Monday, February 21, 2011

Penfolds Koonunga Hill, Shiraz Cabernet

Dr. Christopher Penfold was a man who believed in the medicinal value of wine, especially fortified wine. I can relate to the story because my own father, Dr. Astudentofwine, also is a believer.

     Did you know that red wine is the most absorbable source of iron for humans? Well it is... spinach has iron you say? What about Popeye? Well unless you happen to be related to a rabbit or a cow (I not saying you are), you just don't have the proper enzymes in your stomach to breakdown that particular type of iron. Red wine however...

     And so the story goes that when Dr Penfold, youngest of 11 children, moved to Australia (the edge of the world in 1844), he brought with him not only a wife (rare commodity in Australia) but vine stock! He was going to make wine and heal the masses.

     Praise Jesus and pass the bottle I say! I find myself getting healthier by the moment!

     Dr Penfold settled just outside of present-day Adelaide, and even though the area has been called a "Super-Zone" for wine production, it remains to this day as the only winery located within the Adelaide city limits. It is a small vineyard by Australian standards, about 13 acres, and grows mostly Shiraz (Syrah).

     In time Penfolds grew, as all good things do, and began other vineyards around the Barossa Valley and South Australia in general. One of the places they found was Koonunga Hill in the Barossa Valley. Koonunga Hill isn't an easy Google search, let me tell you! Hit after hit for the wine, but it's murder to try and find the actual area... has some information, though it is limited.

     Called "One of Australia's best kept secrets", it is no secret to the fine folks at Penfolds. Penfolds Shiraz Cabernet is deliberately labeled as "South Australia" rather then being labeled as coming from somewhere within that immense region. "Why?" one may ask. It gives a certain freedom to the winemaker, you see. Every year, the winemaker can choose from the very best crops that all of South Australia has to offer. Good enough reason, but also one needs to accept that whilst wine-geeks may know what the Barossa Valley is, the average consumer may not. Why then confuse a consumer already overwhelmed with new choices every time they go to buy a bottle of wine?

     I think for such a low price-point, Penfolds knows exactly how they want to market it, and who they want to market it to... it's for the consumer who is looking for "Australian" flavors, by which they generally mean big jammy fruit berry flavors, strong alcohol and a rich body. In this, Penfolds most certainly succeeds.

2006 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet
South Australia region
$9 CAD (375ml) $16 CAD (750ml)   **Good Value**
  • visual:   clean; deep garnet core with slightest cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ intense youthful aromas; cherry, blackberry jam, light spiciness, sweet blueberries in the background (possible McLaren Vale sourcing), layered black floral of irises, black rose
  • palate:   clean, dry, full (black currant/cassis) acids, moderate+ (slightly chewy) tannins, moderate+ ABV, moderate+ body, moderate+ to fully intense youthful flavors mimicking the nose; cassis is strong from start to finish, oaking is minimal. Good balance, very good structure, moderate length
  • conclusion:   Definately overdelivers for an Australian wine in this price range... drink now to 2013/2014 but will not develop in bottle
  • PAIRINGS:   A simple wine calls for simple pleasures: I had mine with some grilled bread, pate and cheese. Would also make a bacon and cheddar sandwich sing! The acids can use a little fat (pate or bacon), the sharp cheddar would actually acentuate the spice of the Shiraz and a little tomato would bring out some of the natural tomato-earthy characteristics that are somewhat hidden

     While Penfolds wine may not be the same as it was in 1844 when the daring young doctor brought himself, his wife and their vine clippings across the ocean, it is still worth a visit. Always well constructed, I can honestly say that I've never had a bad bottle... it is reasonably balanced, has decent structure, and some interesting flavors of South Australia. Really, what else could anyone want for $9/375 ml and $17/bottle?

As always, I welcome your comments.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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