The opportunity to try the Penfolds’ legendary Bin 60A doesn’t come around very often. Only two vintages of this exceptional cabernet shiraz blend have ever been made. The inaugural 1962 vintage, made by Grange creator Max Schubert, is widely regarded as Australia’s greatest ever wine and the follow-up 2004 vintage scored an impressive 99+ points when it was reviewed by the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown in 2010.

Tyson and MatthewThe beautifully balanced, luscious yet exquisitely elegant Bin 60A 2004 certainly set the benchmark high at this week’s The Great Australian Red tasting, hosted by the competition’s founders, Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer, at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney.

But fortunately it was just one of many stand-out wines in a very impressive line-up of the uniquely Australian blend of cabernet and shiraz.

Another highlight of the tasting was a comparison of five different vintages of Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010. Personally, my favourite was the 2004 vintage, possibly because it was the oldest vintage and, I suspect, just starting to hit its stride. It’s a wonderful example of the wisdom of blending cabernet with shiraz. Here the cabernet (53%) complements the full bodied richness of  shiraz by providing structural backbone, freshness and acidity. Interestingly, Penfolds’ tasting notes for the 2004 vintage refer to the wine as “a true ‘Baby Grange’ release, as per the original style blue-print.”

The Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Malbec 2004 was another impressive example from the 2004 vintage. This cabernet dominant blend is a big wine designed for long-term cellaring. The enveloping aromas of warm, dark rich fruits with hints of charcuterie, chocolate and truffles anticipate the richly fruited savoury accented flavours of this beautifully structured, opulent yet elegant wine.

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