Import Selection: Late Harvest Semillon, 1987. Penfolds

About 150 years ago, Dr. Christopher Penfold left England with his wife Mary to settle in South Australia. They built a whitewashed stone cottage in Ma­gill, four miles from Adelaide, and named it after Mary’s home in England, “The Grange”. The doc­tor had brought with him some wax-sealed grape-vine cuttings. He planted these over the local substrata, limestone and iron, in the expectation that vines grown in such a terrain would provide a cure for anemia. Thus was Penfolds Wines created and thus was the en­terprising doctor’s fine reputation as both medical man and vintner established.

A couple of generations later, a native Australian, Max Schubert, joined Penfolds, becoming Chief Winemaker after World War It. In 1951 he developed Australia’s most famous wine, Penfolds’ Grange Hermitage. Today, Pen-folds’ Chief Winemaker is John R. Duval. In 1989 at the London Wine & Spirits Competition, Pen-folds received two Trophies, as well as two Gold, seven Silver and six Bronze medals. Duval walked „off with the Robert Mondavi Inter­national Winemaker of the Year Trophy.

Australia’s viticultural regions predominantly experience growing conditions comparable to Europe, but less prone to climatic extremes.

Our holiday selection is made there from the noble Semillon grape of France. Blended with Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon produces the pop­ular dry whites of Bordeaux, and the rare, expensive, late harvest dessert wines of the Sauternes and Barsac districts. Semillon can also yield similar, honeyed, ambrosial nectars when transplanted to other suitable locales where the weather allows the “Botrytis” organism to proliferate. This friendly mold de­hydrates and shrivels the grapes, concentrating the sugars while en­riching the flavors and aromas.

Our example has a deep, gold­en, honey-like color. The nose leaps out of the glass with rich aro­mas of pineapple, citron, coconut and honey. In the mouth the wine is richly textured, moderately sweet, seductively smooth. Fla­vors of preserved pineapple pre­dominate with a hint of butter­scotch. Finishing soft, a coffee candy impression lingers in the af­tertaste.

Serve at cool room tem­perature to accompany fruitcake, gingerbread cookies, creme brulee, or just by itself as a special treat.

Cellaring Notes: Enjoy now through 2000.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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