Penfolds “St. Henri” Shiraz 2002
Despite laying claim to the formidable Penfolds Grange (which seems to accumulate legend
points on a logarithmic basis as the years pass), Penfolds is not a winery to rest on its laurels.
It created the St. Henri line in the 1950s, and resurrected the wine in the 1990s. The $40 St.
Henri shows an iconoclastic side; it is matured over fourteen months in oversize old oak
foudres that give the wine a chance to express complexity without adding the usual
new oak. The Shiraz is sourced in South Australia's McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley, and is
helped along by a 9% infusion of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The deep ruby St. Henri is nearly opaque. Leather and smoky Asian spice fill the nose, with blackberry jam, blackcurrant jam, black pepper, a floral element, and some alcoholic heat (the big wine is an unsurprising 14.5% abv). The palate adds a bacon meatiness, stewed fruit, raspberry, pomegranate, and chocolate, with touches of dried herb.
I did not attempt to see if a spoon would stand up in this wine, but it has the level of fruit
extraction and the kind of opulent mouthfeel that makes you muse about just such a
possibility. Even the lengthy finish is fully mouth-filling. At the finale, the fruit, aided by
direct acidity and supple tannins, takes hold in the full power of its expression; the final
message is sweetness, ripeness, and an abiding softness the wine has earned.
Big bold wines show that very boldness when they reveal their gentle sides.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman