jamie goode's wine blog

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Penfold's Koonunga Hill used to be a reasonably serious, ageworthy wine. When I first started drinking wine back in the early 1990s it was an affordable, spicy, chunky red - and one with a reputation for improving in bottle. I remember a tasting of Penfold's high end wines a few years back where some museum vintages of this wine were brought out to show. Since then, however, I suspect the wine has changed. Current release, 2004, is not something I'd advise readers to cellar. I don't think I'd advise them to buy it, either - it's not a bad wine, but for the price (6.99) there are plenty I'd try first.

I'm getting dark fruits with a hint of bonfire and rubber. On the palate there's overtly sweet fruit with a green herbal edge, some jamminess and rather a bitter finish. It tastes a bit like a cheap Aussie brand, and I notice this is no longer South Australia in appellation, but South Eastern Australia (which takes in the serious volume, low quality irrigated regions of Victoria and New South Wales). What is there to distinguish this from the likes of Hardys, or Jacobs Creek (actually, I prefer the Jacobs Creek Shiraz Grenache to this)? Sorry to be so negative, but given my good associations with this brand, I wanted it to be good.

In pursuit of a good wine experience, I've opened something completely different.

Clos Baudoin Aigle Blanc Vin Tris 1989 Vouvray, Loire (from half bottle)
17 years on, this wine is beginning to sing, albeit it an unusual voice. But that's Chenin for you. Lovely, intense, savoury perfumed nose of damp meadow hay, herbs and fresh bread. Cut apple, too. Quite complex. The palate is quite rich and full, with the residual sugar offset by the acidity and a herbal streak, which is dominated by warm notes of straw and cheese. It finishes with the sweetness and acidity in a nice, chunky, savoury sort of tension. A thought provoking wine with enough oomph to make a good food match for richer dishes. Nothing quite like Loire Chenin, is there? Very good/excellent 90/100 (From Grand Cru Wines, remarkably cheaply a few weeks back)


At 8:21 PM, Blogger Paul Tudor said...


You make some excellent points here.

Last week I was talking with a friend in Sydney who was one of the team responsible for Penfolds PR a few years back. He was, like me, very concerned at what is being done to this brand. I fear the worst.

Also, at the recent Bragato Conference in Queenstown, one of the more interesting presentations (perhaps not as interesting as the Sauvignon Blanc research presentations, but nonetheless enlightening) was by Jamie Odell, from Fosters Wine Estates. Unfortunately, Odell handed out just a set of his Powerpoint slide, but his speech itself was rather shocking to someone brought up to value brand heritage and identity. One ex-Southcorp employee stood up and asked at the end, "Does the blending of NZ and US wine into products under the Lindemans brans signal that the Australian identity of this iconic brand is not important anymore?"

By the by, I cellared (successfully) Koonunga Hill from 1988 and 1990, still have some 1990 under the house somewhere in fact, and it did age remarkably well.


Paul Tudor
Auckland, NZ

At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just happened upon the blog. Sorry, I think the 2004 shiraz cab is very nice. Very cheap and plentiful here in Texas, but definately works well just spending a saturday or sunday afternoon evening grilling something up.

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