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The high and low of wine

As I write this on Monday morning the memory of the wine that we opened last night, because it was Easter, is just so fresh.

Now that a few of our words are included in the latest printing of the Oxford English Dictionary I feel that I can safely say: “Chingas it tasted well!”

Robert Parker put it somewhat differently when he wrote, some years ago, of this blend of 63 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 32 per cent merlot, 3 per cent cabernet franc and 2 per cent petit-verdot: “The 2006 is a wine to stockpile, especially for those in their thirties and forties as it needs another decade to reach maturity, after which it should keep for 30-plus years. This vineyard, just south of Mouton Rothschild, has produced an opaque bluish/purple-coloured 2006 with an extraordinarily pure nose of graphite, charcoal, sweet creme de cassis, and a hint of scorched earth. Incredible concentration, stunning richness, and a 60-second finish result in a wine that transcends the vintage as well as this estate’s 1855 classification. This enormously endowed, modern day classic is a legend in the making. Anticipated maturity: 2018 to 2050-plus.”

The wine that we both refer to, from the commune of Pauillac in Bordeaux, is the first classified chateau to convert to organic and biodynamic practices, but the vintage I am offering here precedes this by a few years. It is 2006Chateau Pontet Canet Grand Cru Classé en 1855 Pauillac. I am very aware of the fact that many will not pay for a wine in this price range, in fact one reader accused me of being insensitive and out of touch during these tough times by including any of them in these articles. Personally, I only have wines like this because I have put a few aside for each of the past 45 years. $195.50 (Stock #9663 and #9595 as different lots were purchased from different négociants).

The wonderful features of our taste and olfactory senses are that they let us enjoy the aforementioned wine and the next evening still happily consume one that costs $23.90. I refer to our stock #7206 that is 2017 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, from the premium winery of Australia. It is crimson red with energetic fruits wrapped around a steely spine. You will detect mulberry, white chocolate, raspberry, cherry and even rhubarb. This blend of 77 per cent shiraz and 23 per cent cabernet sauvignon gets this from Canadian critic Natalie MacLean: “A juicy, smoky, full-bodied Australian red wine blend of shiraz and cabernet grapes. Love the aromas of campfire smoke and dark fruit on the palate and finish. Pair with prime rib, hamburgers, meat lovers' pizza. 89/100.”

Now let us split the difference pricewise and hear about a wine that rates 94/100 from James Suckling, who writes of the 2018 Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon: “A very confident expression of cabernet sauvignon, this has a briary, red-toned core of fruit with redcurrant, raspberry and blackcurrant aromas, as well as a cedary-oak thread and some pomegranate notes. The palate has a very sleek, long and juicy feel with elegant tannins carrying fully ripe red-plum and dark-cherry flavours. A great 407. Will age well for 15-plus years. Drink or hold."

This vintage has recently arrived, and the price is $95 (Stock #7238).

We tend to divide our wines at home into three categories, everyday, weekend and special occasion. This one blurs the line between the first and second for whites. The 2018 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay reflects Penfolds’ multi-region, multi-vineyard blending philosophy, which enables the winemaking team to source the best parcels of fruit to produce consistently high-quality wines from each vintage.

It is a light to medium-bodied chardonnay with distinctive primary fruit characters and a subtle underlay of moderate oak. Tropical fruits, Granny Smith apple skin and hints of Nashi pear with supportive creamy nougat/praline. A very balanced palate with six months’ yeast lees contact evident in the overall texture. A white that’s not too ‘heavy’ and showing a nice lightness to the palate. Great drinking now and over the next two to three years. $21.80 (Stock #7207).

We led off with Pontet Canet that was classified as a Fifth Growth in 1855 and so was near the bottom of the sixty or so wines honoured all those years ago. Smart investors and enjoyers of great wines know that now it is considered to be among the greatest, even the five First Growths. In 2009 and 2010 it garnered perfect 100/100 scores, followed by 98/100 in 2016 and 2018 and 99/100 in 2019. Biodynamics is beautiful!

We started with a bang so let’s not go out with a whimper. We offer you the newly unloaded 2018 Penfolds RWT Shiraz. These letters stand for Red Wine Trials and now after 20 years of experiments and impeccable wine making, this is obviously not only one of Australia’s greatest wines, but also the world’s.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate rates this new 2018 98/100 and offers this description: "Sourced only from the Barossa Valley, RWT is aged exclusively in French oak, giving it two major points of difference from the rest of the Penfolds range. Always a sexy, voluptuous wine (and admittedly a personal favourite), the 2018 RWT Shiraz ratchets that up to new heights in a great barossa vintage, boasting layers of berrylike fruit, refined vanilla shadings and baking-spice notes, plus more exotic elements like star anise and cocoa powder. It's full-bodied and plush without being unstructured in any way, with a lingering, complex finish and the concentration to age two decades or more.” $180 (Stock #7239).

RWT in our stores at the present time is probably still the 2017 that placed 9th on the Wine Spectator’s 2019 choice of the world’s top 100 wines. I only mention the new 2018 in case you are a collector. $198.90 (Stock #7208).

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit

The 2006 Chateau Pontet Canet Grand Cru Classé en 1855 Pauillac is $195.50 at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd

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Published April 09, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated April 07, 2021 at 3:43 pm)

The high and low of wine

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