Penfolds Bin 389 is sometimes referred to as ‘Baby Grange’ or ‘Poor Man’s Grange’. Like the iconic Penfolds Grange, Bin 389 shares the same legendary creator, Max Schubert, who first produced the wine in 1960, nine years after unveiling his experimental 1951 Grange.

In fact, a significant portion of the wine that goes into the Bin 389 is aged in the same American oak hogsheads used for the previous vintage of Grange. Twenty to 30 percent of the wine sees new oak treatment.

The fruit for both wines is sourced from different vineyards and regions – the goal always to secure the best fruit available. Fruit that doesn’t quite make the cut for Grange will often find its way into the Bin 389.

Some critics have argued that the ‘Baby Grange’ moniker is not an accurate descriptor of Bin 389 because the blend is quite different to the shiraz-dominant Grange. Bin 389 has a much higher percentage of cabernet sauvignon, a feature that according to wine critic Julia Harding MW gives the wine “those cedary-fresh Cabernet characteristics” that are absent from the fuller bodied Grange. (Penfolds’ Bin 389 vs Grange by Julia Harding MW, JancisRobinson.com 26 June 2009).

One hallmark quality that Bin 389 definitely shares with Grange is its ability to age. My husband’s wine group recently enjoyed a vertical tasting of Bin 389, covering a good selection of vintages dating back to 1986. Below are their tasting notes. A very impressive lineup indeed:

Penfolds Bin 389 2012

Concentrated, dark, young and full bodied. Already pleasant to drink. Great prospects.

Penfolds Bin 389 2010

Still dumb but plush fruit and good acid balance bode very well for the future. Exceptional.

Penfolds Bin 389 2008

Starting to drink well, slightly varnishy nose but good depth of flavour and long finish.

Penfolds Bin 389 2002

Perfection at the moment – well developed fruit, superb balance and great after taste. Faultless.

Penfolds Bin 389 2001

In the same class as 2002. Very hard to separate the two. Great wine.

Penfolds Bin 389 1998

Not quite as good as anticipated – starting to fade slightly but still very enjoyable. Mixed opinions round the table.

Penfolds Bin 389 1997

Preferred this to the 1998 – better balance and the fruit holding well. Still good length and fine after taste.

Penfolds Bin 389 1996

One of the stand out wines of the day. Perfect condition. Great finesse and at its peak. Brilliant.

Penfolds Bin 389 1995

Still holding well but suffered slightly in comparison to the 1996. Probably not going to improve from now?

Penfolds Bin 389 1991

Keen on the wine but perhaps not quite showing at its best? Fully mature, slightly short in the middle palate but still very refined. Long after taste.

Penfolds Bin 389 1990

One of the stars of the day. Perfect fruit, long palate and exceptional class. Hard to fault.

21.Penfolds 389 1986

A fading beauty that is just starting its downward descent. Drying. Some said bret but others didn’t agree.

by Merrill Witt, Editor

Photo Credit: Penfolds