Vino Rouge Red Wine Tasting August 5, 2015

This month the club visited one of its favorite spots again, The Aurora Club, and we were treated like royalty as usual. Member Tommy put on quite a show and rekindled our palates with some really awesome 2007 California Cabs. Specifically, some terrific juice from Napa Valley. While the club was generally in line with the first three present bottles, expressing Cabernet Sauvignon as the hidden varietal, the remaining three bottles fooled the club and had it veering from having this one figured out. While there were some distinct winners, there was not a slouch in the bunch!

Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

The following paragraphs present the tasted wines and their associated tasting notes, in order of the club’s preference poll for this month’s tasting.

2007 ALTAMURA Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley – Drink Range – 2012-2024; Robert Parker Rating: 95
Probably the best Cabernet Sauvignon I have ever tasted from Altamura, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is aged 30 months in 70% new oak from the same high-elevation vineyard as the Sangiovese. Notes of espresso roast, graphite, black currants, sweet black cherries and earthy, loamy terrior are all present in this dense purple, full bodies, exuberant, concentrated and expressive Cabernet Sauvignon.

2007 Beringer Vineyards Cabenert Sauvignon Private Reserve – Napa Valley – Drink Range – 2010-2030; Robert Parker Rating: 95
One of the greatest Private Reserves ever made, it ranks alongside the Private Reserves made in 1991, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2004. Its dense plum/purple color is followed by sweet aromas of cassis, licorice, smoke and graphite intermixed with hints of bay leaf and chocolate. Full-bodied and velvety-textured with beautifully integrated acidity, tannin, alcohol and wood, it is an opulent, full bodied Cabernet that should drink beautifully for 20 or more years.

2007 Oakville Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley – Drink Range – 2013-2033; Robert Parker Rating: 92+
The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville plays it closer to the vest than either Cabernet Franc of Zinfandel Field Bland. Locked and loaded, it posses plenty of black currant fruit intermixed with hints of earth and oaks as well as juicy, full bodied mouth feel. This youthful, still grapy wine spent 19 months in French oak. It has lots of potential, but needs to be forgotten for 3-4 years and should age from 15-20 years thereafter.

2007 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve – Napa Valley – Drink Range – 2013-2043; Robert Parker Rating: 95
The phenomenal 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve Georges de Latour is the greatest BV Private Reserve made since the 1970 and 1968. The good news is 11,000 cases were produced. The return of this superb Napa classic is fabulous news, and the brilliance of this wine is evidenced by its opaque purple color and its big, sweet, blackberry, cassis, subtle smoke, graphite, and spicy oak-scented nose. Dense and full bodies with sweet but substantial tannins, thrilling levels of concentration, texture and richness, and a heady finish, this wine will benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age, and last three decades or more. It’s time to once again fill your cellars with the BV Private Reserve, one of the historic names in California wine folklore.

2007 Antica (Anitori) Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley – Drink Range – 2009-2029; Robert Parker Rating: 94
The finest wine I have yet tasted from Piero Antinori’s rocky hillside vineyard on Soda Canyon Roadt on southeast Napa, this 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon boasts a dense purple color with a rich, sumptuous bouquet of licorice, creme de cassis and smoky oak. This opulent, fleshy, fill-bodies wine exhibits beautiful purity and concentrated fruit. it should age nicely fro 15-20 years. Impressive and reasonable priced.

2007 Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve – Napa Valley – Drink Range – 2014-2039; Robert Parker Rating: 94
As I indicated last year, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is a brilliant effort. Made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, it has begun to shut down slightly, but reveals an opaque purple color along with deep, sweet, cedary, black currant aromas intermixed with hints of tobacco leaf, licorice and graphite. Full-bodies and rich, this impressive 2007 needs 4-5 years of cellaring and should keep for 25+ years.

For dessert, we had an incredible…

Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

1985 Fonseca Vintage Port, Portugal
The 1985 Fonseca is still youthful in appearance with hardly any ageing on the rim. The nose offers kirsch, sloes and Christmas cake. With time, there are subtle notes of dried fig and dates beginning to emerge and add to the complexity. The palate is medium-bodied and beautifully balanced on the supple, rounded entry. It is not quite as complex as the aromatics, with dates and dried fig, the finish mellow and refined. It is very elegant for a Fonseca, weighty but supremely well focused. This is a fabulous Fonseca that is ready to drink now, but will age for another 30 or 40 years. (NM)(2/2013)

Vino Rouge Red Wine Tasting July 1, 2015

Having an instinct for adventure can lead to a whole lot of fun as well as the discovery of new places to visit. Jay Chelo was responsible for the adventure to Plainville, Massachusetts, which I had never visited before. We were accommodated well and ate well food at Fitzy’s Pub. We wish our good friend Jay good fortune in his new restaurant venture. Host John Benevides also took us on an adventure to the Bolgheri region of Italy. I had heard a bit about the region but had very limited knowledge about Bolgheri. Introducing and educating fellow club members about an up and coming wine region is always enjoyable.

wine tasting

Once we got to the third or fourth glass it was feeling like a family affair. The Argentiera winemaker certainly has a good feel for the house style to be created. All six glasses were quite consistent with strengths being balance of oak and fruit, density and extraction which produced the result of pleasing mellowness. John emphasized the importance of terroir which has shaped the character of these wines.

Winemakers seem to have an instinct for adventure when it comes to Bordeaux varietals being planted just about everywhere a vine is able to grow. In the Bolgheri region of Italy, as expressed by the Argentiera winery, Bordeaux varietals have been tamed to take on a classic trim European sense of body and mouth feel. The Argentiera Bolgheri Superiore that we tasted is certainly a food wine and if it truly is an age worthy wine, it does so without a chunky, chalky tannic structure which often characterizes Vin De Garde wines made with Bordeaux varietals.

wine tasting

The preference poll favored wines from seven to ten years old. The 2004 being the oldest of the group may have suffered from bottle variation or some other unfortunate problem. The youngest wine, the 2010, I believe received no votes because of its youthfulness. Host John ended the tasting with another adventure, the 2009 Tremonti dessert wine from a part of Italy close to Bolgheri. The vino dolce was made from an indigenous Albano grape. The dessert wine was great and always appreciated by our club which includes a few dessert wine specialists.

wine tasting

Bolgheri, on the Tuscan coast just south of Livorno, is one of Itlay’s most prestigious vineyard areas. Here are the tasting notes for this month’s tasting…

2004 Argentiera Doc Bolgheri Superior – Vivid ruby red color with purple reflexes. Expressive aromas of liquorice, cassis and floral hints. A generous and deep wine, rich of tannins. Full bodies and pleasant taste on the palette with an appropriate acidity and a fresh and minerally finish showing considerable persistence.

2005 Argentiera Doc Bolgheri Superior – Vivid ruby red color with purple reflexes. Expressive aromas of liquorice, cassis and floral hints. A generous and deep wine, rich of tannins. Full bodies and pleasant taste on the palette with an appropriate acidity and a fresh and minerally finish showing considerable persistence.

2006 Argentiera Doc Bolgheri Superior – Intense and dark ruby red color. It develops on the nose hints of delicate spices as saffron and paprika, aromas of dark berries like blackberries and cassis together with hints of toasted wood and tobacco. On the palate the wine shows round and pleasant complexity with compact and rich tannins offering a silky taste. A lingering and open finish with hints of fresh fruits and mineral notes showing considerable persistence.

2007 Argentiera Doc Bolgheri Superior – Intense and dark ruby red color. The nose shows very complex with hints of mint, eucalyptus, liquorice and coffee followed by fruity flavors of plums, black currant, blackberries and cherries. Int he taste, the wine offers its whole character and elegancy. The palette presents immediately fruity flavors of fresh plums filling up the mouth. Wine of structure, fresh and mineral, in perfect harmony thanks to sweet, velvet and large tannins. A lingering and intense aromatic finish with fruity flavors of plums.

2008 Argentiera Doc Bolgheri Superior – Intense ruby red color. The very complex nose shows sweetness and vanilla flavors accompanied by balsamic hints of eucalyptus, mint and laurel followed by fruity flavors of mature cherries, plums, clack and billberries with a light smoked finish. At the palate, the wine offers a good structure and elegant character combined to a pleasant fruity sweetness. A well balanced and harmonic wine with appropriate freshness and mature, velvet and large tannins. A lingering and intense aromatic finish with fruity flavors of plums mixed to balsamic flavors.

2009 Argentiera Doc Bolgheri Superior – Intense and luminous shades of dark ruby red. Very complex on the nose with fresh hints of wooden berries and cherries, beside intense and spicy balsamic notes finishing with some roasted hints. On the palate, we discover the same aromas, which are perfectly balanced with intense taste, but the end is of red and dark fruit like mulberries and blackberries. The taste impresses because of the deep and velvet balance, beside a perfect interaction between freshness and tannins, which offer a long persistent pleasant and elegant aftertaste. The wine shows harmonic but intriguing, because of the sapid and mineral aftertaste; well balanced between fineness, structure and the lingering finish.

2010 Argentiera Doc Bolgheri Superior – Intense and luminous shades of dark ruby red color. Very complex on the nose with fresh hints of red berries like cherries, plum and cassis going over to wooden berries. Beside this, we have intense and spicy balsamic notes as eucalyptus and graphite, finishing with some well integrated roasted notes. On the palate we discover the same aromas, which are perfectly balanced giving deep and velvet sensations. The mineral taste impresses because of the freshness, which offers character to the wine and a long persistent, pleasant and elegant aftertaste. The wine shows harmonic but intriguing, because of the sapid and mineral aftertaste; well balanced between fineness, structure and the lingering finish.

wine tasting

The History of Penfolds Grange by Max Schubert

This paper was delivered at the first Australian National University Wine Symposium in Canberra, Australia in September 1979.

Penfolds Grange

So much has been spoken and so much written about Grange Hermitage over the years that, as its originator, I welcome the opportunity of adding my own measure to the volume that has gone before, particularly as the spoken and written word has not always been laudatory but often quite distinctly the reverse.

Grange Hermitage has always been a controversial and an individual wine. It is my belief that if these two characteristics can be combined, then at least half the ingredients necessary for success have been achieved. Grange Hermitage has been argued and debated around countless dinner tables. In its early years it was insulted and classified among the lowest of the low – yet, through all this it has stood out as an individual wine with its own particular personality and has been consumed in copious quantity whether it be with praise and pleasure, or with dislike and condemnation.

It has been almost unbeatable in wine shows, whether it be in the young vintage classes or the old open classes, having accumulated since 1962 some 117 gold, 63 silver and 34 bronze medals, plus 27 trophies and 7 championship awards. It has recently even won two Jimmy Watson trophies, amazing the present chairman of wine judges as it is not the type of wine that usually wins Jimmy Watson awards – not because of its quality but because of its style.

It is a truly controversial wine, never without interest and always open to debate one way or another. How, then, did an individual wine of this nature come into being?

It was during my initial visit to the major wine growing areas of Europe in 1950 that the idea of producing an Australian red wine capable of staying alive for a minimum of twenty years and comparable with those produced in Bordeaux first entered my mind. I was fortunate to be taken under the wing of Monsieur Christian Cruse, one of the most respected and highly qualified wine men of the old school of France at that time, and he afforded me, among other things, the rare opportunity of tasting and evaluating Bordeaux wines between forty and fifty years old which were still sound and possessed magnificent bouquet and flavour. They were of tremendous value from an educational point of view and imbued me with a desire to attempt to do something to lift the rather mediocre standard of Australian red wine in general at that time.

The method of production seemed fairly straightforward, but with several unorthodox features, and I felt that it would only be a matter of undertaking a complete survey of vineyards to find the correct varietal grape material. Then with a modified approach to take account of differing conditions, such as climate, soil, raw material and techniques generally, it would not be impossible to produce a wine which could stand on its own feet throughout the world and would be capable of improvement year by year for a minimum of twenty years. In other words, something different and lasting.

The grape material used in Bordeaux consisted of four basic varieties, namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec, and these were used in varying percentages to make the Bordeaux wines. Only Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec were available in South Australia at the time but a survey showed that they were in such short supply as to make them impracticable commercially – after all, the development of a new commercial wine, particularly in the high grade range, depends on the quality and availability of the raw material, the maintenance of standard, and continuity of supply.

I elected to use Hermitage or Shiraz only (which was in plentiful supply) – knowing full well that if I was careful enough in the choice of area and vineyard and coupled that with the correct production procedure, I would be able to make the type and style of wine I wanted. If necessary, I could always use a small percentage of Cabernet Malbec from our own Kalimna vineyard in the Barossa Valley as a balancing factor to lift flavour and character. As it happened, this was not necessary – at least, not in the early Granges.

It was finally decided that the raw material for the first experimental Grange Hermitage would be a mixture of Shiraz grapes from two separate vineyards and areas, consisting of Penfolds Grange vineyards at Magill in the foothills overlooking Adelaide and a private vineyard some distance south of Adelaide. I had already observed that both vineyards produced wines of distinctive varietal flavour and character with a great depth of colour and body weight, and felt that by producing them together, the outstanding characteristics of both vineyards would result in an improved all round wine eminently suitable for my purpose.

Accordingly, during the 1951 vintage, the first Grange experimental wine was made, incorporating five new untreated oak hogsheads which I had observed were used to such good effect in France and other European countries. The objective was to produce a big, full-bodied wine, containing maximum extraction of all the components in the grape material used.

The procedure to be employed was first to ensure that the grape material was sound and that the acid sugar content was in balance consistent with the style of wine as specified. Using the Baume scale, this was to be not less than 11.5 degrees and not move than 12 degrees with a total acidity of not less than 6.5 and not more than 7 grams per litre. With strict attention to detail and close surveillance, this was achieved.

The grapes were gathered and crushed and the must-consisting of skins, seeds and other solids comprising the fleshy part of the grape, and juice were pumped into a 12 tonne open concrete fermentation tank. During this operation, the must received a dose of sulphur dioxide, to neutralize the wild yeasts, and also an injection of pure yeast culture previously acclimated to the level of sulphur dioxide used. The tank was filled to the exact level required.

Boards, known as heading-down boards, were placed across the surface of the must in the open tank, with a narrow gap between each board. These were secured by two strong pieces of timber placed across the boards and locked in position underneath four lugs built into the upper tank walls. Fermentation began almost immediately and as carbon dioxide gas pressure developed, the juice was forced through the narrow gaps between the boards, keeping the skins and other solids completely immersed underneath the surface. Although this was all fairly basic, it was important in achieving complete extraction, during fermentation particularly, if viewed in conjunction with other procedures which followed. For instance, it was thought that in order to obtain full extraction, a much longer period of fermentation and skin contact would be required, necessitating strict fermentation control. This was to be achieved by controlling the temperature generated by the fermentation, on the basis that the lower the temperature, the slower the rate of fermentation, since there would be a considerable reduction in the heat generated by the yeast in its frantic efforts to multiply and convert the grape sugars into alcohol. Of course, vice versa, by allowing the temperature to rise, an increase in the fermentation rate would result. Temperature control was to be achieved by incorporating a heat exchanger in the process.

The actual fermentation rate in this case was governed by the predetermined length of fermentation which was set at twelve days. This required a fermentation sugar conversion rate of approximately one Baume degree per day. A further measure of control was achieved by using a graph system which showed the ideal fermentation line over a twelve day period compared with the actual fermentation line which was governed by daily temperature and Baume readings of the fermenting juice. A glance at the graph immediately showed the degree of cooling or heating required to maintain an even daily rate of fermentation over the period stipulated.

I had previously determined that to assist in obtaining full extraction it would be necessary to separate the fermenting juice from the skins by completely draining the tank. This would cause all the solids, including the heading-down boards and cross pieces, to settle on the bottom of the tank. Then we would pump the juice back over the top so that it would percolate through the skins and other solids, thus extracting further essentials in colour, flavour and character. As the tank filled, the heading-down boards would rise on the surface until they were again locked into position by the cross pieces. It was a comparatively simple matter to incorporate a heat exchanger in this process, using salt brine as the coolant to achieve temperature control.

Fermentation proceeded slowly but evenly and the development of colour, body and character was extremely interesting. As the process approached its end, I decided that extraction from the solids was sufficient and that no useful purpose would be served by prolonging skin contact.

The fermenting wine was a beautiful rich, dark, ruby red already showing above – average body, bouquet and fruit flavour. In addition, a general slowing down of fermentation, which is normal during the latter stages, meant that temperature was no longer a problem and cooling could be dispensed with. In fact, a slight increase in temperature was desirable at this stage as an encouragement for the flagging yeast to complete the conversion of the remaining sugar into alcohol.

The wine was then separated from the solids for the last time and a portion was transferred to the five new untreated oak hogsheads, and the remainder to a 1000 gallon (4550 litre) well-seasoned dry red cask. This was to be the control wine used to measure the success or failure of the new experimental hogshead wine.

The solids which were left in the fermenting tank were removed and pressed and the pressings stored in small seasoned casks holding 30 gallons or about 140 litres. This would be used later on as topping-up wine, to keep the containers filled to the brim at all times.

Topping-up is a preventive measure against bacterial infection, and also makes good the removal of lees or deposits which accumulate on the bottom of containers during the self-clarification process following completion of fermentation. It was also intended to use the pressings as a balancing medium for the experimental wine before bottling if required.

The experimental hogsheads were stored in underground cellars where the temperature was constant at 15C and fermentation was completed in twelve days as previously determined. Within a month, vast differences became apparent between the experimental hogsheads and the control cask. Whereas the control wine showed all the characteristics of a good, well-made wine cast in the orthodox mould, the experimental wine was strikingly different. The volume of bouquet, comprising raw oak mixed with natural varietal fruit, was tremendous. These characteristics were also very apparent on the palate. The overall flavour was much more intense than the control, and for a big young wine, the balance was superb. To my mind, even at this early stage, there was no doubt that this wine would be different, with almost unlimited potential if handled correctly.

During the months that followed, treatment was confined to the removal of lees from all containers including the control cask and the addition of small amounts of tannic acid. After twelve months, both wines were crystal clear, with superb dark, full, rich colour and body – but there the similarity ended. The experimental wine was bigger in all respects. It was a big wine in bouquet, flavour and balance. The raw wood was not so apparent but the fruit characteristics had become pronounced and defined, with more than a faint suggestion of cranberry. It was almost as if the new wood had acted as a catalyst to release previously unsuspected flavours and aromas from the Hermitage grape.

I was delighted with the results of the experiment so far. To my mind, the marriage of all components had taken place and it required only the sealing of all these wonderful characteristics into bottles for a marriage to be consummated. After a total wood storage of eighteen months, and without any further treatment, the wine was bottled and binned away in underground bins where the temperature was more or less constant at 15C.

Several hundred dozen of the control wine were also bottled and, while it developed into an exceptionally good wine in the orthodox manner, it never reached the heights of the first experimental Grange Hermitage. It did, however, set the guide lines for the production and marketing of a whole range of special red wines which have been sought after, vintage by vintage, to this day. In the meantime, the 1952 vintage had come and gone with an increase in quantity production of Grange Hermitage, using the same raw material and method of production with similar results. It was a superb wine to my mind.

A variation occurred in 1953 in that in addition to Hermitage, a straight Cabernet Sauvignon from our Kalimna vineyard in the Barossa Valley was made experimentally, employing the same method of production as for Grange. The quantity made was five hogsheads as in 1951. The decision to make an experimental Cabernet at all, despite the shortage of this variety, was influenced by the fact that in 1953 the analytical balance of the grapes was similar to that laid down for Grange.

To obtain balanced Cabernet, at least in my sphere of operations at that time, was rare and while the volume of flavour and character of the finished wine was usually magnificent, the imbalance of the fruit invariably manifested itself on the palate with a noticeable break in the middle and a thinnish, hard, astringent finish. However, this was not so with the 1953 vintage and I still rank this wine as one of the best Grange-style wines made.

As vintage followed vintage, the accumulation of bottled stock grew and the improvement shown in the earlier vintages was all that I had hoped for. Gone was any suggestion of raw wood, and a complete wine was emerging with a full buoyant almost ethereal nose of great intensity and a palate which was full of rich flavour and character. The balance in every vintage I thought was near perfect. The time appeared to be ripe to remove the wraps and allow other people to see and evaluate this wonderous thing.

Besides, my superiors at head office in Sydney were becoming increasingly aware of the large amount of money lying idle in their underground cellars at Magill.

Representative bottles from each vintage from 1951 to 1956 were called for, and a wine tasting arranged by the then managing director. Those invited included well-know wine identities in Sydney, personal friends of the board, and top management. The result was absolutely disastrous. Simply, no one liked Grange Hermitage.

It was unbelievable and I must confess that for the first time, I had misgivings about my own assessment of Grange. However, I was determined to prove the Sydney people wrong and, with the help and support of Jeffrey Penfold Hyland, who was then assistant general manager of our South Australian operations, numerous tastings were arranged in and around Adelaide and at Magill. We availed ourselves of every opportunity, donating various vintages to wine and food societies, Beefsteak and Burgundy Clubs, and wherever wine drinkers congregated. However, the general reaction was little better than the earlier disaster in Sydney.

It may be illuminating at this time to record some of the assessments made by experts and critics alike in public and in my presence during the darkest hours of Grange Hermitage. Some of the remarks were downright rude and pained me no end.

“A concoction of wild fruits and sundry berries with crushed ants predominating.” This, by a well-known, respected wine man.

“Schubert, I congratulate you. A very good, dry port, which no one in their right mind will buy – let alone drink.”

Then there was the smart person who wanted me to give him a couple of dozen. He was not going to pay for it because he did not think it was worth anything. Another very smart one wanted to buy it and use it as an aphrodisiac. His theory was that the wine was like bull’s blood in all respects and would raise his blood count to twice the norm when the occasion demanded.

A young doctor friend even thought he could use it as an anaesthetic on his girlfriend. I could go on, but I think that will give you an idea of Grange’s initial reception by most people at that time.

There were, of course, some notable exceptions, whose faith in Grange never wavered. They were people such as Jeffrey Penfold Hyland, without whose support Grange would have died a natural, but not peaceful death, George Fairbrother, that doyen of wine judges, Tony Nelson, at that time managing director of Woodley Wines, Douglas Lamb, who needs no introduction from me, and Dr. Max Lake who, I recall, either purchased for a song or consumed most of the 1953 experimental Cabernet himself.

There were a number of others who would not commit themselves but preferred to wait and see. At least they did not condemn and were prepared to give the wine a chance. To all these I offer my gratitude.

The final blow came just before the 1957 vintage when I received written instructions from head office to stop production of Grange Hermitage. The main reasons given were that I was accumulating large stocks of wine which to all intents and purposes were unsaleable and that the adverse criticism directed at the wine was harmful to the company image as a whole. It appeared to be the end.

However, with Jeffrey Penfold Hyland’s support, I disregarded the written instructions in part, and continued to make Grange in reduced quantities. Finance was not available to purchase new hogsheads, but some benefit gained by using hogheads from previous vintages. This undercover production continued through to 1959 and the wines made, although good, lacked that one element which made the difference between a good wine and a great wine. In all, it was ten years from the time the first experimental Grange was made before the wine gained general acceptance and the prejudices were overcome. As the earlier vintages matured in bottle and progressively became less aggressive and more refined, people generally began to take notice, and whereas previously it had been all condemnation, I was now at least receiving some praise for the wine.

A little of this filtered through to my board of directors, with the result that just before the 1960 vintage, I was instructed to start making Grange Hermitage officially again, with ample funds available for this purpose. Since that time, Grange Hermitage has never looked back.

In 1962, after many years’ absence from Australian wine shows, the company decided again to take part in these competitions, and Grange was first submitted as an entry in the open Claret class in the Sydney Show of that year. It was awarded a gold medal. This was the 1955 vintage which, in my humble opinion, was one of the best Granges ever produced. This wine won in all fifty gold medals, until its retirement from the show arena a couple of years ago, not because it was defective in any way – in fact, in 1977 it was awarded the trophy for the best dry red in the Melbourne Show – but because my board wished to give later vintages the opportunity of winning or adding to the number of gold medals already won. In retrospect, the 1950s were exciting years of discovery, faith, doubt, humiliation and triumph. The 1960s were rewarding years of consolidation and success, and the 1970s have been mellow years of contentment in the knowledge that the continued making of Grange is in good hands.

I wish, at this stage, to pay tribute to the many winemakers, technicians, cellar managers, senior cellar hands and vineyard supervisors who, over the years, so ably assisted me in the making of Grange. Each one had a part to play in every vintage made, and even though I always retained absolute control of all stages of Grange production and, indeed, company production generally, without their help, support, interest and co-operation, it would have been almost impossible for me to cope, particularly in the later years before my retirement in 1975.

I would also like to express the hope that the production and the acceptance of Grange Hermitage as a great Australian wine has proved that we in Australia are capable of producing wines equal to the best in the world. But we must not be afraid to put into effect the strength of our own convictions, continue to use our imagination in wine-making generally, and be prepared to experiment in order to gain something extra, different and unique in the world of wine.

Penfolds Grange

Vino Rouge Special Vertical Tasting of Penfolds Grange Flight Four

This week’s Penfolds Grange Flight Four tasting brought new meaning to the word “culmination”.

noun: culmination;
the highest or climactic point of something, especially as attained after a long time.
“the product was the culmination of 13 years of research”
synonyms: climax, pinnacle, peak, high point, highest point, height, high-water mark, top, summit, crest, apex, zenith, crowning moment, apotheosis, apogee

This fourth flight was pretty exciting, showing all of the nuances and variations found in Grange at 15 to 38 years of age. There simply were no slackers in this group. Certainly the fabulous 1976 vintage demonstrated the qualities of a WA 100 rating! This has certainly also created long term taste memories for all who were able to participate.

Penfolds Grange tasting

What an experience this has been to taste 27 consecutive vintages of Penfolds flagship Grange Hermitage wine from 1976 to 2002. Max Schubert certainly did craft a truly age-worthy Shiraz. It was also very enjoyable to hold this event at the Aurora Civic Association with wonderful food and service in a terrific space.

Not to be outdone, we also shared a wonderful bottle of Penfolds’ Great Grandfather Rare Tawny that was at least 30 years old… a special treat to us all… and hopefully one that we can look forward to enjoying again sometime in the future.

The following paragraphs contain Parker descriptions and club notes for the seven wines in this absolutely fabulous tasting!

Penfolds Grange tasting

1976 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 100 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2000-2020

Consistently one of the most awesome wines ever made at Grange, this blend of 89% Shiraz and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon (13.9% alcohol) was the first Australian wine to cost $20 upon release. The color is an opaque purple, the wine massive, full bodies, the quintessential Grange. Notes of blackberry liqueur intermixed with cassis, charcoal, new saddle leather, and underbrush resonate from the glass. Huge, thick, unctously textured, with extraordinary concentration but perfect harmony among all of its elements, this is a prodigious Grange that is still not fully mature. A legend for sure! The club was waiting for this one and it did not disappoint! The most fine, soft, sweet, suptle, fruity unbelievable wine. We all saw clearly was this one was rated 100! Just incredible. Deepest darkest color. Not brawny like most others, as it has thinner ankles. This one is truly perfection!

1980 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 94 (June 2009); Drinkability range 2009-2029

The least impressive but still a very great wine, is the dark garnet-hued 1980. Still a young wine at age 29, it exhibits massive earthy, meaty, bacon fat notes intermixed with notions of scorched earth, blackberries, currants, pepper, and spice. Full and rich with slightly rustic tannins, it has good 20 years a life ahead of it. We encountered a floral nose with hints of olives. In the mouth, earthy minerals with some spice, road tar and grilled meats coat the palate. Nice tannins and finish.

1984 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 94 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2002-2020

The best showing ever for this wine from my perspective, this blend of 95% Shiraz and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon is considered a relatively forward, accessible style of Grange. The color is still a dark plum/purple, and the wine shows plenty of wet cassis, with notes of chocolate and toasty oak. The wine is opulent and luscious, with great intensity, full body and fabulous extract. The acidity seems relatively low and integrated, and the tannins quite ripe. The club thought this wine was really approachable soft layered wine with awesome balance and an amazing finish. Hints of plumb, cherry, toast and red meat flavors. Another awesome example of the prestigious Grange.

1988 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 91 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2003-2016

A blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, this was considered to be “an uncharacteristically soft, fruity Grange”. This wine shows a syrupy creme de cassis, earthy note, some pepper and caramel. It is somewhat soft and accessible for such a relatively young Grange, but there is plenty of structure and tannin in the finish. It is certainly perfumed and more evolved than some of its siblings that are actually older, chronologically speaking. This wine has sweet, full bodies plum, cherry and cassis flavors, with some distinct truffle and asphalt notes. This one had a cherry cola nose that leads to a nice mouth coating wine with hints of cocoa, dark chocolate, ripe cherry, with some spice on the finish.

1992 Penfolds Grange – Rating: 92 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2002-2017

This is a very aromatic Grange that seems to be the product of a vintage where the wines are showing extremely well young. It is dense purple, with a sweet blackberry/cherry nose and some subtle cedar and licorice in the background, unctouusly textured, thick, full, without as many nuances of some of the greatest vintages of Grange, but very concentrated and dense. We had a strong cherry nose that leads to a thick, full bodied wine, with hints of blackberry and saddle leather. A well balanced crowd pleaser.

1996 Penfolds Grange – Rating:93 (February 2002); Drinkability range 2006-2025

This dark purple-colored wine exhibits notes of sweet plum, blackberry and cassis intermixed with some licorice, chocolate and espresso. It is a blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon that tips the scales at 14+% alcohol. The wine is layered, unctuously textured, full bodied with tremendous intensity, moderately high tannin, and a 40-second finish. This Grange should ultimately merit a higher score when it is closer to its plateau of drinkability. We thought this one had a very quiet nose, but a nice coffee flavor up front with a bit of heat on the mid and back palate. Soft tannins are present with hints of road tar, blueberries, blackberry, chocolate and tart cherry. The acid is bright in this full bodies wine.

2000 Penfolds Grange – Rating 93 (October 2005); Drinkability range 2005-2021

Penfolds’ renowned 2000 Grange is only the fifth vintage to be made from 100% Shiraz (the others being the 1951, 19552, 1963 and 1999). It is also, atypically, 100% Barossa fruit. When it is not considered to be one of the top wines I tasted from this vintage (which has had to take a back seat to subsequent years), its dense ruby/purple color is followed by a big, sweet nose of blackberries, cherries, chocolate and earth. With decent acidity, ripe, silky tannin, superb intensity, wonderful equilibrium, and a more open-knit, softer, accessible style than usual, it can be drunk now or cellared for 15-16 years. While this is no wimpy wine, it is an ideal example for readers who are unwilling to invest the patience required for the big, blockbuster Granges. The club experienced aromas of cherry, chocolate and olives. We found the wine to be nicely balanced with a soft thick, velvety mouth feel, coating the entire pallet into a nice lingering finish. Some cherry, prunes with hints of chocolate and blackberry. The right amount of a lot of things! Touch of alcohol heat, soft tannins and low acid.

Well, after ending the first three flights off with some terrific Penfolds dessert wines like the Club, the Father and the Grandfather, everything was all topped off with the following…

Penfolds Grange tasting

NV Penfolds Great Granfather Rare Tawny – Rating 96 (October 2014); Drinkability range 2014-2024

A Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet, Mourvedre Sweet Red Table wine from South Australia. The 30 year old Penfolds Great Grandfather rare Tawny is pale tawny in color and has a more profound nose than the Grandfather or Father labels of this style. The nose presents some earthy notes that wrap a complex spiciness around a core of Christmas cake, dried fruits, milk chocolate and incense. It’s a huge wine in the mouth – very serous stuff – with tons of layers and racy acid to carry the flavor through the very long finish that also has a pleasant minerality.

Vino Rouge Red Wine Tasting May 6, 2015

Perhaps it is no surprise that Tom has Syrah on his mind since we are in the midst of our historic Grange-A-Thon. This month’s tasting featured four California Syrahs and two Aussie Shiraz wines. The Victor Hugo and River Star Syrahs were newcomers to the club. The Victor Hugo was a light bodied wine which tasted quite like a California Pinot Noir. The Hugo and River Star Syrahs gathered the fewest amounts of votes.

Stolpman has been making strong Syrahs from the South Central coast of California for some time now. Whenever I think of Stolpman a canine image comes to mind because each time I have visited their tasting room in Los Olivos, there has been a large motionless dog lying on the floor in the room. If you ever visit, make sure you take your sunglasses off before entering the room and look down in order to avoid tripping over the mascot of the winery. I don’t recall having tasted the attractive Originals Cuvee which impressed me as being less full bodied than their other Cuvees. The most lush and hedonistic of the California wines was an old favorite from Dehlinger. Goldridge was the most appreciated of the California wines.

wine tasting

Club members favored the two Australian Shiraz wines and perhaps since the Mollydooker was the bigger of the two big wallops it was the number one favorite wine of the tasting. Both Australian Shirazes were bigger and thicker than the California Syrahs. The answer to the question posed by Tom Clarkin, “Syrah or Shiraz?” is that one ought to bet on a big Shiraz to score high in a Vin Rouge Club meeting favorite wine poll.

wine tasting

Tom presented a quality 10 year old Tawny Port from Quinta Infantado, a port producer which I experienced for the first time at the tasting. Guest Kevin Thibeault offered a lovely 2010 ice wine from Joseph Phelps. The ice wine had that unmistakable thick, lush body with exotic apricot, pineapple and pear flavors and an amazing ethereal bouquet.

wine tasting

It appears that the Valley burgers were a hit.

Vino Rouge Special Vertical Tasting of Penfolds Grange Flight Two

Well, no one promised that a Penfolds Grange Vertical would be boring! Unlike the results from Flight ONE, the Flight TWO wines showed considerably more differences and the top two preference poll wines garnered 82 percent of the points and three vintages received zero points. In fact, the top scoring 1982 vintage received 50% of all of the points, albeit deservedly. This wine was truly fabulous with lots of open fruit and spices and a very long finish…very impressive for a 33 year old wine. Interestingly, the Wine Advocate suggested a drinking period that was to end in 2010, but in my opinion it still has years of life yet, though I cannot imagine it getting any better.

Penfolds Grange

Bistro 45 did a marvelous job with the special menu they prepared for us; everything we tasted was wonderful and very well prepared; there were just too many courses. Thanks also go to Don, who worked with the restaurant to make the table seating pretty roomy and comfortable, using the available small tables and adding a top cover.

Penfolds Grange

The wines tasted spanned 20 years and included the 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998 and the 2002. Prior to the tasting, the wines were prepared using a decant procedure that included filtering the wine through cheese cloth twice and completing a double rinse of the bottles using Peregrine water, after which the wine was re-poured in the rinsed bottles and vacuum sealed.

As previously stated, the club overwhelmingly chose the 1982 as the favorite of the night, followed by the 1986 and then the 1998. Collective tasting notes from the club for these and the other remaining wines in this second of four verticals are woven into the following wine descriptions.

Penfolds Grange

1978 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 93 (Feb 2002); Drink Range – 2002-2022
A blend of 90% Shiraz and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, has turned out to be a blockbuster wine with extraordinary intensity, a voluptuous palate, notes of camphor, coffee, jammy black fruits, leather and creme de casis. As the wine sits in the glass, pepper and melted asphalt make an appearance. Very unctuously textured, thick and chewy, this wine is soft, with a very succulent style. The club encountered a subtle nose of tea and spice with a big old world earthy port-like flavor on the palate. Another luscious Grange with hints of chocolate, leather, blackberry and tar with peppery spice. For a 1978, this is acting young and not old. This will go another 10+ years, easy.

1982 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 97 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2000-2010
One of the jammiest, most precocious Granges when it was released, it has never gone through a closed stage and continues to drink beautifully. A full bodied, opulent Grange, it reveals an inky/purple color to the rim as well as a beautiful nose of crushed blueberries, black-berries, smoke, toast, roasted herbs and road tar. This dense, plush, expansive, seamless, seductive 1982 has not changed much over the last decade. The club noted a vibrant nose of roasted herbs and raw asparagus, leading to a voluptuous flavor profile of coffee, raisins, black currant and some spice, ans seems to be totally evolved at its very peak right now. Soft tannin lead to a fruity finish that are elegantly balanced.

1986 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating: 98 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2005-2039
A blend of 87% Shiraz and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1986 is one of the most powerful Granges produced (14% alcohol). Inky/purple to the rim with an extraordinary perfume of sweet licorice, crushed pepper, blackberry liqueur, camphor and barbecue spices, this sensationally full bodied, concentrated, layered 1986 is still an infant in terms of its ultimate potential. While a quiet nose, the club noted a great mouth feel similar to the 1998. A luscious Wow Wow wine with an awesome balance. Tannins very soft with some smoke and tar on corners of back palate on the finish. Interesting in that flavors and expand on the palate like a ramp up.

1990 Penfolds – Rating: 94 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2000-2020
The 1990 performed well in the tasting, but, along with the 1980, was the least impressive of these Granges. The 1990 is loosely knit, seems to border on over-ripeness with its jammy character, and has a slightly more aggressive style of tannin… or are the acids more pronounced? It is certainly outstanding, displaying full body along with a classic smoky, blackberry, cassis, pepper and forest floor-scented bouquet. The club echoed a nose described as “slightly off”, with a bricky edge. It was a jammy wine with a distinctive different style. A background dryness and not as fruity as the others, although there is still plenty of earthy fruit with a nice finish.

1994 Penfolds – Rating: 91 (Feb 2002); Drink Range – 2004-2020
Interestingly enough, this is the first vintage where Grange went to a bottle with laser-etched identification numbers to preclude the possibility of fraudulent bottles. The wine, a blend of 89% Shiraz and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, shows some toasty oak mixed with notes of root vegetables, damp earth, blackberry liqueur, prune and licorice. The wine is dense, full-bodied, not terribly complex in the mouth, but layered and rich. We noted a sugary butterscotch nose that leads to the same damp earthy taste with hints of raisins, cotton candy, caramel, with red plum as the main fruit.

1998 Penfolds – Rating: 99 (June 2009); Drink Range – 2009-2039
A wine that flirts with perfection, the 1998 has one of the highest alcohol contents (nearly 15%) as well as one of the highest percentages of Shiraz in the blend (97%). Its stunning purple color is accompanied by exceptionally sweet aromas of black-berry liquer intermixed with barbeque spices, an endearing, smoky earthiness, pepper, roasted meats, and coffee. Huge, massive, unctuously textured, and extraordinary youthful, this impressive wine is a candidate for perfection. my notes indicated a velvety, elegant coating wine with earthy hints of almonds, coffee and ripe plums with hints of cherry and black berries, a real nectar of the Gods and rated a 99 by Parker for a reason. Alcohol balances well with acidity and tannins for a long lingering finish that changes to black cherry flavors.

2002 Penfolds – Rating: 98 (Oct 2007); Drink Range – 2007-2050
The 2002 Shiraz Grange was sourced from 77.5% Barossa Valley and 22.5% from McLaren Vale. Included in the blend is a 1.5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Opaque purple, it gives off an ethereal bouquet of violets, saddle leather, blueberry, blackberry, pencil lead and chocolate. This is followed by a full bodied wine with tremendous concentration, multiple layers of flavor, ripe tannins, and great balance. Thick and rich with a 60 second finish. The club observed loads of glycerin with a nose of butterscotch, cola and saddle soap, with nice blackberry on the mid-palate, with a lingering finish. Taste the youth in this one, as it is still wrapped-up tight. , although big dry cherry fruit is the prominent characteristic of the full bodied soft tannin wine.

Penfolds Grange

How about closing with a NV Penfolds Father Grand Tawny – a Grenache, Shiraz, Cabernet, Mataro Dry Red Table Wine from South Australia. The 10 year old, pale amber-tawny colored Father Grand Tawny is intensely scented of dried mulberries, sultanas, treacle and caramel with a marmalade lift. Big, expressive and rich with a nuttiness in the mouth, it finishes very long and very sweet.

Penfolds Grange

Vino Rouge Red Wine Tasting April 8, 2015

Including the bonus bottle, Jay presented six Bordeauxs and one Rhone. Two of the Bordeauxs were from the Medoc with Cabernet Sauvignon being the predominant varietal in the blend. At seven years old, the Margaux from Tayac was not very active in the mouth or on the nose and received no votes. At nine years old, the Gloria from Saint-Julien was appreciated for its ripe fruit, balanced in Bordeaux fashion.

wine reviews

The eight year old Branon and seven year old Haut-Gravet both were crowd pleasers with the Branon scoring 17 votes for first place and the Haut- Gravet scoring 13 votes for third place. The Branon from Pessac and Haut-Gravet from Saint-Emilion have Merlot as the predominant varietal in the blend. These wines were generous in a medium bodied way with modest Bordeaux qualities featuring mocha and espresso flavors along with pleasing minerality. The eight year old Chateauneuf Du Pape from the great 2007 vintage scored 15 points for second favorite wine due to its plush body and mature grenache mouth feel with cherry and licorice flavors.

We thank Jay for a lesson in less expensive Bordeaux. The best price to quality ratio was found in the Haut-Gravet. The Marcard at $15.00 was strong enough to obtain 10 votes for its pleasing Bordeaux package. These are Bordeauxs which are versatile food wines and not tannic monsters or heavy handed or clumsy. I love Bordeaux and believe that it makes sense to enjoy wines like these rather than spending hundreds of dollars per bottle for high profile classified growth Bordeauxs which used to sell for $15.00 – $50.00 per bottle fifteen to thirty years ago.

wine reviews

Specific details on these fine wines can be found below:

2006 Chateau Franc Cardinal Francs Cotes De Bordeaux – 72% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc and 4% Malbec
This delicious, deep, dense vintage a full bodies wine packed with fruit flavors, elegance and warmth.

2007 Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf du Pape – 60 Grenache, 30% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre, 2% Cinsault
Powerful, heady, deep and full of harmony. The tannins are very qualitative, they are silky and delicate, giving an impression of volume and length in the mouth. A wine with exceptional cellaring potential than can already be enjoyable.

2007 Chateau Branon Pessac Leognan – 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine offers a smoke, espresso, blackberry, licorice, tobacco,, cocoa and black raspberry filled perfume. The wine is soft, round and supple textured, but it lacks the density found in the better vintages of this small production.

2008 Chateau Haut-Gravet Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
The fruit in this wine is fresh and pure, with flavors of dark berries and elegant tannins. Ac certain mineral undertone hints at the flint soils in a most seductive way. A true pleasure.

2008 Chateau Grand Tayac Margaux – 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot
A textbook introduction to Margaux, with lilac, crushed raspberry and plum fruit. Iron tinged but silky tannins carry the lengthy, perfumed finish, which shows latent depth.

2009 Chateau de Marcard – 50% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot
Ripe and dense, but fresh, with silky-textured plum, blackberry and blueberry fruit carried by sweet spice and maduro tobacco notes. The fleshy finish shows nice drive. Should open up more with brief cellaring.

Bonus bottle:
2006 Chateau Gloria Saint Julien – 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot
Sweet cedary, cigar box, roasted herb, and black currant fruit aromas are followed by a lush, full bodied, textured, concentrated wine. Beautiful and refined.

Vino Rouge Special Vertical Tasting of Penfolds Grange Flight One

Setting the bar higher than we ever have before, the Vino Rouge club will be enjoying four unbelievable flights of the infamous Penfolds Grange, covering 27 consecutive vintages from 1976 through 2002!

Penfolds Grange tasting

The first flight was held at Basta in Pawtuxet Village on March 25, 2015, and really was a terrific start to a truly amazing vertical.

Penfolds Grange tasting

The wines tasted spanned 20 years and included the 1979, 1983, 1987, 1991, 1995 and the 1999. Prior to the tasting, the wines were prepared using a decant procedure that included filtering the wine through cheese cloth twice and completing a double rinse of the bottles using Peligrino water, after which the wine was repoured in the rinsed bottles and vacuum sealed.

Penfolds Grange tasting

While it was extremely difficult to pick a favorite, the club managed to do so and it was the 1987, followed by the 1983 and then the 1999. Collective tasting notes from the club for these and the other remaining wines in this first of four verticals are woven into the following wine descriptions.

1979 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating 90 (Feb 2002) Suggested drinking range 2000-2015

A blend of 87% Shiraz and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, Max Schubert commented in 1983 that this vintage was “not quite up to the mark”. For technicians, this was the last vintage to use white capsules on the bottle, with Penfolds moving to the crimson red foils in 1980. The wine is deep ruby garnet with an unusual nose of root vegetables mixed with cola, caramel, black currant and tar. The club thought the wine had a quiet nose with a touch of cola and mint chocolate. Really nice mouth feel with cherry cola, vanilla with great balance and the best finish of the bunch, with a lingering buzz on the back pallet. Still a lot of fruit and still seems young, in the opinion of most (i.e. look, feel, glycerin)

1983 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating 92 (Feb 2002) Suggested drinking range 2006-2020

The earliest harvest on record at Penfolds, the 1983 vintage was characterized by devastating bush fires, followed by enormous flooding in March. A blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine has a surprisingly low pH (3.41) for a Grange, with an amazing 7.1 grams of acid per liter. We experienced an earthy milkshed nose and found the wine more refined, with some acidity and dark fruit, although starting to separate out. Not a bold attack, but with consistent monolithic fruit, with a silky feel. Seems to be at a peak and should be consumed as opposed to cellared much longer.

1987 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – Rating 90 (Feb 2002) Suggested drinking range 2003-2016

A light, elegant style of Grange made with a blend of 90% Shiraz and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine has a deep ruby/purple color and a spicy, peppery nose with some new oak, black cherry and blackberry flavors. The club noted a really robust nose of earth and cranberry and all expressed delight in the unbelievable coating of sweet vanilla, caramel and luscious fruit with hints of mocha coffee and butterscotch. Absolutely perfectly balanced with a syrupy heavenly mouth feel that just coats the palate. Super lush bomb!

1991 Penfolds Grange – Rating 93 (Feb 2002) Suggested drinking range 2002-2017

This wine is generous, open, and sweet in its personality Dense purple, this blend of 95% Shiraz and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon shows great fruit, a very lush, open-knit style with full body, high glycerin, low acidity and superb purity. My notes show a sweet creamy milk sugar nose. Awesome mouth feel with an explosion of cherry, jammy fruit, roasted meat and licorice on a nice pleasant finish.

1995 Penfolds Grange – Rating 92 (Feb 2002) Suggested drinking range 2004-2018

An impressive Grange that may ultimately prove to be underrated, like many wines from this vintage, the 1995, a blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, exhibits a saturated plum/purple color and a sweet blackberry liqueur nose intermixed with cassis, licorice and new oak. The wine is textured, jammy, fill-bodied, with impressive levels of extract, glycerin and black fruit flavors. We found the nose to be subtle, with touches of raspberry and blackberry. This full bodied wine coats the pallet with chewy and sexy fruit with a long ripe finish with unobtrusive acidity and tannin.

1999 Penfolds Grange – Rating 92 (Oct 2004) Suggested drinking range 2006-2019

The 1999 Grange is a dense ruby/purple to the edge, with a bouquet of blackberries, mulberries, and floral-like aromas. Medium to full body, the 1999 has an acid punch, but also tremendous layers of fruit and extract. Not massive, but elegant and nicely layered. We discovered lead pencil on the nose with hints of cranberry too. Layored balance gives a great mouth feel with tart cranberry on a long lasting finish. Has a strong acid backbone with soft round pronounced tannins. More of an elegant profile, although still a little tight.

Penfolds Grange tasting


NV Penfolds Club Austalian Tawny – A proprietary blend dry red fortified Mataro, Shiraz, Grenache wine from South Australia

Pale tawny-amber colored, the NV Club Australian Tawny expresses a lovely nose of raisins, sultana, toffee and dates with hints of dried figs and caramel. Full-bodies, it is nicely poised in the mouth with rich, sweet and concentrated flavors that finish long.

Welcome to, a Private Wine Club

Hello and welcome to  While we are a private red wine club, we have collectively decided to share the information we collect in hopes of benefiting others who enjoy red wine!  We will be updating this wine club website often with new monthly tasting reviews, as well as tasting reviews from the last 20+ years that this red wine club has been doing these tastings.  We love your feedback, so feel free to get in touch with us through our Contact Us page.

Below you can find our most recent and historical red wine reviews from our monthly tastings.

Vino Rouge Red Wine Tasting March 4, 2015

Another great tasting to report and a new venue outside of Rhode Island to boot. This month, we held our tasting at Porto Bello Cafe, located in downtown North Attleboro. Quarters were a little tight for our table of 12, but that only sparks more conversation! Wow, did they aim to please our motley crew, with a multitude of appetizers, great meals and dessert sweets to close things out.

red wine reviews

Norm did an excellent job providing the wines for the evening and fooled almost everybody by having our second blind Italian wine tasting in a row, entitle “Super Tuscans”. Some of us would be happy to taste Italian wines every month, as the wines were all tantalizing and appeared to get better and better with each glass! Only one of the six wines failed to obtain a preference poll vote, but that was only because they were all so good. The following paragraphs discuss each of the wines we shared, with the first three representing the top three wines as determined through our monthly preference poll.

Tenuta Arceno il Fauno di Arcanum Toscana IGT 2009 – Deep, brilliant black cherry color and elegant aromas of peppery spice and minerality. On the palate, the oak is discreet with a strong presence of spice and salted nutmeg. This a balanced wine with beautiful length and bright acidity that comes together for a smooth finish of soft tannins and black pepper noted. 61% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc, 2% Sangiovese and 1% Petit Verdot

Luce della Vite Luce Toscana IGT 2008 – Luce is a very dense, concentrated purple-red. The nose exhibits remarkable finesse, releasing notes of wild blackberry and sour cherry, backgrounded by peppery eucalyptus and minerally impressions of pencil lead. Capping the aromatic array are appealing notes of baker’s chocolate and tobacco leaf. This wine shows a superb attack, with the densest of tannic suites. The palate expands impressively, with a tasty vein of acidity that beautifully knits together all of its constituents. A near-endless finish adds the final harmonious touch. Sangiovese 45%, Merlot 55%

Brancaia Ilatraia Rosso Maremma Toscana IGT 2011 – A fine wine with intense aromas and flavors of liquorice and blueberry, with leather and sweet spice accents. This is firm wine, revealing finesse and a rich texture with air. Dense tannins show on the finish. Consists of a mix of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Petit Verdot and 20% Cabernet Franc.

red wine reviews

Felsina Fontalloro Toscana IGT 2010 – Ruby red appearance with rich, intense tonality. Complex, multi-layered nose, with generous notes of tobacco leaf and moist earth (dry earth as well), black currant, wild bramble and black liquorice. The palate exhibits a generous mass of tannins, fairly supple, perfect for lengthy ageing. Good weight and structure, and elegant breed on the finish. 100% Sangiovese

Monte Antico Supremus Toscana Rosso IGT 2007 – Deep ruby red in color, with purple reflections. Its intense, persistent bouquet of violets, cherries and red berry fruit shows subtle, elegant notes of vanilla and toasted wood, minerally nuances and hints of leather, chocolate, black pepper, and cinnamon…an exquisite palate of aromas confirmed on the full, lush, flavorful palate characterize by sweet mellow tannins and velvet texture. Long, lingering finish. 75% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon

San Felice Pugnitello Rosso Toscana IGT 2008 – A very deep purple-red greets the eye, then the wine develops a multi-layered bouquet that foregrounds tanned leather and animal skin over ripe drid plum and a subtle herbaceousness. The wine is massive in the mouth, and exhibits velvety tannins and a warm alcohol complemented by a tasty vein of acidity. 75% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon