This had to be a tough position: a few hours after the Bordeaux tasting, I tried the new releases of the Penfolds mid range. Surprisingly to me, I really enjoyed it. Overall, the wines showed vibrant fruit and strong wine making skills given less than ideal vintages. I am only an occasional drinker of these wines, therefore my comparisons to other years are limited.
The 2008 Bin 311 Chardonnay displayed a good core of fresh fruit (which I think is from the Adelaide Hills), but the palate is a bit simple and short. This wine does not reach the highs of the 2006 or even the 2007.
Then came the two wines from the 2007 drought vintage. The 2007 Bin 138 GSM has a strong cherry and redcurrant palate with quite savoury flavours. On the other hand, the mouthfeel is a bit thin and the finish simple.
The 2007 Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz shows clean, luscious dark fruit. The wine is quite elegant, but again, the finish is short.
Then on to the 2006s. The 2006 Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz, the old workhorse, is a bit softer already. It has clean fruit, but lacks the punch of the previous vintages. The wine shows some sweetness and is well suited to earlier drinking.
The popular 2006 Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz displays more power. The wine is more tannic and quite dry on the back palate. However, it misses the fruit concentration to match the oak and tannins and seems a quite heavily worked wine. It will definitely benefit from aging.
Finally, the 2006 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit, tasting mainly of mulberry, is charming, although (again) not quite big enough to match oak and tannin.
Overall, these wines are good quality for the price. Despite my comments about the last two wines, the line up is more elegant and less oaky and tannic than in previous years. The 07s are surprisingly good, maybe because the Grenache could take the heat and Coonawarra was a bit cooler. The 2006 wines are well made, but lack the fruit quality to make them outstanding.
I will taste these wines again in a few days to confirm my impressions.