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.
It’s a jubey, floral, perfumed wine. You could call it pretty. It’s up and about, lively, fresh, sweet fruited in a boysenberry-plum jam-and-blueberry way. Drinking it is like letting the sun burst in through a window, its rays striking at the fruit bowl. If you can imagine Maggie Beer as a 21-year-old then you can imagine the joyous, bubbly, great-to-be-around character of this wine. St Henri used to come in a plain bottle and I always liked that; at some point they started stuffing it into heavy dark glass; it used to be fashionably unfashionable, plain and adorable; now it plods like the rest of ’em. Fortunately the wine doesn’t seem to mind. You twist the top and it beams straight at you, its eyes brimming with sweet spice. You know, I don’t think this wine has yet been told that it belongs to a publicly listed company. It feels free of care. Its future is bright because of course it is. I haven’t yet swallowed a mouthful but it’s been terribly hard not to. It’s not a great wine or necessarily a great release but it’s beautiful and I don’t know what more can you ask. Tasted: July 2020; Alcohol: 14.5%; Price: $135; Closure: Screwcap; Drink: 2021-2034+; Rated: 94 Points; Campbell Mattinson; The Wine Front
Deep crimson. Intense blackberry, mulberry roasted walnut aromas with herb garden, star anise notes. Inky textured wine with pure blackberry, mulberry fruits fine supple/ velvety tannins, lovely mid-palate generosity and underlying roasted walnut notes. Finishes brambly firm with plentiful espresso dark berry fruits. Very seductive and beautifully balanced St Henri with classic buoyant fruits and animated tannin ripeness. Lovely drinking now but keep for a while. Seal; screwcap 2024 – 2034 14.5% 95 points. A lovely traditional multi-sourced Australian maturation style that offers the complete Penfolds story and intrigue in a bottle! This should develop very well with further bottle age. Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Eden Valley, Port Lincoln. Aged for 12 months in very old (50 years+) oak vats. Rating: 95 Points; Andrew Caillard MW
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