Sunday, December 14, 2008

***+ $ Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet, 2006, South Australia - Review and Rating

Review: Penfolds produces an enormous range of Australian wines, from bargain varieties to prized ageworthy trophy wines. It is one of Australia's oldest vineyards, founded in 1844 by Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold, a physician from England who arrived in Australia as an immigrant. The "Grange" - which has become one of Penfolds most noble and celebrated wines - was the name of Mr. Penfold's wife's former home, and he named their stone cottage "The Grange" after her home.

The Penfold family remained in control of the vineyards and winery until 1976, although the company first went public in 1962. It is now a part of the Foster's Group, whose holdings include such other notable wine brands as Lindemans, Little Penguin, Rosemount and Wolf Blass.

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet is a highly regarded wine in the bargain category. Don't be confused by the naming, which suggests the grape may come from a single vineyard - infact, the Koonunga Hill is sourced from vineyards throughout South Australia. The 2006 variety is a blend of 78 percent shiraz and 22 percent cabernet sauvignon. In the version I tried, it was closed with a synthetic cork closure.

The Koonunga Hill line was established in 1976, and the 1999 vintage was awarded the designation of Great Value Red Wine of the Year at the 2001 International Wine Challenge in London. In the years since, the wine has regularly attained the objective of a high-value, low-priced Australian red. Let's see how it fares in a tasting...

In the glass, Koonunga Hill is deep, muddy red, virtually opaque, turning ruby purple at the very edge. Aromas are spiked with the characteristic Australian shiraz fruit, all bright and purple. They hover close to the glass, and don't go rushing into the room.

On the palate, a full, slate-like mineral middle is the first impression - solid fruit wrapped in a muscular robe. The tannins then press an additional layer of fabric over the slate, bringing along impressions of inky black cherry and oak. The finish lingers for a few moments, picking up at the very end with a friendly wave of light acids. Very well balanced for such a value-priced wine. Also gives the impression that age will serve it well.

I might try another red on the same evening, so that's not quite four stars on the Spirit of Wine scale, but its three stars with a plus for its power and balance. Awesome value.

Robert Parker gave the wine high praise in his Wine Advocate review as well, awarding 91 points and saying, "On the palate the wine exhibits remarkable focus and structure for its humble price."

Find Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet at WineZap.

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