Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2017 is a deep plum red. Savoury notes are first detected on the nose, yet quickly courted by generous cherry liqueur and chocolate aromas. Scents of dried beef sit alongside a textbook garrigue deconstruction including dried herb, oregano, thyme and lavender. Perplexingly, an exotic emission continues – best guess – copha, cranberry and activated walnut! Shiraz unplugged… oak or artefact not part of this wine’s demeanour. Smells like? St Henri.
The palate represents a masterclass of texture: plush, glossy, seamless, abetted by silky, polished tannins. One taster quipped: “millennial tannins”!
Black olive; coffee and mocha flavours abound, as do the generous shiraz fruits sourced from the northern viticultural reaches of South Australia. Medium-bodied, with a great core and lovely framework – yet what is sipped fills the mouth so effortlessly. A succulence is immediately noted – a fruited pomegranate, cranberry, quince paste-induced acidity, balanced with fruit sweetness. Not trying too hard. St Henri rarely does.
Peak drinking 2022-2052
96 – James Halliday
“… The cool and late vintage kissed the wine on both cheeks, making the classic maturation in 50yo vats doubly welcome. A glimpse of the future is the use of fruit from Port Lincoln joining the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, and Eden Valley in the blend. This has none of the hardness that sometimes gives an edge to St Henri, purity stepping in to its sculpted palate.”
About St Henri Shiraz
St Henri is a time-honoured and alternative expression of Shiraz, and an intriguing counterpoint to Grange. It is unusual among high quality Australian red wines as it does not rely on any new oak. It was created in the early 1950s (first commercial vintage 1957) and gained a new lease of life in the 1990s as its quality and distinctive style became better understood. Proudly, a wine style that hasn’t succumbed to the dictates of fashion or commerce. St Henri is rich and plush when young, gaining soft, earthy, mocha-like characters as it ages. It is matured in old, 1460 litre vats that allow the wine to develop, imparting minimal, if any oak character. Although a small proportion of Cabernet is sometimes used to improve structure, the focal point for St Henri remains Shiraz.