It’s an enchanting, there magical place. The air is fragrant and smells of blooming jacaranda and eucalyptus. The light is unusual, unique. There is more yellow, pink and turquoise in the sky.

I met Peter Gago, Penfolds chief winemaker, for the first time in Switzerland a few weeks ago. Penfolds was launching their icon and luxury wine campaign for Europe and had invited the German-speaking wine press to a tasting and luncheon in Zurich, Switzerland. It was an impressive tasting and Peter invited me to visit the Magill Estate on my “next” trip to Australia. I’d never been to Australia and I didn’t dream that passion and wishful thinking would put me on the doorstep of Magill so soon.

I wrote Peter Gago to tell him of my good fortune in winning the Yalumba Scholarship. I wished to make an appointment to visit the estate the day before the Adelaide residential MW seminar, began. He told me that a small group of MW students had also made an appointment that very day. I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet my Australian and New Zealand study colleagues and asked for the telephone number of the student that had coordinated the visit. When I called Annette, she said, “Julia what are you doing here? I didn’t know that you were coming to Australia!” It was a small group of my European colleagues! My trip to Australia was so unexpected; I didn’t even think that I might be meeting some old friends at the seminar – Annette, Christine, Anne, Charlotte, and Peter.

Also joining our group was Steven Skelton MW. He does a lot of tasting trainings for MW students and has the reputation of being rather a rather intimidating man. I guess I’ll have to wait and see how he is in tastings, because he was quite a friendly and a pleasant addition to our group at Penfolds.

Jamie Sach led us through the winery and the history of Penfolds, from the founding mother Mary Penfold to the legend of Max Schubert secretly producing the Grange Hermitage. After our tour of the winery we were greeted at a grand table in the cellar among the wine casks for a tasting led by the chief winemaker, Peter Gago. It was quite an impressive visit and a chance to try some of the rarer Penfolds wines not often found on the export market.

2009 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling
Very pale yellow. Intense peach and lime. Austere and bone dry. Racy, smooth and refreshing. Drink now to 2015.

2008 Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay
Very pale yellow. Flinty and racy, but with a buttery mouthfeel on the back palate. Nicely structured: sleek, steely and Chablis-like. Drink now and through 2014.

2007 07A Reserve Bin Adelaide Hills Chardonnay
Very pale straw yellow, subtle toast and hazelnut with lemon zest and verbena. Vibrant lemony acid firmly structures this big and bold Chardonnay. Drink now and through 2013.

2006 Yattarna Chardonnay
Pale straw yellow. Flinty peach and brioche is found on the nose. Lemony acid is nicely bedded in a full, rich body. Abundant minerals reminiscent of wet stream pebbles linger on the long finish. Drink now and through 2016.

2007 Cellar Reserve Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir
Medium dark ruby with a transparent rim. Pretty raspberry and cherry fruit. Tannins are coarse and slightly stalky on the back palate.

2006 Cellar Reserve Barossa Valley Sangiovese
Medium violet ruby. Plum compote and plenty of blackberries are laced with a hint of lavender and kitchen herbs on the nose and in the mouth. Velvety, chalky tannins texture this rich, young, and complex wine.

2005 St Henri
Medium dark ruby. Aromas and flavours of lingonberry and anise. Supple medium-grained tannins are nicely poised opposite vibrant acid. The restrained finesse and elegance of this svelte wine is easy to overlook next to the more opulent Penfolds wines.
2006 Magill Estate Shiraz
Very dark ruby with a violet rim. A lavish oak treatment has resulted in intense coconut and roasted coffee paired with opulent blackberry in this big voluptuous wine.

2006 RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz
Very dark, nearly black-red. Blackberry, olive and savoury heather on the nose and in the mouth. Full-bodied with nicely lifted with liquorice and balsamic notes. Abundant velvety tannin is nicely integrated in the fruit. The finish is long and flavoured with sweet oak, spice and blackberry. Drink now to 2020.

2005 Cellar Reserve Cabernet Shiraz
Dark garnet-ruby, Cayenne, coffee, Ricolla lozenges, and eucalyptus. Very fine-grained tannins. A spectacular wine with coffee and mocha on the finish

2006 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon
Inky violet-ruby. Intense blackcurrant and dark roasted spices. Big, bold and muscular, yet open-hearted with generous dense, sweet cassis. Mocha and a hint of mint linger on the long finish.

2006 Barossa Valley Cellar Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Black Red. Graphite on the nose, pepper, cassis and a hint of clove on the nose. Abundant fine-grained tannins are still somewhat astringent and will develop nicely over the next 5 years. Drink 2014 to 2022.

1996 Grange
Dark garnet-ruby. Balsamico drenched figs and damson plums spiced with anis and intense lavender aromas. Incredibly complex with fine-grained chocolaty tannins and well-integrated acid lending balanced structure. Drink no to 2026.

2004 Grange
Dark ruby with violet highlights. Blueberry, bitter chocolate and a hint of elderflower on the nose. Abundant fine-grained tannin is exquisitely paired with refreshing acid, bright fruit, and notes of liquorice. Very powerful and full-bodied, yet poised with the abundant tannins drenched with savoury malted fruit. The finish is long and flavoured with chocolate and blueberry. Drink now and probably well through 2029.

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  • Jay

    I’m really interested how highly you rated the Penfolds Cellar Reerve Cabernet Shiraz … higher than 1996 Grange which is supposed to be one of the greats.

    Any additional recollections welcomed as it must be quite special!