Mixing it with the best

Chris Shanahan
The Penfolds Bin range, the latest release is just out, ahead of the premiums in May.
The Penfolds Bin range, the latest release is just out, ahead of the premiums in May. 

Penfolds' 2013 release of its much-loved ''Bin'' wines includes two whites from the outstanding 2012 vintage and nine reds from 2010, 2011 and 2012. The reds remain the most traded of any in the country and are the foundation of many cellars. And the whites, though they live in the shadow of the reds, mix it with the best of their styles.

The retail prices vary considerably with discounting, as you can see in the price ranges given with each wine. These are the recommended price and the lowest price I could find as I wrote, just before Easter, but prices change weekly, so look around.

The Bin 51 riesling and Bin 311 show the extra flavour depth of a great white vintage, and the polish of a company committed to the fine detail in the vineyard and winery. You can't go wrong with these, provided, of course, you like the styles.

 Photo: Phil Carrick

The reds can be split into long-cellaring and early drinking styles, and separated by vintage. The lone 2012 wine, Bin 23 pinot noir, gives a unique Penfolds take on this classic variety in a very good year. The 2011s all show the effects of the cold, wet 2011 vintage. They succeed nevertheless, but they'll never reach the heights of the brilliant 2010s.

I make no comment on the investment potential of the wines, other than to direct readers to the price guide on langtons.com.au for the latest price realisations on past vintages. It's safer to simply buy the wines for drinking pleasure, knowing the good vintages have an outstanding cellaring record.

Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2012


Sourced from the High Eden and Woodbury vineyards in the Eden Valley, Bin 51 shows the class of the 2012 riesling vintage. It offers riesling's delicacy. The aroma shows floral, citrus and apple-like varietal character. And all of these show on the delicate but intensely flavoured palate. Although the sweet fruit softens the palate, the season's brisk acidity gives the wine real backbone and a clean, refreshing finish. It drinks well now but should age well for many years if cellared in the right conditions.

Penfolds Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2012



Like the three chardonnays reviewed on the facing page, Bin 311 is a sophisticated, barrel-fermented style, focusing on fruit flavour. Penfolds came to Tumbarumba through its sister company Seppelt, which went there initially in search of chardonnay and pinot noir for sparkling wine. However, the cool region's chardonnay proved excellent for table wine, too. The latest vintage lies at the more subtle end of the chardonnay spectrum. It is a wine of considerable finesse to enjoy over the next five or six years.

Penfolds Bin 23 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2012


Bin 23 sits squarely in the Penfolds rich, solid mould. But it also captures the unique character of pinot noir, albeit at the bigger end of the spectrum. The ripe, varietal aroma comes liberally anointed with savoury and earthy notes. This is high quality pinot in a distinctive style and probably capable of ageing very well in the medium term.

Penfolds Bin 138 Barossa Valley Shiraz Grenache Mataro 2011


For an old company with such deep Barossa roots and a long history of multi-region blending, Penfolds came late to producing straight Barossa reds on a regular basis. But it now offers several, including the sub-regional Bin 150 (below) and Bin 138. In the cool, wet 2011 vintage, shiraz dominates the Bin 138 blend, grenache provides aromatic high notes and bright fruitiness to the palate and mataro adds spice and structure. The three combine into a big, earthy red with firm, chunky tannins; but a little too much so for my taste. One of the rare Penfolds reds I don’t enjoy drinking.

Penfolds Bin 2 South Australia Shiraz Mourvedre 2011


Bin 2 has been an on-again, off-again wine for Penfolds, made initially in 1960. Originally marketed as shiraz mataro, Bin 2 adopts the French name "mourvedre" for the latest release. Confusingly, Bin 138 (above) made the change from "mourvedre" to "mataro", leaving Penfolds with a bet on both names. Sourced from the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, the medium-bodied Bin 2 2011 offers a combination of ripe berries, spice and savouriness on a supple, soft palate.

Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2011


Bin 128 succeeds in the difficult 2011 season. It's a tad lighter-bodied than normal, but that comes hand in hand with the lovely, sweet perfume of cool-grown shiraz. This carries over to a lively, elegant palate, cut through with fine tannins and a sympathetic spiciness from the French oak. Drinks well now and should evolve for five or six years.

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2010


Bin 28 combines shiraz from the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek and the slightly cooler Wrattonbully and Robe on the Limestone Coast. Clearly it's an excellent year, though I sense also a tweak to the Bin 28 style, too, principally in the brightness and freshness of fruit aroma and flavour and less obvious oak. The colour is deep red-black and the aroma combines bright, ripe-cherry varietal character, seasoned with spice. The plump, ripe palate reflects the aroma and it's layered with ripe, assertive-but-soft fruit tannins. This is an outstanding Bin 28 with good cellaring potential.

Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2010


The Barossa Valley's Marananga sub-region produces outstanding red wine and has long been favoured by Penfolds. Not surprisingly, its first sub-regional label, Bin 150, came from this area. The fruit has the power to handle maturation in 50 per cent new oak (a mix of French and American). The lively, deep, sweet-spicy fruit absorbs the oak and has a special buoyancy and depth. It's a very special expression of Barossa shiraz and probably capable of long-term cellaring, though it hasn't been around long enough to say that with certainty.

Penfolds Bin 8 South Australia Cabernet Shiraz 2011


Winemaker Peter Gago says he made this early drinking blend (62 per cent cabernet, the rest shiraz) in response to international media interest in the traditional Australia blend of cabernet and shiraz. He sources fruit from McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley and upper Adelaide, all warm regions. The wine captures fruit aromatics and vibrant fruit flavours, with sufficient tannin to provide red wine structure, as you'd expect from Penfolds. Berry and leafy cabernet characters dominate the flavour and shiraz fattens out the mid-palate. An early drinking style.

Penfolds Bin 389 South Australia Cabernet Shiraz 2010


The finessing of the Penfolds style apparent in the Bin 28 shows, too, in a particularly lively Bin 389 - a true multi-regional blend (51 per cent cabernet, the rest shiraz) from Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, Robe, McLaren Vale, Padthaway and the Adelaide Hills. The cabernet component generally dominates Bin 389, but in 2010 the two become inseparable. Instead, we smell and taste a juicy, supple red with an attractive spicy-sweet character from the oak weaving through the fruit. Cabernet finally asserts itself in the firm but finely textured finish. What a classy wine - and built for long cellaring. The oak is all American, 40 per cent of it new.

Penfolds Bin 407 South Australia Cabernet Sauvignon 2010


Bin 407 provides an expression of ripe, but not overripe, cabernet sauvignon - blackcurrant-like with no discernible leafy or herbal characters. To achieve this, winemaker Peter Gago chooses suitable fruit from Coonawarra, Wrattonbully and Padthway on the Limestone Coast and McLaren Vale, a few hundred kilometres to the north. The oak used for maturation comprises French and American barrels of various ages, a little under half of it new. Impressively vibrant, dense, pure-varietal fruit fills the palate, cut with ripe, fine-textured tannins. This is an exceptionally complete, well balanced cabernet with long cellaring potential.