Good evening wine lovers!
Tonight I am going to do something a little different and actually run a comparison between two wines in this review. Earlier on in the year I looked at the 2012 Penfolds 389 and I rated it as one of the best wines I have come across this year, and gave it a rating of 97.5/100. Tonight, I have my hands on Penfolds latest vintage, and I thought it would be a good idea to run a side-by-side comparison of these two wines. By doing this, I will hopefully give you some tabled insight to why wine is considered an agricultural business, and what a difference a year can make in what we get from a wine.
Without more to do, let’s run these wines side-by-side to see what we are dealing with.
**Most of this information has been ripped from Penfolds site. However, this is important; as I can give my reason why each wine tastes different. Tasting notes, if you can understand the jargon, can give a consumer incredible insight behind the wine, without ever needing to actually consume the wine itself!
In the below table, the aromas, palate and personal thoughts are my own opinions of each wine. I will then go into depth about what vintage conditions and the maturation in oak barrels meant to each vintage as these are the key indications to how a wine will taste and develop.
|Wine||Penfolds Bin 389 2012||Penfolds Bin 389 2013|
|Price||$85 plus||$60 Plus|
|Grape Blend %||Cabernet 54% Shiraz 46%||Cabernet 51% Shiraz 49%|
|Vineyard Regions||Wrattonbully, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Robe||Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Wrattonbully, Coonawarra|
|Maturation||12 Months in American Oak. (40% New and 60% 1 year old barrels)||12 months in American Oak. (28% New, 60% 1 year old and 12% 2 year old barrels)|
|Vintage Analysis||Alc/Vol: 14.5% Acidity: 6.9 g/L pH: 3.57||Alc/Vol: 14.5%, Acidity: 6.4 g/L, pH: 3.62|
|Vintage Conditions||Most areas of South Australia, including Wrattonbully and the Barossa Valley, were impacted by lower than average rainfall across the winter period. This resulted in ideal stress through spring flowering. Variable conditions across all regions through October to December, merged to a mild summer with a few short periods of heat. The mild daytime temperatures and cool evenings across most of the ripening period allowed impressive flavour development without inflated baumés. Balanced canopies and fruit load provided even ripening throughout veraison. Warm dry conditions continued throughout harvest allowing fruit to be picked in optimal condition. Smaller berry and bunch sizes were noticeable in most regions. This, coupled with favourable weather conditions, induced great results for traditional quality markers – colour, tannin profile, fruit concentration and flavour depth.||After a dry South Australian winter reminiscent of 2006, vines were in water deficit at the beginning of spring and became accustomed to dry conditions quite early. Early budburst was noticeable across many regions and windy conditions during flowering were, in some regions, responsible for variable fruit set and lower than average yields come vintage. Dry spring conditions explained canopy growth and low yields, becoming typical of the 2013 growing season. Warm days were dispersed throughout October, November and in early January, contributing to an early start to the 2013 harvest and a short, condensed vintage. Dry and warm conditions, coupled with lower than average yields resulted in fruit showing strong, structural tannins and wines of great intensity and encouraging flavour.|
|Colour||Deep dense earth red with dense core||Deep Magenta, with scarlet red hue|
|Aroma||Blackcurrant, then comes the undertones of Plums embodied with dates and prunes. The Cabernet and Shiraz fruits are jostling for their position within the glass. If you dig a little deeper, you get the hint of the oak coming through and a bit of a smoky sensation of the oak, with a smell of aniseed and slight touches of leather in the background.||Blackberry, blackcurrant, red cherry, cigar box and chocolate. It has an interesting character profile and is a little more elaborate in its aromas compared to the 2012 vintage. This one drives more spice splashes of cinnamon and vanilla pods, there is even nuances of pork fat, making this an intriguing wine on the nose. It’s profile is however not as prominent as the 2012 where the aromas leap out of the glass, the 2013 shows a more sedate profile in the glass, which leads me to conclude this wine has a bit of aging to do to promote all its aromas|
|Palate||Rich black fruit flavours driving this wine along upfront, then you can say hello to liquorice and aniseed notes embodied with the oak, and then the nice tannin balance that brings this wine together. The wine gives a great length and encompasses what fantastic wine making can produce.||Rich black fruit. It is a very dense wine on the palate, there is strong oak presence giving this wine great body. There is the presence of cedar on the mid-palate and it jostles with blackcurrant all the way to the end.|
|Personal Thoughts||This is one of the most beautifully balanced Bin 389 wines I have ever come across. It is not as elaborate as some of the previous vintages. (The 2010 is one of the best 389’s ever made). However, this wine is rich, shows brilliant fruit working in harmony with oak making this wine nearly work effortlessly for its full bodied character. Thanks to its oak presence and depth, this wine has the ability to cellar for many years.||This wine I think I came across a bit too young. I feel that there is just too much strength from the oak, even though the percentage of new oak is way less than that from the previous vintage. It is currently suffocating the fruit that lays within this wine just waiting to burst out. However, given time, this wine will sort itself out. It is nowhere near as dominating from a fruit perspective as the 2012. However, this wine even with less cabernet in its body shines through more prominently on both the nose and palate and overall, is a more complete wine. The brilliant 2013 Coonawarra cabernet fruit even jumps out in this wine on the nose and palate. This wine would be described as a wine collectors wine. Given another 2-3 years this wine will be quite outstanding just like its 2012 brother.|
Now that I have ran a side-by-side table of each wine, I can look at the two major contributors as to why each wine tastes the way it does.
Firstly, I will look at the vintage conditions of both these wines.
In 2012, lower than average rainfall meant that the grapes didn’t take on as much water. This in turns leads to a grape that is rich, and sweeter in flavour. When we compare this to 2013, a dry winter led the vines to become accustomed to a lack of water, thus they kind of went into defence mode, this meant that these grapes were actually able to maintain some great tannin structure on its skins. 2013, unlike 2012, had overall better weather conditions. 2012 had a few heat waves between harvest which in-turn led to smaller grapes and less water retention in the grape. However, there were many cool evenings in 2012, which allowed the grapes to settle nicely coming to harvest which was 2012s saving grace. (Cool nights allow all the flavour in the grape to be maintained during the harvest and these grapes were packed with intense flavour!) This allowed for more depth and sweetness, and this leads me onto the second main contributor behind each wine.
Oak Maturation: As you can see in the table, the oak treatment that each wine received is quite different. Richer fruit parcels from 2012, means that this vintage got to spend more time in new oak. (40%, compared to only 28% in the 2013 vintage.) What oak does to a wine besides adding its own characteristics, is give the wine a tannin backing, which is caused by using oak rather than the grape skins. 2012 with a sweeter fruit, uses this oak to tame the massive fruit explosion otherwise if left would have created a rather “jammy” wine. Whereas, 2013 had grapes that actually had more of their natural tannin, which formed on its skins; and thus, it did not have to rely heavily on the treatment of new oak to promote balance in the wine. This also creates its aroma profile too. With 2013 having better overall conditions, we have a grape that shows more complexity in the glass than the 2012, and we start to experience spice and a more elaborate aroma profile behind the wine. Opening the 2013 in three years’ time will really showcase the brilliant vintage of 2013.
Both of these wines are well made and a brilliant display of their respective vintages. (Showcasing the best of their years) However, from having a look at the overall tasting notes, we can see that although these wines go under the same name in the bottle, both are quite different to each other. Also, we have a wine that is suited to drink now (The 2012), compared to a wine that will actually benefit from a touch of cellaring (the 2013).
Why do I rate each wine the way I did? Well; the 2012 was just a showcase of elegance and grace in the glass. The 2012 just effortlessly delivers a brilliant wine from the get-go, and this is why it has a higher price tag which jumped considerably over the 12 months on our shelves. The 2012 vintage has been one which the consumers have jumped on and therefore, this has made a desirable wine. Hence, the higher price. Why? Well, everything about the 2012 vintage falls into place in the glass and on the palate too. 2012 is not a complex Bin 389, but it is one of the best drinking 389s I have ever came across; and what we taste is the most important character to what we want from wine in the grand scheme of thing. When we look at the 2013; it is a bit of a runt, a screaming toddler. It needs to “grow-up”. It’s showing too much youth, but it has a much more elaborate aroma profile, that given time, will develop into a wine that will do something the 2012 will not. It will showcase all three components of wine; fruit, herbs and oak profiles working in harmony and thus, it will be a more complete wine. The 2012 is a wine for now and into the future, the 2013 is definitely a wine for the future.
The SA Wine Guy