenomenal New Release of Penfolds “Bin 389”

Penfolds is certainly Australia’s most storied winery, and for many good reasons, both white and red.  In all senses, the biggest reason is Grange, which is without a doubt the most highly esteemed wine produced in all of the southern hemisphere.  However, for almost anyone other than rock stars and trust fund babies, Grange is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and few are fortunate or wealthy enough to taste it even once in light of its current price of $850.

Which brings us to Bin 389. 

To be exact, the formal designation for the wine is:  Penfolds, South Australia Cabernet – Shiraz “Bin 389” 2014 ($69, TWE Imports), 95 Points

I’ve tasted almost every vintage of this wine for the past 20 years, so I’ve got plenty of context for what follows.  Naturally, I didn’t taste the wines side-by-side, so I can’t say that this is the best Bin 389 ever released by Penfolds, but I can certainly say that I can’t remember a better one.

That’s important because this wine’s price has increased appreciably in recent years, whereas it was once priced fairly closely to the Bin 28 and Bin 128 bottlings of Shiraz (now at $30).  Accordingly, if you were returning to this after an interim of some years, you’d expect a lot more for you money.  And in the case of this 2014, you’d get it. 

Bin 389 has long been called Penfolds’ “Baby Grange.”  I suspect that the Penfolds winemaking team--headed by Peter Gago--might not be particularly fond of that coinage, for at least two reasons.  First, Grange is absolutely, positively unique…as anyone who has tasted the wine from any vintage will tell you.  Second, there’s an obvious injustice in referring to Bin 389 with a diminutive term such as “Baby,” though being Grange’s baby would not be such a bad fate.

Still, there’s a case to be made for the coinage, as the 2014 Bin 389 really measures up to the “second wines” of Bordeaux’s First Growth Chateaux.  Moreover, based on the fact that the current low price for the 2010 vintage of Carrauades de Lafite is $200, there’s little question that Penfolds is outperforming the “Super Seconds” with regard to value.

This is very darkly pigmented and equally impressively concentrated, with extremely deep flavors.  However, what is most impressive is that the wine is already amazingly well integrated, with perfectly proportioned, dark-toned fruit that has already absorbed almost all the overt oak notes and easily counterbalances the serious (but not coarse or astringent) tannins.  Accents of cocoa powder and light toast add interesting complexity, and the wine’s freshness is uncanny for its weight.

In sum, this is absolutely terrific.  Anyone who isn’t prepared to pony up $69 for an Australian wine is entitled to his or her opinion, however Yellow Tail skewed it might be.  For the rest of you, well…I’ll see you in the check-out line.

Maison Louis Jadot, Bourgogne Blanc (Burgundy, France) 2014 ($17, Kobrand Wine & Spirits)
This sensational bargain is clearly marketed to New World wine drinkers with the word Chardonnay in large type emblazoned on the label.  Marketing aside, with zesty energy and a hint of seductive creaminess, its flavor profile and character shouts -- in a refined way -- white Burgundy.  This is a blend of Chardonnay-based wines from the Mâconnais, the Côte Chalonnaise, and importantly, the Côte d’Or.  The inclusion of wine from the latter, and of course the stellar 2014 vintage for whites, explains why this Bourgogne Blanc stands out.  I have extensive experience with how marvelously well Jadot’s wines develop with bottle age.  Even this one, with its lowly Bourgogne Blanc appellation, will provide enjoyment for years to come, so buy it by the case -- or two.
90 Michael Apstein

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