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G’day guys. Hope you’re ready for more wine, because it’s going to come up again this week. And it got me thinking about our country’s rich history of domestic wine founded unto our golden soil. A reputable and wealthy market, that ranks as the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world. Fifth largest in the world! France, Italy, us, and Chile. And it started all from vine cuttings from the Cape of Good Hope at a penal colony in New South Wales, in seventeen-eighty-eight. Though the first attempts to make wine from these South African vines failed, they continued on and they and other settlers had successfully developed the first Australian wine by the year eighteen-twenty. The first Australian wine exported was recorded in eighteen-twenty-two by a man by the name of Gregory Blaxland. And in eighteen-thirty, vineyards were established in the famous terroir – the Hunter Valley. A terroir called home by many quality labels, which brings us to our feature article; Penfolds.
Penfolds are one of, if not the most prestigious wine label in Australia. Many bottles of Penfolds are stowed away somewhere dark and dusty for years to vintage, and get shelved in the glossier parts of many a liquor store, some for hundreds of dollars. If there’s a bottle of Penfolds at your bar, you can bet they take their wine seriously. The label was founded in the year eighteen-forty-four, by the English physician and his wife, Christopher and Mary Penfold. Arriving with English and French vine cuttings in tow. Christopher Penfold was a great believer of the medicinal properties of wine, and planned to create on their arrival to Australia, a wine tonic to cure anaemia following the establishment of his medical practice in Adelaide. After their arrival, they quickly laid claim to a plot of five hundred acres of land in the Mount Lofty Ranges. The same area, that today, is known as The Grange. Initially, they made fortified wines, port and sherry, as Penfold had found success doing in England. But as the demand for wine increased, the winery expanded to accommodate wine production, slowly the Penfold name came to be known in the wine game. But as so too, the demand for medical services increased, Christopher’s attention was dedicated more to medicine, and the duty of maintaining the label fell upon Mary instead. Her contributions including the upkeep of the grapevines and experimenting with blending many several batches of any number of species of grapes, experimenting with many varieties of wine preparing techniques. As well as methodizing battling the phylloxera virus, the same virus that had wounded the wineries of Cognac. She did this well after Christopher’s death in eighteen-seventy at the age of fifty-nine. Eventually Mary retired in eighteen-eighty-four, by the time she retired, Penfolds owned roughly a third of all the wineries in South Australia. Passing the torch to her daughter Georgina and her husband Thomas Hyland. And in time passed onto their descendants. Well after Mary’s eventual death in eighteen-ninety-six, Penfold blood remained in management of the label until nineteen-seventy-six. Mary’s work made the label what it is today, the renowned Australian wine. Sold all over the world. Born unto our home soil, the same land in which we live and breathe our lives everyday. In the same soil that could have just as easily been our backyards. And is displayed prominently in front of polished timber and downlights in the Qantas Lounge for travelers of the world to see.
Penfolds, have many highly-regarded bottles. The Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra. But these bottles are all pricey ones, certainly not ones you could replace quickly. Not your average nine dollar Victorian label from the drive through or a fifteen dollar French import. But of all the big name terroirs in their range, there is a bottle for the average man, their Koonunga Hill. Their Koonunga Hill bottle, first released in nineteen-seventy-six, has since come to be loved by the drinking public for its affordability and character, new and vintage. Perhaps even, a continuation of the late Mary Penfolds work in blended wines. A bottle blended of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Though I have a concern regarding this bottle however. This afternoon I brought it home from the shop, and after having come home, instead of simply placing it on a shelf I needed to attend to other matters so I temporarily stored it outside in a wooden sealed cabinet. In hindsight, I might’ve thought this through more. When I came back an hour later to retrieve the bottle to take photographs for the article from the wooden cabinet, to my surprise the bottle was sweating. Something I hadn’t considered happening, since I had stored things in this outside cabinet before, though these were all spirits, and were far more rugged and insusceptible to exposure than wine. As you would expect, I was alarmed. The heat and humidity trapped inside the glass and wood cabinet must have trapped the heat within, apparently I had accidentally put my wine in a humidor. So I checked the fridge and I found where I accidentally put my Cohibas. Although hopefully, there was no permanent damage. I choose to look at the glass half full and assume there is no negative effect until it can be detected.
So let’s start. The nose is beautifully balanced, the two noses of shiraz and cabernet complementing one another. Subtly sweet and smooth. I pour a small glass to taste. The nose, velvety and damp. But the taste, in the first mouthful, underwhelming to say the least. As far as taste went, there was water that outclassed it. Bland and flavorless with no body. But not wanting to give up at the first sign of trouble, I poured myself another. A full glass this time. But again, no taste. Just a bland bitter aftertaste. This had to be the doing of leaving it in a cabinet, the heat trapped inside it had to have been worse than the heat outside. I persevered, but to no avail. Disappointed. Especially since now all I wanted was wine and this was all I had.
Without a reliable point of reference, I cannot gauge whether or not this was a good wine. Let this article serve as a warning to you all. Don’t leave your children or pets in hot cars, and don’t leave your wine in anything hot. Heat can permanently damage wine.
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So with the lesson learnt the hard way from last time, and the wine stored in the traditional spot atop the kitchen fridge in probably the most airy part of the house, we start again where we left off. Curious to see what it was in it’s intended state. The nose is immediately more open, some tones of yeast and velvety sweetness. Simply the intended vibrance of the nose described previously. The nose of the two species of grapes complementing one another, sweet and damp. The taste at first is earthy and bitter, easing into a lively fruitiness, with bold tones within of bitiness, but is overpowered by an acidic sensation of saltiness.
In a belated summary: Penfolds have definitely created a great cheap wine here in juxtaposition to the majority of their range of eighty or hundred dollar wines. Making it possible for this great Australian label to exist in every home in Australia. But the acidity of the taste dominates most of the palate and puts me off, some may not be so bothered by this, though it prevents me from enjoying an indulgence, and instead mostly an endurance.