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Murray Almond's "From the Left Island"
The 1999 Penfolds Releases - Oh Dear!
Yesterday I had two opportunities to taste the new 1999 releases from Penfolds. Penfolds, or rather Southcorp, seem to be moving the release dates all over the place. The 1998 reds were released in Australia just last Feb/March, at the height of the Australian Summer. As such quite a few of the early shipments were at risk of heat damage, from sitting on the back of trucks. The weather is far milder at this time of the year, but we are tasting the wines with four months less bottle aging.
The range has had a label redesign, with the text that used to be on the bottom third of the Penfolds label design in the past now consigned to a back label. The photos on the Penfolds website are yet to reflect to redesign.
The 1999 vintage is said to have been a difficult one in South Australia, but good wines have been produced. Parts of Coonawarra, in particular, have bucked the trend.
And so to the wines. As I said above these were tasted twice at different locations, and the notes are a review across both tastings.
1999 Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz South Australia
1999 Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz Coonawarra
1999 Penfolds Bin 138 "Old Vines" Shiraz Mouvedre Grenache Barossa Valley, South Australia
1999 Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon
1999 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz
I look forward to the Penfolds New Releases each year (twice this year) as Penfolds normally delivers a few gems in their range. Of this group across the two tastings only the 1999 Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz showed any spark. I'm not sure how much of a factor it is that these wines are being tasted at least 4 months earlier than usual due to bringing the release dates. This may help Rosemount / Southcorp with their inventory management, but if it results in affecting the prestige of the wine it's a questionable benefit.
On this tasting, with the exception of the Bin 128, I can't recommend these wines, however given Penfolds long history of producing good wine and John Duval's undoubted skill. I'll aim to retaste all of them in about 6 months and see if some additional time in bottle has brought forward more flavours.
© Murray Almond
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