Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2002 Tasting Notes
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Penfolds “St. Henri” Shiraz 2002 Tasting Notes

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.

Verdict: Formidable
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food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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