St Henri is a time-honoured and alternative expression of Shiraz, and an intriguing counterpoint to Grange. It is unusual among high quality Australian red wines as it does not rely on any new oak. Released for the first time by Penfolds in the early 1950s (first commercial vintage 1957), it gained a new lease of life in the 1990s as its quality and distinctive style became better understood. Proudly, a wine style that hasn’t succumbed to the dictates of fashion or commerce. St Henri is rich and plush when young, gaining soft, earthy, mocha-like characters as it ages. It is matured in old, 1,460 litre vats that allow the wine to develop, imparting minimal, if any oak character. Although a small proportion of Cabernet is sometimes used to improve structure, the focal point for St Henri remains Shiraz.
I am singularly unconvinced that St Henri should be one sixth of the price of Grange, particularly with a classic vintage such as this. Piquantly ripe and fragrant, it is fruit-driven from start to finish (still matured in large, old oak vats), with a smooth and supple fresh berry palate and plush tannins. Date Tasted: Oct 2000; Rating: 95 Points; James Halliday Wine Companion
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