Import Selection: Semillon/Chardonnay, 1990. Penfolds
Penfolds was established in South Australia by Dr. Christopher Penfold in 1844. He had emigrated from England bringing with him his wife Mary and some wax-sealed vine cuttings. Four miles from Adelaide in Magill they built a white-washed stone cottage, naming it The Grange after Mary’s home in England. The doctor used his wines, grown over iron and limestone substrata, as a cure for anemia, thus gaining notoriety as both medical man and vintner. The winery flourished. A couple of generations later found the operation a thriving success, vastly expanded. In 1931, Max Schubert, a native Australian, joined the firm. When World War II ended he became Penfolds’ Chief Winemaker. Showing unprecedented initiative Schubert in 1951 went on to develop what was to become Australia’s most famous wine, the rare Grange Hermitage. Its tremendous success fostered even further expansion. Today the conglomeration of wineries known as Penfolds is Australia’s largest wine producer crushing nearly 25% of the country’s wine grape production. Yet quality has been scrupulously maintained. In fact 1989 saw their current Chief Winemaker, John R. Duval, awarded The Robert Mondavi International Winemaker of the Year Trophy.
By European standards this wine is a rather unorthodox blend of two fine French varieties: Semillon from Bordeaux and Chardon-nay from Bourgogne. While each is quite capable of yielding excellent, elegant dry white wines, the former will sometimes offer an appetizing herbaceousness wholly absent in the latter. Semillon is never offered as a solo grape in its native France. Instead, it’s usually paired with Sauvignon Blanc, the other main Bordeaux white. Chardonnay on the other hand is almost always shipped unblended. Unencumbered by such conventions, the free-wheeling Aussies do their own thing: they simply blend together whatever they feel tastes best.
Our selection has a very pale clear yellow/green appearance. A fresh lemony fig and herb aroma precedes tart apple and slightly spicy flavors. The wine is quite dry with a firm, appealing structure: Smooth, medium-bodied with very good acidity. Fig and spice linger in the finish.
Serve chilled with rosemary chicken, orange roughey or a savory veal roast.
Cellaring Notes: Drinking nicely now, will mellow and complex two more years.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper
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