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Penfolds Bin 707


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Notes from a tasting of Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet. This wine, like Grange, is made from fruit sourced at the pleasure of the winemaker rather than from a distinct geographic area, so terroir is not applicable and consistency is the watchword. In fact the results in 1981, 1995 and (I believe) 2000 were deemed different enough from the paradigm that 707 was not sold in those vintages. The fruit comes mostly from Coonawara and Barossa.

We tasted the wine blind and it is instructive that some tarried over whether it was Syrah based, possibly French, or cabernet. I thought it was cab from the start, and narrowed it down to either California, or as a second possibility Australia, with Chile a maybe.

1995 Duval-Leroy Femme de Champagne – I had never tasted this wine before – 76% C, 24% PN. Pleasing nose of espresso bean and citrus, nice creamy feel, not high acidity, smooth and pleasant. Ready now.

I shall give the menu first. The wines were served at the same time and we worked on them through the various courses (some interesting matches) until toward the end the identity was disclosed.

Sicilian style octopus spaghettini in red wine

New Zealand red fallow deer with 3 che3ese brioche bread pudding, pine mushrooms, veal reduction

Grilled bison ribeye, glazed butternut squash pearls

Roasted squab breast, cauliflower and broccoli puree, carrot cinnamon reduction

2002 – really dark purple with an interesting nose – not really hot (if it were, we’d have headed to Oz much more directly) with anise, cocoa and intense fruit. Excellent sweet fruit on palate, lots of tannins but sweet and soft, and a long finish.

2001 – less heat and a bit smoother in the nose, again with excellent sweet fruit on palate and a slight hotness, less obvious tannin and good length and balance.

1999 – the noses just kept getting better, at least in terms of complexity, although there was something very attractive about that powerful 2002….The 99 showed a marked chocolate element in the nose and significantly higher terminal acidity that went well with food but made it seem a bit leaner without.

1998 – a great vintage in Australia, but this wine had a subdued nose, although showing good fruit on palate and nice development and length. I’ll need another tatsing before drawing conclusions about it.

1997 – lots of currant in this nose and a very well balanced wine with excellent length. In a lot of cases I have found that I like the structure of 1997 better than the sometimes over fruited 98s.

1996 – mature toasty nose with vanilla and plum. A bigger wine than the 1997 but very similar flavour profile.

1994 – lovely smooth mature nose with some oak and cassis, and a smooth drinkable wine that has many years left

1993 – I really liked the nose on this wine, one of the best, with a spicy component not yet evident in the others, but in the end, although very pleasurable to drink, it was perhaps the weakest wine and showed some signs of fading in the glass after an hour or two. Not a bad showing, mind you, but an indicator to drink sooner rather than later. Quite a dry finish with tannins evident but not obtrusive.

I think that in decent vintages this wine shows a clear ability to age a decade and in good vintages, anywhere from 15 to 25 years. Whether the development the wine shows as they mature are ultimately as satisfying as one sees in Bordeaux will depend on the individual taster.

1990 Ch. Rieussec – now showing a fair bit of colour, this wine was lightly botrycized in the nose and showed a lightly vanilla character. Medium sweet and the vanilla came through on palate as well. Good length and should last many years. Very decent showing.

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