Friday, August 15, 2014

A Dizzying Array of Bins, A Dazzling Array of Wines

Dallas' own DLynn Proctor made his triumphant return to the Dallas Sommelier Society the other night in his guise as the Ambassador from Penfolds, the super-venerable winery from Australia.

Big, jammy Australian shiraz were all the rage a few years ago. Lord knows Sigel's led the charge with a zillion high-end, high-alcohol wines from Dan Philips, Chris Ringland and the Grateful Palate. And then the Australian market collapsed and everyone switched to big, jammy Pinot Noir's from the new California coastal vineyards.

Penfolds was a rock of stable quality through the boom and have maintained through the present  day.What we did learn is that there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the Bin Numbers. None. Anyone who remarked on the similarity of the 707 to the Boeing jet was absolutely correct. It was named by a former Quantas executive.

However, there is rhyme or reason to the structure of the Ranges and it begins with Max Schubert, who began the dry red wine program after World War II. Schubert learned that some of the greatest pre-war Bordeaux had been Cabernet-Syrah blends, so that was how he made the Grange.

The range is structured like Burgundy. The Grand Cru wines are the very best Grange, 707, RWT, or Bin 169 Cabernet. Bin 407 Cabernet, Bin 389 Cab/Shiraz (baby Grange would be the premier crus and Bin 28 and 128 Shiraz, Bin 9 Cabernet function as the village level. Fruit and barrels are declassified from the top levels down through tiers, keeping style and balance in step throughout the range.

And as you would expect, the top wines were dazzling and the rest were delicious and all were sounds and well-made.

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