Tag Archives: Penfolds

Wanna know how to save a 49 year old wine … READ THIS!

24 Apr

Wanna know how to save a 49 year old wine ... READ THIS! by Paul Kaan

At 49 years old this baby, 1966 Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Claret, was looking tired! So I decanted it onto 30ppm of Sulphur & left it 2 days. Result was impressive!

1966 Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Claret

The samples I tried on the day, both sulphured & un-sulphured were dramatically different. The unsulphured sample was hard with an aldehyde finish. The sulphured sample fresher, but, closed. Aldehyde had been mopped up by the sulphur.

2 days later the sulphured sample has freshened and opened up beautifully. For around $20 you can get the equipment & sulphur needed to treat more tired old bottles than you’ll drink in a life time. If you have a lot of old wine in the cellar & want to know how to do, this hit me up via the Contact Page or leave your email address in a comment below.

Genius or Insanity: My Take & Thoughts from the Twitterverse on The $168K Penfolds Ampoule Project

30 Jun

Ampoulerama Filthy Good Vino

Ampoulerama Filthy Good Vino

1970 Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Claret … and a T-Bone!

7 May

1970 Penfolds Bin 128

1970 Penfolds Bin 128

I always feel a certain sense of history heading to the cellar to dust off a genuinely old bottle of Filthy Good Vino.

The entertainment starts, before you’ve even opened the bottle. Enter the 1970’s wine label. No flowery, food matching mumbo jumbo on this one!

You know a wine’s old when the label uses Imperial measurements, there’s no mention of the Alcohol % and it is described as a Claret.  I love the details of the District:  “Coonawarra, South Australia (The most southerly vineyards in Australia.”  Apparently Tasmania didn’t even have a legit wine industry when this baby was bottled.

This label certainly beats some of the dribble that’s was pushed out for the 2nd release of Penfolds Bin 620 in 2011.  Whoever wrote it was on the money! Classic old school description: “The dry finish and Tannins make this wine a real Claret of high quality, with the distinctive Coonawarra character prominent. Will improve with bottle age.” With 42 years under its belt they got that one right!

Penfolds have smashed out a lot of wine over the years. The wines of the 1960’s and 1970’s have been some of my favourites. I’ve got a real soft spot for the St Henri’s, aged in big old wood they show more elegance than their big brother, Grange.  I will be forever grateful to my old man, Cudos Eddie Son, for collecting an array of Penfolds Bin wines: 28, 128, 389, 620 (the original), St Henri’s and Grange.  More important than collecting them, he’s shared them! A 1972 St Henri won me the approval of the now officially sanctioned outlaws.

There’s been a massive evolution for Penfolds over the years. The wines of the 1960’s and 1970’s were perhaps more elegant, refined and balanced. There’s a level of sophistication to them that seemed to have been lost in some of their modern siblings.   I’ll leave my ramblings on the evolution and revolution(s) of Australian wine to another day.

Back to the subject at hand: the 1970 Bin 128 Claret made from Coonawarra Shiraz.  Some times when you open bottles this old they actually “sigh”. Bare with me for a moment before writing me off as a lunatic, there is a scientific explanation.  Over time liquid makes its way out through the cork and the gas in the bottle is placed under negative pressure. When the seal is finally broken you can actually hear the bottle suck in a breath of fresh air. One day I’ll capture it on film, stay tuned!

After four bites at the cherry I finally got the cork out of this little baby and with a quick decanting, the beast was unleashed. The 1970 is a classic gobsmacking, spicey, rich bottle of yumminess. There’s no doubt that it’s more of a masculine style and has the fruit weight to hold it. A slight bricky hue suggested a little oxidation, confirmed by a quick wiff, revealing an Amontillado Sherry twist. The passing of time has mellowed an explosive wine that still packs a punch. Incredibly complex: truffle, leather, earthiness and spicey fruit aromas meld together enticing you to wack your honker in the glass and smell it again and again. It starts slow on the tip of your tongue and explodes with ripe, bordering on jammy fruit that fills out in the middle palate. A line of acid refreshes your taste buds as it slides down your throat.  The flavours lingers long after being swallowed.  As a stand alone drink it finishes hard, dusty and slightly sappy, kinda screaming out like a Hawaiian Shirt at a Black Tie event. This is definitely a food wine, a 1kg T-Bone helps to silence the screams.

Yumminess = Yes.  Lamb Chop Wine = Nope, not far from it though.

Food = Perfect with a 1kg T-Bone!  Where to Buy = Check out the Auctions!

Filthy Good Vino, Marketing Hype, Both, Neither? Is Penfolds Bin 620 worth $1000 a bottle or is it just BS?

8 Jan


Interesting to see Penfolds choosing to launch, or relaunch a wine at $1,000 a bottle. More, interesting, was that they chose China to launch the wine.

I happened to have just 1 bottle of the original 1966 Bin 620 sitting in a safe place.



My bottle of the Original Bin 620 – Yes, it was $8.95 back in the day.

A debate has been raging about this wine sinces it’s auspicious launch in Shanghai in November of 2011. The challenge is to look at such a release from all perspectives, which could probably be broken down to three groups: 1. Winemakers  2. Consumer & 3. Marketers.

THE DISCLAIMER: I have not tasted the 2008 Bin 620 and will not make any assertions regarding its quality.

The Winemaker

Having made vino for 13 vintages, I can justifiably say I can look at it from a Winemakers’ perspective. I can definitely say that I am a lover of Authetic, Genuine wine that is representative of both the place from which the grapes came and the time or vintage when they were grown. I spent my time as a winemaker chasing excellence. Making super premium to icon wine and looking to push the boundaries. Working hard in the vineyards, being solely a custodian for the yumminess expressed by the land in the form of grapes. Making wines of a non-interventionalist style, just giving them a nudge here and there as they developed into what I hoped would be a vinous pleasure shared at the table, with a plate and a conversation.  Wines that are fresh, balanced, layered with complexity, texturally awesome, definitely not boring, wines that say DRINK ME and go beautifully with a lamb chop.

What this did require was incredible attention to detail, looking at everything we did to see if we could do it better, even in some miniscuale way. Some times ending up with only a single barrel or about 20 cases of a wine.

I think that is why, I felt, somewhat incredulous and then bored as, during the proceedings of the 1998 Victorian Cool Climate Winemaking and Viticulture Conference, I listened to a young Penfolds’ Winemaker describing the challenges of making the very first vintage of Yattarna, Penfolds’ so called White Grange.  I recall comments around the challenges of barrel selection and attention to detail and how difficult it was.  I think the presenter forgot to switch from Marketing Spin to Making Spin, for the audience of largely Grapegrowers and Winemakers.  The clincher was the fact that a considerable portion of the wine was from a Great Western vineyard that had yielded 5T/acre. And, yep, back in ’98 they were asking $100 a bottle, when the rest of us were pushing to get $35 for some pretty Filthy Good Vino and putting in just us much effort with fruit from vines yielding more like 2.5T/acres or less. Yes, I have tasted the wine, and no it didn’t set my world on fire.

I hope that the Bin 620 is an Authentic wine, that hasn’t simply been trumped up as a marketing ploy.  It’s comforting to read James Halliday’s reflection upon tasting the wine “When I say this is one of the greatest red wines Penfolds has made in the last 50 years …”. You can read the full article here http://www.winecompanion.com.au/sitecore/content/wine-companion/articles/news-articles/2011/november/penfolds-releases-bin-620-coonawarra-cabernet-shiraz-2008

How does this differ from Guigal releasing the super cuvee 2001 Ex-Voto Hermitage in 2005 to compliment it’s suite of Cote Rotie’s: La Ladone, La Mouline and La Turque? All retail for around $600 a bottle with the Guigal’s standard Hermitage retailing for about $150 a bottle.  Hopefully it doesn’t, hopefully the hard yards have been done in both Guigal’s and Penfolds’ vineyards, with careful selection from old vines grown on established terroirs, yielding exceptional quality fruit and the resultant wine.


Guigal’s Super Cuvees from Cote Rotie: La Ladone, La Mouline and La Turque – That was a great day!

What does confuse me is how a few existing blocks have gone from being good one year to great the next, vintage variation accounted for, and have all of a sudden become capable of making a wine selling for $1,000 a bottle.  With a production of 1,000 cases or 40 barrels from, I’m guessing, 16 tonnes of fruit and perhaps 8 acres of vineyard, they have, in the past, either been, knowingly, blending away some exceptional fruit, have only just got the vineyard to the quality required for the Bin 620 project, have after 60 years+ only just identified some unique parcels of high quality fruit, or have thrown an extravagent price tag on a wine that is simple not worth that much.  Time will tell. I’d love to know more about the vineyards and how they are tended.

The Consumer … The Punter

I haven’t tasted the 2008 Bin 620, it may well be an exceptional wine, but, from a winemakers’ perspective, I know as a certainty, that there are a bounty of wines for less than a 10th of the price that will be right up there in quality and have had just as much blood sweat and tears poured into nurturing them from the vine into a bottle.

From a consumer perspective, I say this: First, if you can afford it, you can prize it from the cellars of collectors, where it’s probably gathering dust,and, more importantly, you like it, well then what the hey drink it … let me know when to drop around.  Second, don’t get lost in the hype, there is so much AWESOME wine on the market and for the price of one bottle of Bin 620 you could get half a case of exceptional yummy vino from Australia and around the World or even a couple of bottles of extraordinary wine.

You’ve heard the old saying “I’ll try anything once” I prefer twice personally.  Tastes change and wines definitely change over time. That’s why we cellar them. I bought a heap of wine earlier in my own wine journey, which I have since sold. My tastes have changed and I just didn’t enjoy drinking it.  But seriously, look for things you’ve never tried before, be guided by one of the great wine merchants or sommeliers and have some fun.  When I was a kid I hated prawns and oysters, I’m sure white truffles would have done my head in, now I can’t get enough.  Even the dreaded brussel sprout is a favourite now, all be it caramelised in butter with lardons, roast chestnuts, salt pepper and little sour cream.

The Marketer

It was no accident that the 2008 Bin 620 was launched in Shanghai.  Clearly the launch was showing a commitment to the Asian Market, particularly the new rich in China. The Chinese have been drinking increasing volumes of wine and are known as collectors and culturally love to show off .. or maintain face with broadly recognised luxury brands. The drink of choice used to be XO Cognac. I once served a customer, who bought 3 bottles of Remy Martin XO and 8L of Coke to go with it. He resufed my suggestion of buying VSOP at less than 1/3 the price is he was simply going to mix it. He would have lost face if he had done so.  If Penfolds have their way the new drink of choice, and, best way to demonstrate status, will be Grange, underpinned by the 2008 Bin 620.

The promo video for Bin 620 seems to have been inspired by a Jerry Brukheimer movie, maybe, “The Rock”.  The language is so over the top I thought maybe they were selling insurance or some sort of abdominal exerciser . The line at 1:45 “Already Hailed a Classic” beats the Champenois claiming every vintage as the vintage of the decade and every third to be vintage of the century.  Surely, we need to see how the wine performs over at least a few years before such a bold claim can be made.

Watch on Posterous


When Dr  Bailley Carrodus, of Yarra Yering fame, released a 100% Merlot wine at $100 a bottle in the early ‘90’s, with a production of 240 bottles, people were forced to take note. At the time it cost as much as Grange. With a price tag of $1,000 for the Bin 620, people have again been force to take note, no matter what the quality of the wine.

From a purely business perspective, targeting the Chinese market makes sense.  You get, numbers, money and volume. I just hope that the relationship between Maker & Consumer is genuine and that the wine proves itself worthy of the price tag.  Just as much as the Chinese love to show off, demonstrate status and save face, they hate being ripped-off and have long memories. In a world where the punters BS Meters are getting more a more finely tuned, it would be a shame for the Australian Wine Industry to be tarnished, should this be the case. Particularly, at a time when there are so many Aussie wineries pushing to make wines that show real identity, with personalities to match, that are an expression of unique terroirs and represent great value for money.

I hope that, one day, Bin 620 is included in a blind tasting of the worlds, including Australia’s, most exceptional wines, THAT I AM THERE, and we can truly see if the Bin 620 hold its head high in such esteemed company.

Until I get an invite to such a tasting, I’ll be playing a game of “Would you rather”, starting with “Would you rather by a bottler of 2008 Bin 620 or a 6 pack of Clonakilla Shiraz Vigonier , maybe a 6 pack of Wendouree Shiraz Mataro, to be drunk with half a dozen mates and a big hunk of cow.”


Maybe the Tasting could Kick-Off with these little numbers from Aldo Conterno, Clonakilla,Guigal, Rousseau and Wendouree.